Chemistry and Biochemistry Department Goes Green

Green Chem Expo 300x207 - Chemistry and Biochemistry Department Goes Green
Science and Sustainability Expo Event with LMU’s Green Chemistry Committee and Iggy the Lion

On Nov. 30, Loyola Marymount University’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Department celebrated its commitment to green chemistry with a kick-off event open to the entire university.

Green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances.

The Green Chemistry Commitment—recently signed by the department—is an agreement to educate students on green chemistry practices, expand the number of green chemists, and improve connections to industry and job opportunities in green chemistry.

There are 34 universities in the United States and Canada that are considered early adopters of the Green Chemistry Commitment. LMU is the first four-year private institution west of the Mississippi to commit to the program.

Emily Jarvis, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and Green Chemistry Committee chair, is developing a five year plan to incorporate the Green Chemistry Commitment into the department.

“I had been quite involved in this before my time at LMU and thought it would fit perfectly with the university’s mission,” said Jarvis.

Jarvis previously served as a science policy advisor in the US Senate and worked on the Green Chemistry Research and Development Act.

In the next five years, the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department will introduce green chemistry principles in lower division lectures/labs. An upper division toxicology course will focus on what makes something toxic.

“I hope it helps students think actively about safer processes and chemicals so that they are not exposing themselves or others, and creatively find ways to help us never need to encounter these both in industrial settings and in the materials we use each day,” said Jarvis.

The Nov. 30th event was a way to celebrate the department’s commitment to green chemistry and educate the LMU community on the topic.

The first half of the event was an expo showcasing different eco-conscious organizations like Green LMU, ECO Students, The Bay Foundation, the Center for Urban Resilience, and the City of Los Angeles.

“We wanted to show how green chemistry fits into the larger concept of sustainability,” said Jarvis. “Green chemistry at its core promotes thoughtful design for benign chemicals and minimal impact to the environment and human health, so that mitigation becomes unnecessary.”

The keynote speaker was John Warner, considered the “Father of Green Chemistry” and the president and chief technology officer for Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry LLC, a research organization that develops green chemistry technologies.

John Warner 300x200 - Chemistry and Biochemistry Department Goes Green
Keynote speaker John Warner, the “Father of Green Chemistry”

“Before, there was no language, no concept that described making things better,” said Warner. “Society needed a science that described the sub-discipline and how to anticipate the negative impacts on human health and the environment when designing new material—and that was the birth of green chemistry.”

Warner founded a non-profit organization dedicated to green chemistry education called Beyond Benign, which fills in a gap Warner noticed. Beyond Benign penned the Green Chemistry Commitment.

“To get a degree in chemistry, not one university requires demonstrating the knowledge of what makes a molecule toxic, hazardous, or have environmental impacts,” said Warner. “Materials make products and no matter what you do, if the fundamental building blocks are not sustainable, the product is not sustainable.”

After Warner, responses to green chemistry were given by Tom Beardslee from Verdezyne, a local biotech company with green chemistry practices that won the 2016 Presidential Green Chemistry Award, and Michael Simpson from the City of Los Angeles Industrial Waste Management Division who are hoping to promote sustainability with green chemistry throughout Los Angeles.

“I hope it makes the students keenly aware of these principles going forward to their future places of employment in the chemical industry, medicine, academia, engineering, etc. so that they can promote green chemistry there,” said Jarvis.