Father of Green Chemistry Talks Sustainability and Innovation


Paul Anastas, Ph.D., of the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering at Yale University, urged audience members to begin taking serious steps toward green and sustainable chemistry during the "Sustainability: Cosmetics for a Greener Future" session at the IFSCC Congress.

Anastas posed the question: How can we create something that is truly beautiful if the results are harmful? He stated, “If we have not [positively] impacted the world, then we have not done our job…We cannot say ‘Oh, yeah, let’s be more sustainable’ and then go about our way.”

In the past 25 years, the idea of green chemistry has gained much attention and traction. It can be found in basic research and industrial markets. There are entire conferences dedicated to it, and specific research networks and five major journals that all focus on green chemistry.

Anastas pointed out that the unfinished business of green chemistry represents opportunities for the cosmetics industry to advance sustainability through innovation as never before imagined. These  could include new aromatics from lignin, access to new naturally derived aldehydes and ketones, novel bio-based C-glycosides, new ways to cleave olefins and dihydroxyls, and the use of Earth-abundant copper and magnese for oxidation.

Anastas concluded his presentation with what he calls the unspoken motto of the green chemistry community: “There is no desire to do the best green chemistry. We will do the best chemistry and it will happen to be green.”

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