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Green Practices Committee: Chemical Awareness and Sustainability: Recommendations


While climate change is considered the number one global environmental concern, chemical persistence in the environment affects the health of all life forms on the planet and must be recognized as a critical parallel concern, intrinsically, and especially now because chemical mobility and toxic exposure is greatly exacerbated by climate change. Terry Collins believes that chemical exposure is "as big and maybe even more fast acting then climate change."  See his comment and others in this three-minute video overview from Chemicals of Concern in the Environment.

How can we...

  • develop a deep awareness into our chemical use?
  • make chemical use transparent so that we can continually evaluate and assess our use of chemicals and their long-term effects?
  • strive toward eliminating toxic chemicals altogether.

We need to articulate...

  • at what level we will commit to  "develop university practices that improve environmental quality"
  • goals and commitments, and how we will strive toward developing standards
  • how we will assess our practice longitudinally

So we can...

  • create a public inventory of campus practices, chemicals and chemical use;  with transparency, chemical use can be continually re-evaluated and reduced
  • propose alternative practices to chemical use from a holistic perspective--we continually look to technology for the answer when a majority of simpler practices can be employed  e.g. lessening and eliminating chemical use, being flexible and educating CMU about diverse “aesthetics” and life forms, employing less invasive manual labor, etc.

Some Recommendations and Considerations

  • Develop assessment of practices using chemicals
    • Consider zero-pesticide storage: minimize storage of pesticides: avoid carryover
    • Use Life Cycle Cost Analysis to evaluate energy and water-using products and systems
  • Make chemical inventories on campus and sources public toward transparency
    • Identify chemical sources: list of suppliers
    • Identify chemical remediation practices/source
    • cleaning products
    • laboratory chemicals
    • can we make the Chemtracker Chemical Inventory Management System, Aramark Green Cleaning programs public, HazMat ? 
  • How do we achieve chemical waste minimalization
  • Challenge old aesthetics: Work toward a paradigm shift
    • Develop a longitudinal sustainability assessment of campus culture on campus
    • Tie importance of biodiversity with related principles of CMUs Center for Inclusion and Diversity
    • Reexamine concepts surrounding concepts such as "pests"
    • Visualize our connection to all of life, e.g. "soil is home to a quarter of all species on earth"
  • Pursue Stars certifications for
    • Grounds Management and Biodiversity
    • 100% Organic. Nurture our environment by propagating local species and encouraging biodiversity using buffers, bioswales  rain gardens, aeration, soil testing
    • Green Laboratories
    • Incorporate Life Cycle Cost Analysis to evaluate energy and water-using products and systems.
    • Certifications for Green Events
    • Sustainable Dining
  • Can we buy less and waste less?
    • CMU is 1.78/8.00 for waste minimalization though EH&S has a hazardous waste minimization policy and procedures in effect and hold training sessions for laboratory workers. Where is that program?
  • Form an Office of Sustainability
    • Develop continual engagement with neighboring universities' sustainability efforts;
      • "Sustainability is all about community" - we could develop consortiums
      • one university created a database of endangered and vulnerable species in the area with local universities
    • Assessment report every year announced to the campus
    • Public list of Who's Who so all CMU members know who to contact re: chemical use
    • Develop full inventory of chemicals used on campus and make them public
    • Develop an assessment of sustainability culture measured longitudinally for students, staff and faculty
    • Life Cycle Assessment
    • Develop an assessment of biodiverstiy
    • Alumni engagement strategy  to strengthen alum involvement in sustainability efforts (Harvard 2016-)
    • Sustainability literacy requirement
  •  Work toward prohibiting pesticides
    • Organic landscape
    • local species; native and adaptive plants
    • buffers
    • bioswales
    • rain gardens
    • develop organic land standard and plant stewardship
    • develop preventative cultural practices for pest resistance
    • use "mechanical" means for mowing, grazing, and "weeding"
    • Develop a diverse tree canopy and inventory... aesthetics wise, if one tree is ill there are others around (Chatham)
    • Increasingly develop areas that are pesticide free (start small)



  • Develop inventory of air emissions
  • Sustainable food distribution
    • prohibit bottled water
    • prohibit single use plastic

The Precautionary Principle: Beyond the Anthropocene

Anne Platt McGinn. Why Poison Ourselves? A Precautionary Approach to Synthetic Chemicals. Worldwatch Paper 153, November 2000.


40th anniversay edition; with essays by the author,  Edward O. Wilson, scientist and Linda Lear, biographer.

Areas to Investigate (the short list)

hemical products and processe


  • certification, standards, commitments, pledges, inventories, reports, assessments...
  • Precautionary Principle: "...even if it's green in will have an environmental impact"
  • involve Scotty Goes Green Teams
  • chemical inventories in labs, studios, FMS

Synthetic chemical mediums

  • plastics, pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, etc.), dust, wind, turbulance, air, soil, water, flora, fauna, humans

Ingestion (contact, eating, drinking...)

  • plastics leeching
  • e-waste
  • pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, herbicides
  • chemical persistence (e.g. salts and metals in soil persist to toxicity)
  • microplastics


  • emissions
  • off-gassing (incl. chemical beakers)
  • leaf Blowers
  • chemical spraying
  • plastic particles
  • pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, herbicides
  • electronic emissions and waste
  • chemical persistence (e.g. salts and metals in soil persist to toxicity)
  • microplastics

Soil is home to a quarter of all living species on earth

  • salt treatment
  • composting responsibly (more stringent standards)
  • plastics
  • pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, herbicides
  • soil testing
  • electronics emissions and waste
  • chemical leaching
  • chemical persistence salts, metals, pesticides
  • fertilizers
  • microplastics


  • product testing
  • environmentally preferred
  • chemically treated paper in compostables
  • PFAS in compostable paperboard
  • cleaning chemicals
  • chlorinated/chemically treated paper towels
  • green chemistry
  • electronics emissions and waste
  • biodigester


  • high mowing leave clippings
  • fertilizers
  • aeration of soil
  • eliminate chemical use
  • water run-off management
  • planting native or adapted species
  • chemical persistence salts, metals, pesticides

Water, watersheds, rivers

  • plastics and microplastics
  • chemical run-off
  • chemicals in water
  • rain water management
  • swimming (pool)
  • chemical persistence salts, metals, pesticides
  • pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, herbicides
  • Pittsburgh watershed and the three rivers



  • safety
  • handling
  • reducing waste
  • green cleaning standards
  • green building standards/construction
  • reducing waste
  • governance; administrative attitudes
  • external partnerships
  • internal partnerships
  • communications

Climate Crisis

  • climate preparedness
  • community action
  • how chemical toxicity is exacerbated by the climate crisis
    • spread of chemicals due to shocks and disasters
    • air, water, earth, turbulence
    • ocean acidification
      • caused by the uptake of atmospheric CO2 by the ocean, which changes the chemical composition of the seawater; with serious consequences for marine life  (UNSD Goal 14)

Culture, Learning, Teaching

  • biodiversity
  • partnerships, external and external
  • communications
  • community action
  • empathy:coexist with more than human species and habitat
  • Silent Spring 101: we do not understand or monitor the persistence of chemcals that concentrate over time.
  • examine human constructs: development; aesthetics; pest; invasive species; organic; non-organic, weed, nature, economics, landscape, climate "change" (coined by the fuel industry?)
  • ethics of chemicals on living beings



  • Emissions and energy; energy reductions, renewable energy, greenhouse gases

Green Chemistry

The design of cs that reduce or eliminate the use of generation of hazardous substances