The Greener Partnership Program was formally established in 2020, with the aim of fostering a culture of collaboration among industry, non-profit, government and academics at the University of California, Berkeley. It is funded by the Wareham Foundation and the US EPA Pollution Prevention (P2) Grant program and administered by the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry. The program places graduate and upper level undergraduate students in professional working environments with off-campus hosts. One of the foci of the current program is the reduction or elimination of perfluoroalkyl substances or PFASs, particularly in the carpet industry and packaging.
The Greener Partnership program is typically an extension of the Greener Solutions graduate course experience,and is an opportunity for individual students to pursue deeper investigations of safer alternatives to chemicals of concern identified in the course or expand the impact of some of the course findings. The class therefore provides experiential learning for both graduate and undergraduate students in a range of affiliated disciplines including public health, chemistry, engineering and technical support to organizations seeking to solve green chemistry challenges.
Meet the interns:
|Ned Antell, XT Green:|
Edmund (Ned) Antell is a PhD student in Environmental Engineering in Lisa Alvarez-Cohen’s lab. He studies PFAS transformation and destruction, as well as PFAS source apportionment and chemical fingerprinting. As a result of the work done and connections made during Greener Solutions, he has also been working with a carpet recycler- XT Green to develop a method to remove PFAS from carpet fiber during their recycling process.
“The connections I have made through taking Greener Solutions are really incredible. I continue to have fascinating conversations with folks from non-profits, NGOs, and for-profit companies all because of the impressive attendance to our final project presentations. The class is a lot of work, but it is definitely a worthwhile investment.”
“XT Green is a carpet recycling company that centers its mission around the health of its employees, end users and the environment. Most carpet entering recycling facilities, especially carpet produced before 2019, is contaminated with a myriad of chemicals, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). My work with XT Green is to help design and test scalable, safe strategies to remove PFAS from carpets during the recycling process so it isn’t reintroduced to the consumer and environment.”
|Kelly Chou, Method/ USDA:|
Kelly is a 4th year majoring in Chemistry at UC Berkeley with a long held passion for green chemistry, education, and sustainable product development. At BCGC, her primary work includes researching sustainable alternatives to PFAS in food packaging and aftermarket treatments.
“Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry has been an integral part of my UC Berkeley experience from the very beginning. I first learned about green chemistry from a BCGC talk my freshman year, and spent the next four years learning more, and eventually teaching it by co-founding Chem 98. At every step, the program has supported my goals, which has culminated in a fulfilling final year in both Greener Solutions and Greener Partnerships. The experiences I’ve gained in both programs have been invaluable to my future career as a green chemist, and I will use the skills I’ve learned for years to come.”
“As part of Greener Solutions, I researched ways to reduce the use of PFAS, a toxic water and oil repellent coating, in common types of food packaging. My group found that the fluorine groups in PFAS play a critical role in defining its behavior, so we had to identify a completely different route of repelling oil and water. Instead of using a chemical coating, we strategized that we could instead try to block the moisture-attracting pores of paper packaging with other biologically sourced materials.”
|Amanda Guan, Sway:|
Amanda Guan graduated on 17th May 2021 from Cal with a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering and a minor in Public Policy. Currently, she has started interning with Sway making seaweed-based bioplastic packaging that are completely home compostable.
“I took the Greener Solutions graduate course in Fall, 2020, and even in a remote environment, it’s been my favorite class at Cal. I was able to come up with solutions for biodegradable moisture barriers in paper packaging, and I appreciate that I was able to combine the technical parts from my materials science major with my own personal interests in sustainability.”
“Paper-based packaging has become increasingly popular as a substitute to traditional plastic packaging. However, paper has a poor barrier to moisture, which is especially important for formulated products. The current solution is to apply a plastic film to prevent moisture from going in and out of the package, but that renders the entire system non biodegradable or recyclable. Thus, our team looked into biopolymers sourced from shrimp shells, mushrooms, and fruit peels as a substitute for this film. In order to improve the film’s performance, we also researched bio-derived additives and nanofillers.
Sway is a pre-seed biomaterials company that creates carbon-negative, home-compostable seaweed based replacements for single-use plastics. As an intern, I’ve been working on creating and evaluating new formulas–ultimately, I’m tinkering with the amounts of seaweed compounds we use in order to get the perfect product to replace things like polybags and single-use shopping bags. In addition, I’ve been conducting literature reviews and reading a bunch of patents to see what we can learn from their plastic processing.”
|Kimberly Hazard, BCGC Greener Solutions/Greener Partnerships:|
Kimberly Hazard is a PhD student in Environmental Health Sciences. Her research focuses on exposures in early childhood environments. She is working as a Teaching and Outreach Associate for the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry’s Greener Solutions program. She is part of the instructional team for the Fall Greener Solutions graduate course, providing student teams with coaching on hazard assessment. She also supports other BCGC interns and conducts outreach for BCGC’s Greener Partnerships program.
“Greener Solutions was such a rewarding experience where you left the semester knowing you made an important contribution to protecting human health and the environment. This is where I want to focus my efforts after graduation as well – driving change to protect workers and consumers.”
|Jhanvi Patel, BCGC:|
Jhanvi Patel is an international student from India. She is a rising senior studying Chemical Biology and Business at University of California, Berkeley. Her interests focus on sustainability in cosmetics and Over the Coounter drugs specifically. She has been working as a Decal co-instructor with Grayson Hamaker-Teals for “Decal Chem 98: Introduction to Consumer Sustainability” for two semesters.
“Chem 98 played an important role in growing my love and understanding for consumer products. It stimulated my interest in green chemistry and education, beyond my expectations.”
“My passion for sustainability existed since childhood but it got accelerated once I became a part of Center of Green Chemistry at Berkeley, at first, as a student in their decal and later leading it as we dissect Sustainability of consumer Products. In the decal along with analyzing we also designed and suggested green solutions for the polymer intense-use industry as a whole and products individually as well.”
|Grayson Hamaker-Teals, BCGC:|
Grayson Hamaker-Teals is a third year undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently working alongside Jhanvi Patel to teach the Chem 98, “Introduction to Consumer Sustainability”. This class focuses on working with students to better understand different common products they interact with and how to brainstorm safer solutions to those hazards. Grayson was also a part of the Greener Solutions class as a student in the fall of 2020, in the Household Product Packaging Team. He continued this work by preparing two case studies based on the semester work: finding alternatives to PFAS as moisture barriers in packaging systems, as well as exploring ways to recycle carpets in a manner that both preserves the carpet material and removes the PFAS grease barrier without endangering the environment.
“I am really enjoying the work I do in Chem 98- the students all have very interesting perspectives on how to find safer alternatives to cosmetics, cleaning products, and energy efficiency. My favorite parts of the class are the class discussions, where students bring up which aspects of the lecture they connected most to- and then teach the rest of the class a little segment that they wanted to share; it allows me to take a chance at being the student and learn something new.
As a student in the Greener Solutions course, and then continuing my research in the case studies I really learned a lot about how to write academic works and how to research a topic that isn’t well documented. I learned how to combine a variety of sources to put together a cohesive point, and how to organize my own thoughts on a subject matter in a way that can be understood in lay terms. My favorite part was working with other students who could reflect a new perspective for the research and help me grow as a writer and as a student. I really appreciated my group mates in the HPP team for leading me through my first major group project, and introducing me to the world of research.”
“My interest in green chemistry has led me to teach a class on consumer sustainability and working with students to identify potential human and environmental hazards in everyday products. I am also in the process of writing up two case studies on Per(poly)fluoroalkyl substances and discussing new potential industry alternatives that would be less environmentally hazardous. These greener alternatives were inspired by the work done by the Fall 2020 Greener Solutions graduate course where the teams put together hazard and performance assessments for a variety of sustainable solutions.”
|Minerva Teli, WA Department of Ecology: |
Minerva Teli is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Environmental Engineering program at UC Berkeley. She studies materials for water treatment under Prof. Baoxia Mi and holds an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Northeastern University. She is interested in exploring applications of green chemistry in water treatment systems. Minerva is working with the Washington State Department of Ecology to identify and assess food packaging products in the US market that use potentially safer alternatives to PFAS.
Taking Berkeley’s Greener Solutions course was a great way to explore my interest in green chemistry and get an idea of how it applies in a practical setting. The interdisciplinary feature of the groups allowed us to approach the project from many angles while making great connections along the way. I look forward to applying many of the concepts I learned during the course to my Ph.D. research.
As a part of the Greener Solutions course, my group was tasked with finding promising alternatives to current food packaging materials containing PFAS and PFOA. Our search enveloped both systematic changes and scientific improvements to base materials and coatings. While we identified promising alternatives at the research stage, we had limited access to the formulation of current market products. Through my internship with the Washington State Department of Ecology, I look forward to working with stakeholders to identify and evaluate viable alternatives that currently exist on the market. This will allow for a better transition from PFAS containing products to safer alternatives.
|Aaron Maruzzo , DTSC:|
Aaron Maruzzo is an MPH student in the Environmental Health Science department at UC Berkeley School of Public Health. He joined UC Berkeley after three years of working as the Water Lab Analyst for the municipal water company in the U.S. territory, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, serving the islands of Saipan, Tinian, and Rota. He received his BA in Biology and Comparative Literature, and a concentration in Public Health from Williams College. Originally from the island of Saipan, he and his family moved to southern California where his lived experiences led to a commitment to reduce health inequities in overlooked communities. Currently, his research and advocacy focus on a class of emerging contaminants called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are ubiquitously detected in the water supplies in Guam and Saipan, and in various environmental media and consumer products. His planned project with the Safer Consumer Products program in the Department of Toxic Substances and Control will focus on developing a mechanism to daylight safer alternatives to PFAS treatments for carpets and rugs and plant fiber-based food packaging containing PFAS.
“In my first semester at Cal, I worked on a team in Greener Solutions to identify greener alternatives to short-chain PFAS in molded fiber food packaging. The course exceeded all my expectations. As a public health student, I learned how environmental health scientists have a critical role in ensuring safety is a design constraint and in transforming the chemical market. The course exemplifies the scope of environmental health work from characterizing hazards from toxicity data, to articulating solutions and research needs that could benefit businesses, communities, and future generations.
One of the principles of green chemistry is to use chemicals designed for safe degradation. PFAS, on the other hand, are nicknamed “forever chemicals” because they persist in the natural environment for years after their intended use, accumulating in the environment and inevitably exposing humans to toxicants. My role in the Greener Solutions project was to work through chemical and toxicity data, then characterize our alternatives’ safety profiles using a hazard-based approach. By interpreting toxicological data, we were able to highlight compounds that could perform its task and minimize pollution when the compound is no longer needed”.