Greener Alternatives

The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry

Green Chemistry Image Supporting the Advancement of Chemistry through Sound Environmental Stewardship

The aim of green chemistry is to reduce chemical related impact on human health and virtually eliminate contamination of the environment through dedicated, sustainable prevention programs. Green chemistry searches for alternative, environmentally friendly reaction media and at the same time strives to increase reaction rates and lower reaction temperatures.

The green chemistry concept applies innovative scientific solutions to solve environmental issues posed in the laboratory. Paul T. Anastas, an organic chemist working in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxins at the EPA, and John C. Warner developed the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry in 1991. These principles can be grouped into "Reducing Risk" and "Minimizing the Environmental Footprint."

Reducing Risk in the Laboratory
Sigma-Aldrich is dedicated to providing alternative products designed with the health and safety of its employees, customers, and the public in mind.

  • Use Safer Chemicals – Utilize performance chemicals that have the lowest levels of toxicity.
  • Design Less Hazardous Synthesis Methods – Where feasible, make use of synthetic or biosynthetic methods that pose little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.
  • Use Safer Solvents and Reaction Conditions – Search for the most up-to-date information on green solvents that will optimize your process and provide a safer working environment.
  • Accident Prevention – Select substances that minimize the potential for explosions, fires and chemical releases into the environment.

Minimizing the Environmental Footprint
The 12 Principles focus on reducing the volumes of chemicals used and pollution prevention.

  • Waste Minimization and Prevention – Develop chemical synthesis techniques, which reduce or prevent waste. It is better to prevent waste than to clean it up after its creation.
  • Use of Catalysts Instead of Stoichiometric Quantitites – Catalytic reactions inherently use smaller quantities of chemicals to carry out a specified transformation.
  • Reduce the Use of Chemical Derivatives – The use of protecting groups or other forms of temporary modification of a funtionality adds to the total waste incurred in a synthetic route.
  • Synthetic Efficiency (Atom Economy) – An efficient chemical process ensures the maximum amount of your starting materials is used in the final product so that no atom is wasted.
  • Taking Advantage of Chemicals Designed for Degradation – Reduce the effect on the environment by using chemicals that are designed to be biodegradable.
  • Establishment of In Process Controls for Pollution Prevention – To avoid the formation of hazardous substances, adopt real-time analysis and in process monitoring during synthesis.
  • Use of Renewable Feedstocks – Use raw materials or renewable feedstocks (waste from other processes or products derived from agricultural streams) whenever technically or economically feasible.
  • Encourage Energy Efficiency – The realization of the economical and environmental impact of energy use in a chemical process and the development of alternative means to reduce the impact.


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