Governor's green chemistry initiative draws praise from UO leadership

EUGENE, Ore. — (April 27, 2012) — The nation's first college courses and textbook devoted to environmentally friendly green chemistry took root at the University of Oregon. Now green chemistry's goal to reduce toxicity in product development is poised to blossom as a state-preferred technology under the governor's Green Chemistry Innovation Initiative.

Gov. John Kitzhaber signed an executive order in Portland on Friday to launch the initiative.

James Hutchison, UO chemistry professor"Gov. Kitzhaber's leadership in advancing green chemistry and promoting its application by the state's agencies is an important step for Oregon," said UO chemist and green chemistry pioneer James E. Hutchison at Portland's signing event. "The executive order will catalyze the development, production and use of greener products and leverage our nation-leading strengths within the state's industrial sector and its universities."

The Green Chemistry Innovation Initiative initially aims to build awareness in both state agencies and the Oregon business community about the benefits of green chemistry, and, then, in stages, advance forward to encourage new incentives through legislative proposals, implement state purchasing and procurement guidelines in preference of green chemistry-based products and refine the state's strategies to use safer alternatives to toxic chemicals.

"Ultimately, successful innovation will create good jobs that are safer for workers and offer a high quality of life for our communities, enhancing opportunities and resources for future generations," the newly signed executive order states.

"The UO is proud to offer its expertise to help fulfill the governor's thoughtful, forward-looking initiative," said interim UO President Robert Berdahl. "Our faculty members have worked tirelessly to build the field of green chemistry, and they are pioneering the application of green chemistry to nanotechnology. This is one more way the UO serves the state and beyond."

Hutchison, who holds the Lokey-Harrington Chair in Chemistry, noted in his remarks that numerous cutting-edge programs at the UO in green chemistry research, innovation and education are available and willing to help state agencies as they set out to improve lives and build a stronger economy through green chemistry.

Help also is to be available, he said, from extensive green chemistry resources and talent located throughout Oregon, within industry and academia. Among the resources, he added, is the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI), a state signature research center.

Hutchison was a founding director of the Safer Nanomaterials and Nanomanufacturing Initiative (SNNI), a division of ONAMI that is now co-led by the UO and Oregon State University. SNNI is devoted to the development of new nanomaterials and nanomanufacturing approaches that offer a high level of performance, yet pose minimal harm to human health or the environment.

Hutchison also was a co-author of "Green Nanotechnology Challenges and Opportunities," a white paper published by the American Chemical Society's Green Chemistry Institute, and the National Research Council report, "A Research Strategy for Environmental, Health, and Safety Aspects of Engineered Nanomaterials."

The UO's stamp on green chemistry runs deep.

The nation's first courses devoted to green chemistry began at the UO more than 15 years ago. To support that effort, Hutchison teamed with chemistry department colleague Kenneth Doxsee, now associate vice provost for academic affairs, to write the first textbook for the field, "Green Organic Chemistry: Tools, Strategies and Laboratory Experiments," which was published in 2003. In 2005, Julie Haack, assistant head of the UO Department of Chemistry, launched an open-source interactive database of education materials focused on green chemistry.

The UO holds an annual Green Chemistry in Education Workshop that has helped launch green chemistry efforts at more than 250 colleges and universities. The UO leads the Green Chemistry Education Network, which supports educators who strive to research, develop, implement and disseminate green educational materials. A Google map, managed by Haack, connects more than 500 individuals and organizations involved in the green chemistry community.

The UO also runs the Green Product Design Network, which brings together talent from around the UO and the world to spark the implementation of greener products by addressing each stage of innovation, from chemical content to product design to supply chains to consumer awareness.

Oregon also is well poised to be the nation's leader in green chemistry because of the National Science Foundation's selection last fall of the UO and Oregon State University as home of the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry, said Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation at the UO.

The center — led by OSU chemist Douglas Keszler, an adjunct professor at the UO, and UO chemists David Johnson and Darren Johnson — is a collaboration of eight institutions using green chemistry in the synthesis and fabrication of compounds, thin films and composite materials. David Johnson heads the center's education and outreach mission to recruit and prepare students who will advance tomorrow's technologies through the use of green chemistry.

"The excellent foundation of green chemistry that the UO has built is one pillar of our focus on innovation," Espy said. "The UO has engaged with the private sector through the Oregon Green Chemistry Advisory Group, through partnerships associated with SNNI and the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry, through the Green Product Design Network and other private sector partners to support and accelerate efforts in the private sector. We are ready to engage with the state to advance efforts to develop and use greener materials and products."

About the University of Oregon
The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.

Media Contact: Jim Barlow, director of science and research communications, 541-346-3481, jebarlow@uoregon.edu

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James E Hutchison