Paul Anastas, the Father of Green Chemisty: Blazing a Sustainable Path Forward
If you really want to protect the environment, it’s not enough just to care about it; you need to learn and really understand something in order to protect it. That’s the lesson that Paul Anastas’ father taught him after bulldozers had destroyed the wetlands down the hill from his childhood home, turning what was once a place for adventure and natural beauty into parking lots and an office park.
Paul clearly took this early lesson to heart. Widely known as the “Father of Green Chemistry,” he has devoted his career to learning about how to create a more sustainable society.
For him, this has meant the pursuit of developing a greater understanding of chemical processes and molecular design. Trained as an organic chemist, Paul pioneered a new field of chemistry dedicated to developing safe, clean, and efficient products.
“As a chemist, I know of the good chemistry has brought society: medicine, food, electronics, and energy. As a green chemist, I know we can have all those benefits without the negative consequences of toxicity, waste, and other hazards,” explains, Paul.
Paul is currently the Director of the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, and the inaugural Teresa and H. John Heinz III Professor in the Practice of Chemistry for the Environment at Yale University's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He recently served as the Assistant Administrator in the Office of Research and Development at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and was also EPA’s chief scientist. Paul has an extensive record of leadership in science, government, academia, and the private sector.
Prior to joining the Yale faculty, Paul was the founding Director of the Green Chemistry Institute, a not-for-profit organization affiliated with the American Chemical Society dedicated to the discovery and design of chemical products and processes that eliminate the generation and use of hazardous substances. From 1999 to 2004 Paul worked at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, concluding his service there as the assistant director for the environment.
Taking on the role of chief scientist at EPA was a homecoming for Paul, as he began his career as a staff chemist at the Agency. Although he wasn’t a staff chemist for long, as his innovative ideas for green chemistry lead to advancement, including positions as the chief of the Industrial Chemistry Branch, and director of the U.S. Green Chemistry Program. It was during this first time working at EPA that Paul coined the term "green chemistry."
In 1996, Paul helped create the Presidential Green Chemistry Award. Sponsored by EPA, the award has inspired hundreds of companies to adopt his “12 Principles of Green Chemistry,” eliminating millions of pounds of hazardous chemicals from being released into the environment.
Trained as a synthetic organic chemist, Paul’s research interests have focused on the design of safer chemicals, bio-based polymers, and new methodologies of chemical synthesis that are more efficient and less hazardous to the environment. A leading writer on the subjects of sustainability, green chemistry, and green engineering, he has published ten books, including Benign by Design, Designing Safer Polymers, Green Engineering, and his seminal work with co-author John Warner, Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice.
Paul has been widely recognized with a host of awards and accolades, including the Heinz Award in the Environment, Vice President's Hammer Award, the Joseph Seifter Award for Scientific Excellence, the Nolan Sommer Award for Distinguished Contributions to Chemistry, the Greek Chemical Society Award for Contributions to Chemistry, the Inaugural Canadian Green Chemistry Award, a Scientific American 50 Award for Policy Innovation, the John Jeyes Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry, and an Annual Leadership in Science Award from the Council of Scientific Society Presidents.
In addition to being the Father of Green Chemistry, Paul is also the father of two young children. “I consider the work I do—using science to advance the protection of human health and the environment—as an extension of my love for my children in trying to give them a better future,” he says.
Paul earned his B.S. from the University of Massachusetts at Boston and his M.A. and Ph.D. in chemistry from Brandeis University.
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