Sustainable science: reducing the environmental stress of research

Image courtesy of Flickr user huskyte77

The idea of green practices in chemical research may be more well-rounded than you think – it’s not just about creating and choosing chemical compounds that will have the least amount of toxic impact on the environment.

While a big part of green chemistry is to make smart choices about which substances or solvents to use, there are other ways in which scientists can improve the sustainability of their R&D projects. Making economical decisions in research will have a positive effect on the environment through a reduction in wasted materials.

Using minimal materials not only reduces waste at the front end of a research project, but also reduces the amount of energy and resources needed to clean up or remove waste products at the back end of development.

Selecting substances that have longevity of functionality can also help reduce waste. Whenever possible, use raw materials that are renewable and will not put pressure on limited resources.

Looking at research methods with a sustainable eye is becoming more and more important. Scientific consumption of materials has already proven to be putting stress on the earth’s finite supply of naturally-occurring raw materials.

In fact, the United States Department of Energy has deemed that the shortage of certain raw materials is so critical that a special research center has been set up to investigate rare earths. These materials are necessary to the production of technologies that we use every day, such as automobiles and smartphones, and they on course to run out of supply if conservation efforts are not made.

Although it seems like a daunting task for the special research team, each and every scientific organization can do its part by managing its research projects with sustainability in mind. Our E-Notebook customers can take the first steps to becoming more sustainable by learning about simple ELN configurations that will increase atom economy and reduce toxic output. You can read about available configurations in this blog post.

To learn more about the DOE’s initiative to conserve rare earths, read this news story.

If you’d like counseling on you can utilize scientific informatics to make your R&D more sustainable, contact our representatives and visit our website.