Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry

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Past Courses

Below are a list of courses that were previously offered through the SAGE interdisciplinary curricula.

Green Chemistry: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Sustainability

Offered: Sp2011, Sp2013

In the Spring Semester 2011, The Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry launched its first interdisciplinary graduate level course, Green Chemistry: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Sustainability.

The course was taught by eight faculty and instructors in the fields of chemistry, environmental health sciences, public health, law, policy and business. The course was taken by about 50 graduate students from chemistry, engineering, public health, toxicology, environmental science policy and management, and business.

Meeting the challenge of global sustainability will require interdisciplinary approaches to research and education, as well as the integration of this new knowledge into society, policymaking, and business. Green Chemistry is an intellectual framework created to meet these challenges and guide technological development. It encourages the design and production of safer and more sustainable chemicals and products.

This course represents a substantial commitment by U.C. Berkeley to California’s ongoing Green Chemistry Initiative. The California Environmental Protection Agency provided support for development of the course.

Please click here for the curriculum material, which includes learning objectives and class lessons.

Graduate Ethics Course

Offered: Sp2015

Using a “public ethics” framework, we will explore the practical challenges and ethical conundrums of redesigning materials and products to make them safer and more sustainable in our very complex modern industrial system. We will also investigate the problems of moving to a more environmentally and socially sustainable future.

We begin the seminar with classes that explore fundamental concepts and structures that are part of this public ethics framework. Using eleven new cases specially developed for this course about products like electric cars, flame retardants, and nanotechnology materials, we look at green design, ethical reasoning, systems thinking, life cycle analysis, information failure, regulatory failure, and organizational denial.

Next, we look in depth at two cases that map ethical issues and agency through a material’s product life cycle: rare earth elements in electronics and bioplastics in drinking bottles. We then examine the potential contributions of various processes for influencing the design of sustainable materials. These processes include corporate supply chain management strategies and organizational structures, litigation in the courts, regulatory reform, design tools, and social movements. We will conclude the course with a materials problem in which you will come up with a theory of change for achieving a transition. You can vote on what this problem will be.

In general, the course will use highly interactive brainstorming processes to learn about how to transform our materials design, production and use system.  After the first month, most classes will be student-led with faculty contributions and facilitation. We aim to foster a shared learning process for all of us. Throughout, we will collaborate in imagining a new system and how we can make the transition to that system. Critically, the public ethics framework we will develop can be applied to many other technological systems (e.g., water, energy, transportation).

Graduate students from all departments are encouraged to enroll, especially Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Haas, ESPM, CNR, Political Science, Sociology, STS, Public Health, ERG, CED, Engineering, GSPP, and Law. Qualified undergraduates are eligible but must consult with the instructors.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand/interrogate the key concepts of systems analysis, public ethics, life cycle, agency, green chemistry, learning, and transitions;
  • Develop familiarity with key ethical reasoning principles and processes;
  • Understand the institutional, organizational, political, and cognitive contexts within which sustainable materials design can occur;
  • Be capable of mapping the ethical conundrums that may exist across a material’s life cycle, as well as who in this life cycle is able to influence the material’s design and who should take responsibility for doing so;
  • Understand some processes through which materials can be made more sustainable (e.g., litigation, supply chain reforms, regulatory change, design tools, and social movements); and
  • Develop a public ethics framework to guide transitions toward sustainable technological systems of all kinds (not simply materials).

Green Chemistry Laboratory

Offered: Multiple offerings

BCGC has been developing new labs for the introductory chemistry course at Cal. Our goal is to incorporate the principles of Green Chemistry into new laboratory experiments that explore the big technological challenges facing society.

The technological challenges that face society are complex and multidisciplinary. Our curriculum captures this reality by evaluating these issues with multiple chemistry techniques.

In our initial set of laboratory exercises, we explore biofuels and the effects of acids in the environment. The biofuels module has students assess the toxicity of four potential biofuels, synthesize biodiesel, and then measure the heat of combustion for various biofuels. By the end of these labs students will be able to compare various biofuel options and make informed assessments of biofuel alternates in a short paper.

The second set of labs helps students explore the effects of air pollutants on aquatic ecosystems. CO2, SOx, and NOx are all biproducts of fossil fuel consumption and can also undergo transformation in aquatic environments. The first lab in the series helps students visualize Henry’s Law. Students make CO2 in a syringe. Then they expose the gas to the surface of indicator solutions which change color as the CO2 dissolves to create carbonic acid and lowers the pH.

The next two labs then introduce titration techniques that can be used to both quantify and identify the acids in aquatic environments. Students report their findings both in a formal lab report and also a short paper describing the effect of air pollution on aquatic environments. While the labs provide the necessary skills and an introduction to quantitative methods, the paper and associated reading help student explore broader implications of this chemistry.

Currently, we are working on labs that relate to chemical products in our daily lives. Initial ideas include a lab looking at the chemistry of food dyes and their natural alternatives, a lab exploring the chemistry of surfactants, and a lab that introduces octanol/water partitioning in the context of bioaccumulation.

Learn more:

Engineering and Health Impact Methods in Green Design

Offered: Sp2012 

Engineering and Health Impact Methods in Green Design was taught as a graduate course in Spring 2012, offered by the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. The Berkeley Center For Green Chemistry gratefully acknowledges the California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Toxics Substances Control for supporting the development of this curriculum and the and teaching of this course. The majority of course work consisted of completion of the group project.

Learning Objectives:

Learn how principles of environmental health can be used to make materials, products and manufacturing processes safer for workers, consumers and the environment, including:

  • Basics of assessing hazard and exposure;
  • Techniques for sustainable design;
  • Tools for evaluating alternatives.

Class Lessons:

  • Toxicological endpoints in health impact assessment
  • Design principles for sustainable materials and manufacturing processes
  • Assessing exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Methods for evaluating sustainability:
    • Life Cycle Assessment
    • Alternatives Assessment

Ethics and Decision-Making in Green Product Design

Offered: Sp2012

Ethics & Decision-Making in Green Product Design was taught as a 1-credit course in Spring 2012, offered by the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. The Berkeley Center For Green Chemistry gratefully acknowledges the California Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Toxics Substances Control for supporting the development of this curriculum and the and teaching of this course.

Learning Objectives:

This seminar course explores some of the personal, business, legal and political conflicts that complicate society’s efforts to transition to a green chemistry economy, as seen through an ethics lens. Key issues include evolving social norms faced by scientists, lawyers and business managers; public policies affecting human health and ecosystems; and individual and societal responsibilities. Our focus is on the different approaches to resolving ethical issues raised by the social objective of minimizing harm to human health and natural ecosystems through green product design.

Class Lessons:

  • Ethics and Decision- Making at the:
    • Organizational Level
    • Personal Level
  • Ethics and Morality in the Legal System (Guest Professor Cranor)
  • Ethics in Institutional Governance
  • The Public Ethics of Green Chemistry

The Basics of Toxicology for Green Molecular Design

Offered: Sp2012

Green chemistry seeks to promote the adoption of safer more efficient chemicals, products and processes. In order to design inherently safer chemicals it is important to understand the basic principles that dictate toxicity. This 1 unit class will introduce the basic tools and paradigms found in toxicology with a focus on ways to design safer chemicals and processes.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the basic principles and modes of action that dictate molecular toxicology.
  • Be able to effectively use tools and metrics to evaluate and compare the hazard profile of chemical substances.
  • Understand and identify structure/function relationships with respect to chemical properties, biological activity, and environmental fate.
  • Be able to understand and evaluate the results of common toxicology assays.

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