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Green chemistry and design for environment approaches are guiding concepts for the GC3 and its project groups.
Green chemistry is an approach to chemistry that, through the use of the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, reduces or eliminates the need for and generation of hazardous materials during the manufacture, design, and application of chemistry. The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry are outlined in Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice, by Doctors Paul Anastas and John Warner:
Green Chemistry practice should:
Co-pioneered by industry, the DfE concept encourages businesses to incorporate environmental and health considerations in the design and redesign of products and processes. It is the systematic assessment of human health and safety and environmental issues during the product development phase. Designing for the environment improves environmental and human health and increases product performance and market competitiveness. The focus is on finding sustainable solutions to identified materials of concern. In essence, DfE represents the application of green chemistry in practice.
EPA's Design for the Environment (DfE) Program works in partnership with a broad range of stakeholders to reduce risk to people and the environment through safer chemistry and pollution prevention. For more than 15 years, through partnership projects, DfE has evaluated human health and environmental concerns associated with traditional and alternative chemicals and processes in a range of industries.
DfE convenes partners, including industry representatives and environmental groups, to develop goals, methods, criteria, and guide the work of the partnership, as appropriate. The program’s focus is on industries that combine the potential for chemical risk reduction with a strong motivation to make lasting, positive changes. As incentives for participation and driving change, DfE offers unique chemical assessment tools, methodologies, expertise and recognition through its Safer Product Labeling and Alternatives Assessment Programs.
The DfE Safer Product Labeling Program is EPA’s label for safer chemical-based products. The program uses EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics chemical expertise and resources to carefully evaluate products and to label only those that have met the program's highly protective standards. DfE labels a variety of chemical-based products, both consumer and industrial, like all-purpose cleaners, laundry detergents, car and boat care products, and conversion coatings that do not use chromium-6. The program has labeled over 2,700 products, reducing the use of problematic chemicals by approximately 700 million pounds per year.
DfE's Alternatives Assessment Program helps industries choose safer chemicals through multi-stakeholder partnerships. The goal of an alternatives assessment is to inform substitution to safer alternatives by developing an in-depth comparison of priority chemicals and functional alternatives. Alternatives assessments characterize chemical hazards based on a full range of human health and environmental information. DfE criteria for designating a concern for hazard can be found in the Alternatives Assessment Criteria for Hazard Evaluation. Chemical choices made based on these assessments can minimize the potential for unintended consequences that might occur in moving from a chemical of concern to a poorly understood alternative, which could be more hazardous. An alternatives assessment can complement regulatory action by showing that safer and higher functioning alternatives are available, or it can point out the limitations to chemical substitution for a particular use—and the need for Green Chemistry innovation.