Oregon governor’s green chemistry initiative draws praise from UO leadership

University of Oregon leadership praised the launch of Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber’s Green Chemistry Innovation Initiative on April 27 at an event held at the university’s White Stag Block in Port­land. The 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, move 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.

“Governor 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 Jim 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.”

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. UO interim president Bob Ber­dahl and Kimberly Andrews Espy, UO vice president for research and innova­tion and dean of the graduate school, also praised the new initiative.

The nation’s first courses devoted to green chemistry began at the UO more than fifteen 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.

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 Espy.

The center—led by OSU chemist Douglas Keszler, an adjunct professor at the UO, and UO chemists Dave 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. Dave 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.