The University of Bath has signed a charter pledging to transform its chemistry education programmes to focus on teaching green chemistry principles – the first UK institution to do so. Bath is joining 78 other universities in 11 countries that have signed Beyond Benign’s Green Chemistry Commitment.

Beyond Benign is a non-profit organisation developing and distributing green chemistry resources to educators, students and the community. Their Green Chemistry Commitment requires universities to teach students about green chemistry principles, toxicology and chemicals’ effect on human health and the environment.

Laboratory skills should focus on designing greener alternatives to chemical processes and materials – for example by reducing waste, avoiding formation of harmful byproducts or using renewable feedstocks, explained Andrew Burrows, head of chemistry at Bath. Adhering to green chemistry principles in teaching can even decrease the amounts of hazardous waste generated in synthesis labs – by up to 30% according to one study.

Until now, sustainable chemistry has been an optional unit in Bath’s undergraduate programmes. But after its curriculum revision, which will apply for students starting from 2023, it will become a core unit for all chemistry students. ‘For PhD students, especially those working in the Centre for Sustainable & Circular Technologies, the principles are fully embedded into their research projects,’ added Burrows.

Although institutions can implement changes in their own way and timeline, Beyond Benign is conducting annual surveys to track progress. The pledge now has 79 signatories, most of whom are based in the US, with individual universities in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Germany, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Sweden, Thailand and now also the UK.

Correction: Attribution for the study in paragraph 3 was updated on 13 April 2021.