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A Greener Future

A Greener Future

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

By Eric Guzman '12
In an effort to promote the principles of green chemistry in the classroom, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Siena College teamed up to host a hands-on training workshop for teachers around the Capital Region.

“Siena has proven to be a leader in the effort to apply green chemistry concepts in (its) own facilities,” said Walter Schoepf, EPA project manager and environmental scientist. Schoepf praised the College for being one of the few higher education institutions in New York state to offer green chemistry coursework.

The workshop, held in Siena’s Morrell Science Center, featured presentations from Siena College faculty and staff, the DEC and the Environmnetal Protection Agency. Additionally, two lab rotations gave the high school teachers a look at some of the steps they can take towards greener chemistry practices.

“Green chemistry considers the life cycle of the chemicals that teachers and students are using,” said Environmental Program Specialist for the Bureau of Waste Reduction and Recycling in the DEC's Division of Materials Management Deborah Knight. “Using green chemistry can be as easy as a change in thought or culture. By asking why an experiment is done a certain way, it is possible to think about using less toxic materials.”

Knight explained that the benefits of practicing green chemistry are far-reaching. Natural solvents such as vinegar or acid from fruit are less costly than solvents like hydrochloric or sulfuric acid. Additionally, the natural chemicals are safer for the environment and won’t corrode pipes or contaminate ground water. They are also safer for teachers and students to use, preventing health and liability issues as well.

“We really enjoyed the workshop,” said Poughkeepsie High School chemistry teacher Christine Pizer. “Our students are going to be the ones taking care of the planet and it's important to be teaching (them) how to respect the environment.”

This is the second green chemistry workshop sponsored by the DEC as part of its Green Chemistry for New York State high school pilot program, which is funded by a grant from the EPA. The DEC expects to hold two more workshops next year.