Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Heine Discusses Green Chemistry and Cradle to Cradle Product Design

By Amanda Meyer and Judy Crawford

Dr. Lauren Heine, Director of Applied Science for the GreenBlue Institute, gave a presentation entitled Green Chemistry and Cradle to Cradle Product Design on Tuesday, February 6, 2007 as part of SUNY-ESF's Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Spring Seminar Series. The Faculties of Chemistry and Paper and Bioprocess Engineering and the ESF Women's Caucus jointly sponsored the event.

Dr. Heine's lecture focused on material health and green chemistry's contribution to it. Material health refers to products that are safe to both humans and the environment during their full life cycle, with a focus on design for safe, productive return to nature or industry. Material health is important because materials can directly and indirectly affect the health of entire ecosystems, as well as humans. After defining material health and its importance, Dr. Heine cited examples of both direct and indirect impacts of bad product design. Dr. Heine then turned her attention to strategies.

The four strategies for material health described by Dr. Heine were Know Your Product (Inventory), Know the Potential Impacts (Impact Assessment), Choose Green Chemical Products and Processes, and Remember the Big Picture. “Knowing your product” means identifying all components and ingredients of the product, ideally down to 100 ppm. This strategy includes requiring full ingredient disclosures and creating lists of suppliers who are either preferred (P-list) or should be avoided (X-list) based on their product components.

“Knowing the Potential Impacts” means preventing harmful consequences by understanding the toxicity, hazard, and risks associated with your materials over their full life cycle. Toxicity refers to the adverse effects of exposure to various agents to living organisms and ecosystems. When assessing toxicity, it is important to keep the dose and the timing of the exposure in mind. Hazards include such things as extreme toxicity to humans and ecosystems, bioaccumulation, and more. Risk equals hazard multiplied by exposure.

 “Choosing Green Chemical Products and Processes” includes selecting safer and healthier alternatives; designing healthy alternatives in collaboration with suppliers; and looking for emerging green chemistries and technologies. Green chemistry is the design of chemical processes and products to reduce and/or eliminate hazardous substances. Dr. Heine outlined twelve principles of green chemistry and provided examples of products and companies using green chemistry.

Dr. Lauren Heine received her doctorate in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Duke University. She is currently the Director of Applied Science at the non-profit institute GreenBlue. Dr. Heine is also directing the development of CleanGredientsTM and the Sustainable Textile Metrics standard. In addition, she consults and publishes on issues relating to green chemistry, alternatives assessment and sustainable material flows.

The next lecture in this series, Global warming:  the science behind the headlines, is scheduled for Tuesday, March 6, and will feature Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, Climate Scientist, Global Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington, DC.  This visit will also be part of Syracuse University’s Women in Science and Engineering Speaker Series.  For more information, please visit http://www.esf.edu/womenscaucus