Beyond Benign and the Green Chemistry Commitment

Editor’s Note: This week’s blog post is written by Beyond Benign‘s Mollie Enright and Alicia McCarthy about the Green Chemistry Commitment. Mollie is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign, Inc. and Alicia is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign’s Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) program. We would like to thank the team at Beyond Benign for writing this piece for our blog.

 Background to Beyond Benign

Beyond Benign was founded in 2007 as a non-profit organization by Dr. Amy Cannon and Dr. John Warner with the aim to cultivate a national and international “Community of Practice” and to bring green chemistry to pre-college and higher education. Our mission and vision is based on a holistic approach for providing solutions to the environmental problems our society faces by inspiring the next generation of scientists to become responsible chemists that can design and incorporate green, sustainable technologies.

This unique educational approach produces materials and trainings that are audience driven and address multiple learning styles from primary school through graduate school. We believe in providing resources that are free and publicly available online so anyone can have access to quality materials on sustainability and green chemistry. We hope to inspire college students to use green chemistry to innovate a sustainable future. The three main areas of focus within the organization are pre-college curriculum and training, community engagement, and higher education. The Green Chemistry Student Outreach Fellows’ Program and the Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) Program are two ways our organization addresses those areas in partnership with higher education institutions.

Sustainable Outreach

Our Green Chemistry Student Outreach Fellows’ Program trains college students in communicating green chemistry concepts to the public using hands-on activities inspired by cutting edge industrial innovations. Undergraduate students are trained in green chemistry and are coached in communicating chemistry concepts to diverse audiences. The students encourage a positive message to future scientists that they can bring change and develop a safer and sustainable world through chemistry.

Fellows’ are given the option to create an outreach or research project based off their experience within the program. This academic year, two scholarships will be awarded to students within the Fellows’ program to participate and share their project at the 21st Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in June 2017. By bringing their projects to a professional conference, students can connect with the larger green chemistry community and can network with peers and faculty to share resources and gain opportunities.

1Beyond Benign Program Manager Mollie Enright leads our Outreach Fellows program and is pictured here talking with local high school students about the challenge of ocean plastics.

Throughout the academic year, the Outreach Fellows reach hundreds of students and community members through fascinating, hands-on activities to showcase innovations, and opportunities in green chemistry. During interactions with the students and public, the goal of the Fellows’ program is to not only empower consumers to make more educated choices, but to encourage students to explore a future career within the STEM field with curiosity and passion.

2Young Einstein’s Science Club visits Beyond Benign annually as part of the Outreach Fellows training day. Students are pictured above exploring a hands-on activity on the dying of fabrics.

Beyond Benign’s outreach program is a model for how students take on the role of a green chemistry ambassador. Their outreach and influence goes beyond the community and can reach their own chemistry department to join in the commitment to integrate green chemistry principles into chemistry education. The Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) has several student-led initiatives among the signing institutions of how students assisted their department in greening their labs and experiments through research and outreach.

Growing a Green Chemistry Community

The GCC is a consortium program that unites the green chemistry community around the shared goals and common vision to grow chemistry departmental resources; expand the community of green chemists; and improve connections with industry for more student opportunities and collaboration. By signing onto the GCC, colleges and universities are identified as schools that are committed to continual progress in the implementation and adoption of green chemistry student learning objectives. The signers agree that upon graduation, chemistry majors should have proficiency in the following essential green chemistry competencies: 1) Theory: Have a working knowledge of the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry, 2) Toxicology: Have an understanding of the principles of toxicology, the molecular mechanisms of how chemicals affect human health and the environment, and the resources to identify and assess molecular hazards, 3) Laboratory Skills: Possess the ability to assess chemical products and processes and design greener alternatives when appropriate, 4) Application: Be prepared to serve society in their professional capacity as scientists and professionals through the articulation, evaluation, and employment of methods and chemicals that are benign for human health and the environment. These student learning objectives are implemented in different ways within each of the signing institutions in accordance with their green chemistry experience level and department resources.

By having a platform for communicating with the signers, the GCC has a unique opportunity to track the progress of signers and identify common roadblocks many departments and student initiatives face when trying to incorporate green chemistry and toxicology into their curriculum and activities. Working groups and partnerships are utilized to create a resourceful network for creating and sharing new tools and models. One major area all GCC signers are very interested in is how to teach toxicology for chemists. Beyond Benign has observed four different models of adoption within chemistry programs: 1) department seminar expert speakers; 2) student-led resources; 3) stand-alone courses, and 4) integration within existing courses.

3Dr. Amy Cannon (far right) pictured above with regional green chemistry college faculty members.

Partnerships with diverse organizations like NESSE, the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3), and MilliporeSigma are important to the growth of Beyond Benign. These connections help develop and provide free resources and tools that can benefit all socio-economic educational institutions and communities. Beyond Benign is coming up on their 10th year in 2017, and we look forward to expanding our goals for chemistry education as our organization advances forward.


About Mollie and Alicia

Mollie Enright holds a B.S. degree in chemistry from Gordon College. She is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign, Inc. At Beyond Benign, Mollie leads all community outreach programming and equips volunteers to lead sustainable science outreach events through the green chemistry outreach fellows program. In her role, Mollie also supports all pre-college programming for Beyond Benign and seeks to equip teachers with the resources they need to bring green chemistry and sustainable science into their classrooms.

Alicia McCarthy holds a B.S. degree in Environmental Health from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and in the second year of her M.S in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. She is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign’s Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) program. Alicia’s role is to communicate with potential and current GCC signers to address needs and celebrate successes among chemistry departments and students to further the goal of creating a community network of green chemists. By developing annual, flexible goals with schools, Alicia tracks the progress of specific learning and research objectives among the GCC signers and utilize their accomplishments as models for other schools.

This blog post was edited by Didi Van Doren