Dear Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum Supporter,

Following a self-analysis of the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum’s (MGCF) strengths and an outward analysis of the current Green Chemistry environment, the MGCF is trying a new approach to its mission of advancing green chemistry practice by selecting a priority contaminant in Minnesota and pursuing its reduction in products. By directing our limited resources on the selected targeted chemical of nonylphenol ethoxylates, or NPE’s, we hope to build momentum behind the elimination and replacement of the remaining use of this group of chemicals. In addition to the standing MGCF steering committee, we have formed a work group that is mapping out the project - seeking to understand better where NPE in commercial detergents may still be in use, and to promote safer alternatives wherever possible.

Progress in Green Chemistry

The MGCF was established in 2010 to foster a common understanding among businesses, government, non-government organizations (NGO’s) and academia to advance green chemistry practice and policy in Minnesota and nationally. In the last decade there have been great strides in advancing Green Chemistry research, the integration of Green Chemistry into design decisions by individual companies and the establishment of numerous K-12 education programs. Over the past five years the MGCF, with an increasingly established base of cross-sector relationships, has evolved to promote the development and adoption of Green Chemistry more broadly. And most recently the forum has sought to expand its geographical scope in a way that reflects the aspiring growth of green chemistry and the demand for a bioeconomy across sectors and across the region.

Today the “green” or “clean” or low-carbon economy has been celebrated as the most encouraging swath of the economy, promising job creation and a better quality of life in our home communities. Many green chemistry solutions to pressing industry challenges have also proven to be economically beneficial.  Yet this clean economy remains an enigma – challenging to measure and seemingly slow to materialize. One thing that has been definitive in the evaluation of this new economy is the increasingly important collaborative role that will be needed for private businesses and governments across regions.

The strengths of the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum flow from the active participation of all sectors of the economy: industry, government, nonprofit and academic.  The MGCF’s five highly successful annual conferences, numerous webinars and in-person meetings have brought these communities together to share our respective successes and challenges.  Midwest colleges and universities have introduced green chemistry courses and remade traditional required coursework to follow the green chemistry principles.  Campus science buildings that are models of sustainability have been completed or are in process.  Startup companies with Midwest connections, such as BioAmber and Gevo, have grown and established markets for their innovative products. Established companies like Eureka Recycling and Zep Inc. have seen their business grow based on their sustainable business practices.  The MGCF has spent five years helping to celebrate these successes and encourage more of the same.

Challenges in Green Chemistry

Like any nascent social and economic movement, the adoption of green chemistry principles into the mainstream is moving slowly.  In the supply and demand equation between academia and industry, the supply of green chemistry-trained scientists will quickly grow once industry recognizes (or is pushed to recognize by government policy) that it needs more of these people.  Policymakers will be pushed in this direction by progressive NGO’s as they do their part to increase awareness of the imminent need for solutions to pressing environmental problems.  Green chemistry startup companies will have an easier time finding funding when the economic value of their innovations is more readily recognized.  This same recognition will also help these solution providers find the right partnerships to make them flourish.  The complex interplay between these forces means that an organization like the MGCF is uniquely positioned to help foster this movement.  The MGCF’s model, of communication, education and collaboration between and within the different sectors can and will continue to be an engine of growth for the green chemistry movement.

Our Work Moving Forward

The Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum remains a forum in definition and practice – a place or medium where ideas and views on a particular issued can be exchanged.  We are still attentive to holding an annual conference in the future and will continue to host mini-events – engaging leading businesses, scientists, teachers, elected officials and government –as opportunities to showcase technical advancements and successful case studies, develop strategic partnerships, and educate end-consumers. Like all similar organizations, the strength and value of the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum derives from, and flows to, its membership.

  • Please join us on Wednesday, December 2nd at 5:30 pm at Conservation Minnesota for a larger discussion about the MGCF’s future and to re-connect with the network.
  • Please save the date for our next MGCF Happy Hour: Flame Retardant Free Furniture – Meeting Consumer Demand and Regulatory Demand, Hosted by Room and Board on February 3rd at 5:30 pm in Edina.
  • If you have interest in getting involved in the MGCF’s NPE project, please contact Al Innes at alister.innes@state.mn.us
  • We welcome your ideas and input – please reach out at any time to suggest news that should be highlighted, matters we should be engaging in, or projects to hold up. Contact Anna Claussen at aclaussen@iatp.org

Sincerely,

Tim Kapsner                                                                                       Anna Claussen

Co-chair, Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum                     Co-chair, Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum

Estee Lauder/Aveda Corporation                                             Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy