Global manufacturers come to Ann Arbor for talks on reducing exposure to toxic chemicals

Meeting reflects state and regional leadership in 'green chemistry'

Representatives of more than 40 leading national and global companies convened in Ann Arbor earlier this month to discuss how they can do more to reduce chemical hazards in their products and production processes.

The meeting in Ann Arbor was the seventh annual Innovators Roundtable of the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3), an organization of more than 70 companies that helps support the design and application of safer chemicals and products. Companies attending the meeting included Michigan-based firms like Dow, Steelcase and Herman Miller as well as international businesses like Staples and Nike—represent the retail, footwear, auto, furniture, building, and home, beauty and health-care sectors.

Topics on the agenda for the meeting included greening the textile industry, bio-based cleaning solvents and “The Auto Sector's Journey Towards Safer and Greener Chemical Design.”

Hosting the GC3 meeting in Ann Arbor is a solid reflection of the state’s leadership in advancing green chemistry, according to Tracey Easthope, environmental health director of the Ecology Center.

In 2008, Michigan became the first state in the country to direct government agencies to advance “green chemistry” through research, education, economic development and implementation. The effort has engaged businesses, academic researchers, and government agencies in a clearinghouse of resources, an annual conference and governor’s award for green chemistry, and educational networking.

“Holding the meeting here is also important and hopeful given past and current contamination of the Great Lakes ecosystem by chemicals from manufacturing and everyday products and the resulting health impacts on people and ecosystems in the region. 'Green Chemistry' is the way to manufacture products without poisoning people and the planet,” Easthope said. Greener chemistry has been a long-standing policy initiative of the Ecology Center, which hosted a reception in conjunction with the GC3 meeting.

“The GC3 provides a forum for companies to share challenges and experiences in advancing safer chemistry through their supply chains,” according to Joel Tickner, associate professor of environmental health at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and director of the GC3. “Business-to-business collaboration in a safe space and around common goals will help move the market place for safer products through pre-competitive problem-solving.”

Easthope and Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center, spoke at the meeting. It also featured speeches and presentations by Lana Pollack, former Michigan senator and chair of the U.S. Section of the International Joint Commission; John Viera, director of sustainability at Ford Motor Co.; and Rui Resendes, director of the Green Centre Canada, a research institute set up by the Ontario government to support commercialization of safer products.

EcoLink — May 2012 Ecolink
An online publication of the Ecology Center

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