What if fuel had so few pollutants that cleanup and recovery of a spill never made the news? What if waste water was so clean it took minimal processing to become drinkable? What if pesticides were stripped of dangerous chemicals so produce could be eaten without cleaning?
Green chemistry aims to do just that.
The Oregon Green Chemistry Executive Order, signed by Governor John Kitzhaber in 2012, is a step forward in fulfilling the need for clean air, soil and water in the State of Oregon. The executive order intends to strengthen the demand for and use of products that have the lowest amount of toxic chemicals.
“The State has a big footprint in purchasing,” said Oregon Department of Environmental Quality Toxics Coordinator, Kevin Masterson. “Using the States purchasing power to influence the marketplace with the demand for greener, safer products means prices may drop and supply may increase.”
Oregon and Washington states jointly spend over $20 million on janitorial supplies annually. Organizations like the DEQ and Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) along with the governor’s office are focused on green janitorial spending to encourage market shift.
The State of Oregon also includes electronics, furniture and building materials in their green chemistry purchases.
Creating environmentally safe products is not the only goal of the executive order: Gov. Kitzhaber also hopes to boost the economy by creating demand for green products and design, as well as lower the cost of health care by decreasing chronic disease brought on by chemicals.
While state agencies are the main target of the executive order, local governments and public schools may also take advantage of the state’s price agreements.
Two years after the signing of the initiative, where is the state on implementing green chemistry?
Progress is being made, but slowly.
Business outreach is still in the beginning stages, says Masterson. The first effort out of the gate is state procurement. The DEQ, Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and Business Oregon are aiding purchasing managers from all state agencies in buying products that abide by the executive order guidelines.
Guidelines in the executive order for green chemistry include products which: avoid the use of hazardous chemicals, minimize toxicity to health, use renewable raw material or feedstock, break down into harmless substances, and minimize chemical releases, explosions and fires.
Officials hope to see lowered prices of green products and an increase of demand over the next few years.
Promoting green chemistry may lead to a future where toxics concern is a thing of the past, but for the present, Oregon leadership in green legislation furthers the goal of a cleaner state and a cleaner safer environment for all of us.