12 Principles of Green Chemistry Explained

February 28, 2018

Chemicals are usually looked upon with an evil eye in the modern world. People are worried about environmental safety and health issues that are brought about by harmful chemicals. In addition to that, chemical companies themselves are struggling when it comes to the safe disposal of toxic substances and leakages. It comes as no surprise that people all over the world prefer organic goods in a bid to avoid such harmful chemicals. However, the truth is that chemicals are omnipresent, and cannot be avoided, as it essential in the manufacturing of infrastructure, electronic devices, household items, and even the food we consume. As a result, the concept of green chemistry has emerged to soften the impact of harmful chemicals on the environment and human health. Green chemistry or sustainable chemistry focuses on designing products and processes that minimize the generation or use of hazardous substances. It is different from environmental chemistry as it focuses more on technology to prevent pollution and reduce the consumption of non-renewable resources.

Principles of Green Chemistry

12 Principles of Green Chemistry


The saying “prevention is better than cure” is true not only in the healthcare industry but also the chemical industry. It is essential in green chemistry to design processes that reduce wastages as it is better to prevent it in the first place than to treat or clean up the waste after its creation.

Atom economy

All chemicals in green chemistry are a result of reactions at an atomic level. So by figuring out the atoms that are incorporated into the final product and the atoms that are wasted, the efficiency of the reaction can be increased. Manufacturers need to measure the atom economy percentage, which can be calculated by analyzing the formula weight of the atom utilized and all other reactants.

Atom economy = (FW of atoms utilized/FW of all reactants) X 100

Less hazardous chemical syntheses

This principle outlines that wherever applicable, synthetic methods should be used since they possesses little or no toxins that affect the environment or human health. The chemical industry may face difficulty in implementing this green chemistry principle as chemists usually work with highly toxic substances that have no substitute. However, it can be practiced by paying attention to the materials used for bring about chemical transformation.

Designing safer chemicals

Players in the greeb chemistry chemical industry should strive to reduce the toxicity of their final product without compromising on their functional efficacy. The green chemistry chemical industry often prefers highly reactive chemicals as they affect molecular transformation. However, it may also react with unintended elements in the environment or humans.

Safer solvents and auxiliaries

Avoiding the use of auxiliary substances like solvents and separation agents whenever possible is one of the most important principles of green chemistry. Although reactions may not proceed without the use of solvents or mass separation agents, players in the green chemistry chemical industry can opt to use safer auxiliaries.

Design for energy efficiency

Chemical companies should design their products to consume less energy to decrease the overall environmental and economic impact. Green chemistry can be achieved by using synthetic methods at ambient temperature and pressure. Improving the green chemistry energy efficiency in the chemical manufacturing process will reduce the dependency on fossil fuels.

Use of renewable feedstocks

Although the concept of producing fuels and chemicals from feedstocks that never deplete seems impracticable, it is not entirely impossible. This green chemistry principle can become a reality due to developments in biotechnology, physics, agronomy, toxicology, and engineering. As a result, in green chemistry it allows chemical companies to use a renewable raw material or feedstock.

Reduce derivatives

To abide by the principles of green chemistry, chemical companies should avoid or reduce the use of unnecessary derivatives including blocking group, protection, and temporary modification of chemical or physical properties. Using such derivatives will require additional reagents further in the manufacturing process and generate additional waste.

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