Scranton, Michael Cann has developed a number of online modules that are easily accessible for use in different categories, such as in physical chemistry, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. However, sustainability education must move beyond four-year-colleges. For example, community colleges tend to be overlooked in the educational picture. In a critical move, the University of Oregon has partnered with the local community college to encourage transfers from two-year to four-year colleges. When these students move to the four-year schools, educators want them to have been exposed to green chemistry and sustainability concepts.

Educational textbooks are also devoid of green chemistry, sustainability, or many of the related topics. General Chemistry, Brown and LeMay’s most recent edition, contains five pages on green chemistry within its “chemistry and the environment” chapter. Zumdahl1 has a sidebar on green chemistry that describes the use of CO2 for dry cleaning. Kirchoff said that these are steps in the right direction, but educators tend to skip sidebars in an effort to get through an overly ambitious syllabus. Many interesting topics, especially the more modern research areas, tend to be in sidebars and side boxes. As a result, they do not get covered in the main body of the course. However, Organic Chemistry is very encouraging; Solomon’s most recent edition has five different green chemistry examples embedded in the text. Overall, green chemistry is starting to creep into mainstream textbooks. “This is where I think we really need to be focusing our efforts, if we want to see a lot of students impacted by green chemistry,” Kirchhoff said. In addition, the subjects of toxicity and toxicology should receive more appropriate attention. Usually, the LD50—the “lethal dose” that kills 50 percent of a group of test animals exposed to a material—is the only toxicity or toxicology topic covered. Occasionally, the textbook will refer to poisons and cover the alkaloids and poison dart frogs. There is room for improvement to incorporate these subjects into educational material.

Lab lectures should also incorporate more information on sustainability. Even in her own teaching experiences, Kirchhoff only provides technical information about chemicals, such as whether a chemical is hazardous or toxic, when to use it in a hood, or where MSDS sheets are located if students want to look at them. “We don’t have a culture of emphasizing green chemistry topics or related topics like toxicology,” she said.


Zumdahl, Steven S. 2003. Introductory Chemistry: A Foundation, Fifth Edition. Houghton-Mifflin.

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