Dr. Paul Anastas: "We’re all in the same boat, and we only have one boat"

Posted January 31, 2013 by Andrew Ranallo   

Green chemistryHealth

Mixed Recycling, Seattle 2004, from Chris Jordan's Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption.

“Any defenders of the status quo are not on my team.”

That was Dr. Paul Anastas, a bit into his keynote speech at Beakers to Business Plans: The 2013 iteration of the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum’s annual conference, cohosted by IATP on January 25.

As he spoke, pictures flashed on the screen behind him: first, 60,000 plastic bags—the amount used in the U.S. every five seconds. Then, a shot of what 106,000 cans looks like (or the product of 30 seconds of can consumption in America). The photos were part of Photographer Chris Jordan’s Intolerable Beauty: Portraits of American Mass Consumption collection and dramatically illustrated our country’s urgent need for innovation—even as waste is only one small part of the picture.

Here, Anastas highlighted two properties that remain front and center in product lifecycle design: Persistence and toxicity. Think pesticides. Potentially toxic, and persistent enough to build up in our land and water, damage the environment and impact public health on a large scale. Green chemistry means designing products, from concept to production to the end of their use, to potential reuse, that are nontoxic, and will degrade safely when their time has come to shuffle off this mortal coil. Quite a brilliant idea, and not all that radical, especially as businesses in Minnesota and around the country begin to see that any successful business model will require such consideration as resources deplete and consumption continues to rise.

The day-long gathering brought together scores of Minnesota businesspeople, academics and visionaries like Dr. Anastas, and included panels on training future green chemists, managing supply chains, product lifecycle consideration and investing in green chemistry.

Take a look at pictures from the day, or watch Dr. Paul Anastas’ keynote below.




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