The Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry (BCGC) is building a novel academic program to advance green chemistry through interdisciplinary scholarship. It consists of faculty, researchers, and students in the College of Chemistry, School of Public Health, College of Engineering, College of Natural Resources, the Berkeley School of Law, and the Haas School of Business.
The Imperative of Sustainability
Every day, the U.S. produces or imports 74 billion pounds of chemical substances for use in products and industrial processes. These substances ultimately enter Earth’s environment, and hundreds of chemicals are routinely detected in people and ecosystems worldwide. While synthetic chemicals have delivered critical advances in medicine and technology, many of these substances are known to be hazardous. Publicly available data on the toxicity of many other is virtually non-existent.
In practice, if society is to create a future characterized by improving social and environmental conditions, economic activity will need to solve, not exacerbate, the environmental health problems facing the world today. Green chemistry can help meet this objective, providing for society’s needs while also safeguarding ecosystem integrity and human health. Responding to this challenge requires fundamentally new ways of thinking about chemical design, health and environmental risk, as well as the public policies and economic drivers of change. The BCGC is committed to the collaborative scholarship necessary to address these needs.
The Center’s interdisciplinary approach stems from the recognition that successful development and adoption by society of benign chemicals and chemical processes will depend on the integration of innovative chemistry and engineering with an understanding of the health and ecosystem effects of synthetic chemicals and the ways in which policy and law guide industrial innovation and change. The goals of the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry are three-fold:
To integrate the chemical sciences, environmental health sciences, and the study of public and private governance into a cohesive educational program in green chemistry.
To develop novel chemical processes and materials, informed by the principles of green chemistry and the priorities of the environmental health sciences; to investigate new approaches to anticipatory toxicity testing, exposure analysis, and alternatives assessment to aid in the prioritization of chemical hazards and the identification of safer alternatives.
To create a self-sustaining interdisciplinary program that contributes directly to California, US and global efforts to advance green chemistry, and to provide rigorous, academic support to chemicals policy decision-makers. As a collaboration of investigators, the Center is developing the requisite science, technical and legal tools, and education necessary to advance the sustainability of society’s material basis through green chemistry.