Oregon will be less toxic, if a new policy on what’s called “green chemistry” fulfills its promise.
Governor John Kitzhaber signed an executive order aimed at getting the state to cut its chemical use and shift toward cleaner alternatives.
Conservation groups consider “green chemistry” a potentially key part of how to reduce toxic pollution.
The Oregon Environmental Council’s director, Andrea Durban says the goal is pretty basic.
“What if we could avoid these harmful chemicals in the first place? That is really what green chemistry is about. It’s about avoiding and preventing the use of these chemicals through design and manufacturing process. It’s really the solution,” Durban says.
Democratic representative, Tobias Read says he’s been interested in pushing the state to find alternatives to toxic chemicals for some time. He says it started with a conversation he had with a colleague at Nike.
“And he told me about his work in helping create some cleaning products that Nike uses and that avoided some really nasty ingredients. Those products were created by Nike’s vendors because Nike asked.
And it resulted in a much better outcome for Nike’s employees, for its profitability, and for the planet.”
But Read couldn’t get his colleagues in Salem behind the green chemistry bill he introduced in this year’s legislative session.
However, advocates say Read’s priorities are embedded in a new executive order, signed Friday by Governor Kitzhaber. The order pushes the state to reduce chemical use, and find alternatives. Advocates say that shouldn’t carry additional costs. Kitzhaber argues it should have an economic benefit.
“Certainly, the state can help create market through our own purchasing policies for these kinds of things. The executive order also encourages more collaboration between business, universities, colleges, and NGO’s,” Kitzhaber says.
Supporters say the toxic reduction goals and the preference for green alternatives will focus in two areas: cleaning supplies that janitors use, and building supplies like treated plywood.
Researchers are excited that the new policies could drive greater interest in their discoveries. And advocates say there are business opportunities for Oregon companies that are already bringing green chemistry products to market.