Grand Valley commits to green chemistry

Ellie Phillips

Grand Valley State University has joined 13 other universities in the country by making a commitment to actively incorporate “green chemistry” practices in research and classroom curricula.

“In our curriculum, we have developed a few new courses and added new materials in the existing courses in chemistry of renewable energy (and) green chemical processes,” said Min Qi, a professor of chemistry at GVSU. “We are also reviewing our laboratory curricula to adopt greener methods wherever possible.”

Green chemistry, also referred to as “sustainable” or “benign” chemistry, is designed to make human and environmental health the central focus of chemistry in education, and ultimately in the professional community through real-world application.

“The cost of disposing of hazardous and toxic byproducts is increasing on manufacturers, and tightened emission and pollution standards are requiring corporations to adopt greener production methods,” Qi said.

Grand Valley’s commitment involves teaching students, through environmentally-friendly education methods, to understand what green chemistry is, and giving students the tools and abilities to apply those practices in their lives and careers. The long-term goal of this education also has a greater impact on individuals and communities.

“Green processes may limit exposure to pollutants, reduce waste and consume less energy,” Qi said.

New courses at Grand Valley include CHM 311, Green Chemistry and Industrial Processes, a general education course in chemistry and sustainability. Existing courses that have been altered include CHM 322 Environmental Chemical Analysis.

“Green chemistry is covered in various forms at many schools across the country and worldwide, (and has been) since the early ‘90s when the first Ph.D. in green chemistry was also awarded at the University of Massachusetts,” said Dalila Kovacs, chemistry professor at GVSU. “The commitment wants to be a collective voice for expanding the green chemistry community, to share resources and support for departments, improve connections to industry jobs and academic preparation, ultimately affecting systemic and lasting change in chemistry education.”
This innovative approach to chemistry began with a group known as Beyond Benign in 1991, which was created by John Warner, then a professor of chemistry at the University of Massachusetts.

Warner worked on the project until 2007 when Beyond Benign was officially incorporated as a non-profit organization and independent of the university. Since then, the program has expanded to include courses for higher education as well as elementary schools.

For more information on Beyond Benign and green chemistry, visit