Widener Signs the Green Chemistry Commitment

chemistry beakers

Widener University has signed the Green Chemistry Commitment, joining 17 other colleges and universities at the forefront of a national effort to transform university-level chemistry education. Widener is the first institution to sign in Pennsylvania.

The Green Chemistry Commitment is organized by Beyond Benign, a non-profit foundation created and led by Dr. John Warner, a world-renowned green chemistry scientist. In addition to institutions of higher education, Beyond Benign has recruited industry partners like Dow Chemical to sign the commitment and form a consortium truly committed to designing and developing innovative, efficient and environmentally sound chemical products and processes, and to prepare world-class chemists with 21st century skills.

"The prospect of sharing ideas with others and learning how we might further introduce green chemistry into the curriculum at Widener is one of the most appealing things to me about signing the commitment," said Dr. Loyd Bastin, associate professor and chair of chemistry at Widener. "There is no perfect 'green' experiment, so we are always working to improve our laboratory experiments."

Bastin led efforts at Widener seven years ago to begin "greening" the organic chemistry labs. He has since, with the help of Dr. Krishna Bhat, assistant professor of chemistry, worked on continuous improvements to the labs by having students analyze experiments based on the 12 principles of green chemistry and make recommendations for improvements. By focusing on the principles, the students look at the experiments from a range of perspectives, including the amount of waste generated and the toxicity of the chemicals involved.

"We've taken students' suggestions and had our research students test them out," Bastin explained. "We've adopted the suggestions that have worked and improved almost every organic chemistry lab experiment based on student feedback. This process helps our students see value in green chemistry and sometimes sparks their interest in research pertaining to green chemistry."

By signing the Green Chemistry Commitment, Bastin and his Widener colleagues agree to work toward the goal that all chemistry majors, upon graduation, have proficiency in the essential green competencies of theory, toxicology, lab skills and practical application.

"Through this commitment, the Chemistry Department is doing its part to fulfill Widener's mission of civic engagement," Bastin said. "Faculty are working to educate students about environmental issues and ways in which chemistry can be used as a tool for creating a sustainable future."

Bastin said that the next step for Widener's green chemistry movement is to explore how to further incorporate green chemistry into lectures. Widener faculty will also work to incorporate green chemistry into general chemistry and non-majors chemistry courses to impact a greater number of students.

As an academic and industrial field, green chemistry encourages chemists and scientists to develop safer, non-toxic, renewable chemistry and materials. A 2011 report from Pike Research (www.navigantresearch.com) forecasts that the worldwide green chemistry industry will soar to more than $100 billion by 2020 from less than $3 billion in 2011, with more than $20 billion of that growth in the U.S. The use of green chemistry will save the chemical industry more than $65.5 billion by 2020.

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. The university's campuses in Chester, Exton, Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve some 6,300 students. Widener is proud to be a tobacco-free campus. Visit the university website, www.widener.edu.

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