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Seeing a Commitment to Greener Chemistry at this Year’s ACS conference

By: , Posted on: October 14, 2015

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Long line for tee shirts at the Elsevier booth

It’s no surprise that sustainability is a major area of focus for chemists these days. It’s up to scientists to study, quantify, and predict the environmental impact of everything we do, and they’re the ones who must disseminate crucial findings to policy makers and the general public. The impetus to solve these problems—and avoid contributing to them, in many cases—is strong across the sciences. Practicing chemists must be increasingly mindful of this.

This is likely the driving force behind the growth of Green Chemistry that we’re seeing reflected in published literature as well as efforts of organizations such as the ACS. I recently attended ACS Boston where Elsevier hosted a booth, and in my discussions with attendees browsing the booth, potential and current Elsevier authors with whom I had meetings, and in some of the most notable sessions featured in the program, green chemistry came up repeatedly.

The ACS has demonstrated a commitment to green chemistry in a number of ways, mainly through its Green Chemistry Institute. The GCI hosts a Green Chemistry Innovation Portal in conjunction with the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council, offers webinars like this one on sustainable lab practices using Green Chemistry, and administers an award called the Ciba Travel Award in Green Chemistry, which provides funding for students with an interest in green chemistry to attend ACS conferences.

The theme of the ACS Denver meeting back in March was “Chemistry of Natural Resources,” so the link to sustainability in that case is relatively obvious. Although the theme of the Boston meeting last month was much broader (“Innovation from Discovery to Application”), the ACS continued to highlight sustainability through its Greener Meetings efforts. This initiative aims to offset carbon emissions of events by partnering with American Forests, encourage sustainable best practices among attendees through social media, audit sustainability practices of convention hotels, partner with organizations that use renewable energy sources and source local food, and so on.

The sessions themselves in Boston reflected an emphasis on environmental issues. The Environmental Chemistry division had more sessions than any other division. Many of the sessions in the Energy and Fuels division focused on what could be considered “green” topics: Solar Energy and Solar Cells, Biofuels, Carbon Capture, Porous Materials for Energy & Sustainability, and Chemical Looping Innovation for Low-Carbon Energy, to name a few.

One of the most exciting sessions of the whole conference was the portion of the Plenary Session titled “Impossible Foods: Replacing the World’s Most Destructive Industry,” wherein Dr. Pat Brown gave a live demonstration of a prototype burger made from directly from plants. Dr. Brown and his colleagues have invented a new way of creating—entirely from plants—food that tastes like real meat and cheese by analyzing the molecular principles underlying the sensory properties of these foods, and then using corresponding proteins and other molecules from plants to recreate those properties. Their work is all in the name of reducing the enormous levels of greenhouse gas emissions, fresh water usage, habitat destruction, resource competition, and extermination of species for which the livestock industry is responsible.

As a concerned citizen, I am encouraged to see these problems being tackled from nearly every sector of chemistry. And as an editor for Elsevier chemistry books, I find this kind of innovative problem solving highly motivating in the work I do, if only for the small ways in which I get to take part.

About the Editor:

katy morrisseyKaty Morrissey originally joined Elsevier in 2010 as an Editorial Project Manager in Earth and Environmental Science and later added Physics and Math to her project portfolio. In 2012, Katy joined Focal Press as Associate Acquisitions Editor for Mass Communications and Journalism. After two years in that role, Katy is excited to have returned to Elsevier as an editor on the chemistry team. She finds it very rewarding to work with top scientists and assist in their contributions to such a vital, foundational field.

Outside of work, Katy enjoys reading, gaming, photography, exploring nature, and spoiling her cat Giorgio.

She currently signs books in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry. If you have a proposal for a text in this area please contact Katy directly.

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