What is green chemistry?
According to the EPA, green chemistry is the design of chemical products & processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances.
Why is green chemistry education important?
In the opinion of CU Green Labs, when students practice green chemistry, they learn to think critically about the global and environmental impact of their field and the possibility of an environmentally just future for all people regardless of socio-economic stature.
Current green chemistry efforts at CU Boulder
In many ways, CU Boulder is already a leader in green chemistry by implementing numerous actions in line with the principles of green chemistry including starting a solvent re-use program, providing students the opportunity to learn green chemistry, and making modifications to teaching lab experiments to reduce waste and minimizing the use of toxic chemical. This Feb 2020 poster summarizes many of the green chemistry and sustainability efforts in the Chemistry Department at CU Boulder.
Green Chemistry Education Survey
In collaboration with the CU Boulder Chemistry Department, CU Green Labs has been conducting surveys gauging undergraduate student interest in learning green chemistry. Students in CU Boulder chemistry courses were invited to take the survey in Fall of 2018, Spring of 2019, Fall of 2021 and Fall of 2022. Each time, results show strong student interest in learning green chemistry topics with 92% expressing interest in the most recent survey conducted. Below is a graphic showing the results of one survey question and a link to a page with much more information on the survey results.
Green Chemistry Education Curriculum Pilot
In 2022 in response to the interest shown in the survey results, a student-led curriculum development pilot was conducted to create 10 green chemistry focused modules that were integrated into the introductory chemistry (CHEM 1021) course curriculum. In addition to effectively teaching green chemistry topics, this effort has proven to be a successful example of a method that is cost-effective, time-efficient for instructors, and that bolsters student opportunity for leadership. After taking CHEM 1021, student interest in green chemistry education was surveyed as part of the Fall 2022 survey described above. The survey data below shows that 78% of students in CHEM 1021 are still interested in learning more about green chemistry despite 91% reporting they have been exposed to green chemistry in the CHEM 1021 course. More information on this effort can be found on this poster board.
Online Green Chemistry Certificate Program
Additionally, CU Green Labs and CHEMunity created the Green Chemistry Certificate Fellowship Program in 2018 enabling a small number of CU Boulder students to participate each year in an online green chemistry certificate program at the University of Washington. As of 2023, 10 students will have successfully completed the certificate program.
Promoting green chemistry education at CU Boulder
In 2020 to encourage green chemistry education to be added to the CU Boulder curriculum, CU Green Labs wrote a paper making the case for green chemistry education at CU Boulder. The paper documents actions already taken at that time, shares links to resources to help with further implementation, discusses benefits, and provides recommendations. Below are links to a 2-page flyer summarizing the paper, a video presentation on the paper, and the complete white paper.