Sustainability is a core tenet of our work here at Rivertop. Our science and processes create a sustainable supply of bio-based products that are economically and environmentally attractive to consumers and industry by unlocking the potential of plant sugars. In our activities, we fully adhere to the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry, guidelines widely accepted by the green chemistry industry as its core pillars. Yet these principles are less than 20 years old, and green chemistry is arguably still in its youth.
When the modern environmental movement began in the 1960s and 1970s, the focus was largely on protecting humans and the environment from harmful substances. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded in 1970 and promptly banned chemical pesticides (such as DDT), followed by a variety of activities aimed at stemming pollution and cleaning up toxins. It wasn’t really until the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 that the paradigm started shifting towards prevention, opening up opportunities for innovation in what was later to be known as the ‘green chemistry’ space.
That got the ball rolling: the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards were established in 1995, the Green Chemistry Institute in 1997 and Green Chemistry, Theory and Practice was published in 1998, containing the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry.
While the green chemistry industry has since expanded and made its mark in many facets, it has a long way to go. A vast majority of organic chemicals are still derived from petroleum. Chemistry, as a result, is largely perceived negatively, associated more regularly with pollution and DDT than with sustainability.
Green chemistry has the tools to change that perception: according to a recently released study by BBC Research, the green chemistry industry is expected to grow to a market of $85.6 billion by 2020, with future prospects as high as $1.5 trillion. Innovation and demand from consumers for ‘green’ products are establishing a bright future for the industry. Nonetheless, a recent Chemical Watch article points out that in order to solidify its foothold, green chemistry has to make its way into education as well.
We here at Rivertop commend the inroads the industry has already made and are proud to be a part of it. In our eyes, the first key pillar for the future of green chemistry is innovative, economically competitive products. The second key pillar is hands-on education. And the third is societal recognition. But if we execute well on the first two, the last one will be sure to follow. And on that note, back to work!