On an average day, we come in contact with many chemicals. It may seem like a strange fact to a common man, but most of the things around us and the products that we use are made up of chemicals. As an average person, we don’t really think about what we’re using, much less about what it is composed of and how it is manufactured. It’s best articulated by Annie Leonard through her Story of Stuff Project shares what she’d learned about the way we make, use and throw away Stuff. It is a must watch ‘20-minute cartoon about trash.
There are many chemical processes used in the manufacturing of products, that can cause short term and long term harm to us and our environment. Many industries use chemical processes, but that’s not the issue in contention here. The fact is that chemicals can’t be avoided but its manufacturing can be made safe for all concerned and that’s where intervention of green chemistry and engineering practices is called for.
Green chemistry is defined as the invention, design and application of chemical products and processes to reduce or to eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. It is evident from the definition that the science is not merely a preventive one, but actively seeks to stop or at least minimize any chemical pollution. There are a set of rules that define the science and make it a holistic science that can be applied to all levels of production to achieve the final goal of controlling toxicity in the environment. A common (mis)conception is that green chemistry technologies will dramatically alter the process and product manufacturing, affect the profit margins and cause additional expenses. But the truth is that we often fail to see that what goes out as waste in form of hazardous effluents is nothing but an amalgamation of our starting raw material.
Green Chemistry and engineering practices assures us of efficient application of our raw material, identify environmentally benign feedstock, Recyle@Source TM Technologies and integration of such next-generation technologies.
Over a decade ago, Prof. Paul Anastas & Dr. John Warner introduced the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry and Engineering which have become the guide-map for making the chemical industry greener and sustainable. The principles overall promote that any physical, toxicological, or global hazard can be prevented in the processes and can thus minimize hazard across all stages of a chemical life-cycle from raw materials to manufacturing and end-of-life.
If we as a consumer become more aware of the products we use, and what impact it has on our mother Earth, we can demand environmentally benign means of manufacturing of the products that we use.