A research poster session was one of the features at the student-organized Green Chemistry Applied in Industry Symposium, which was hosted by the University of Toronto. Photo credit: Laura M. Reyes
This past May, green chemistry enthusiasts and supporters gathered at the University of Toronto for the Green Chemistry Applied in Industry Symposium. The conference, which was organized entirely by students, brought in 14 high-profile speakers from the chemical industry sector.
Representatives from Dow, Sigma-Aldrich, VWR, Xerox, GreenCentre Canada and others contributed their expertise towards a comprehensive picture of how industry is putting green chemistry and sustainability into practice. These examples were featured over two days of talks, ranging from specific technologies on the global market, such as Dow’s adsorbing polymers for TiO2-based paints, to general strategies that companies are implementing, including Sigma-Aldrich’s and VWR’s approach to social responsibility.
Delegates enjoyed a social night out following the green chemistry conference. Photo credit: Laura M. Reyes
The talks concluded with a lively open discussion on the clash that is sometimes felt by discovery-stage researchers towards the practical implementation of green chemistry solutions, especially coming from the perspective of graduate students. Since no chemical process can ever be perfectly green, the general consensus was that it is important to train all chemists to move away from viewing green chemistry as an all-or-nothing mentality and instead to use it as a guiding framework, putting chemistry research and the chemical industry at the centre of the movement towards sustainability. This was artfully articulated by U of T chemistry professor Andrew Dicks during the opening lecture on the basics of green chemistry. Dicks pointed out that the eventual goal is to create a system where the concept of “green” is embedded in the way all chemistry is done and taught.
The symposium attracted about 70 participants, most of whom were graduate students from U of T. Delegates also came from institutions in Canada and the United States as well as industry. In addition to the invited talks and the concluding open discussion, other highlight events included a research poster session and a well-attended social night immediately after the symposium.
This year marks the third annual green symposium organized by the Green Chemistry Initiative (GCI), a student group founded in 2012 at U of T. The theme, which varies each year, is selected by the GCI based on the educational needs of graduate students undertaking chemistry research.