Foundation: Background to green chemistry

Introduction to green metrics

The field of Green Chemistry has evolved over the decades. In the 1980s, the focus was on pollution control, with the publication of the 12 principles of green chemistry [1] in the late 1990s encouraging a more holistic approach, through to the 2010s, which has seen an explosion in the number of publications claiming to include green reaction processes [2].  Answering the question as to whether a reaction is genuinely ‘green’ is not straightforward and requires an objective method of measuring its environmental impact.

In order to assess the greenness of a reaction, a number of ‘green metrics’ have been developed, which allow chemists to quantify and qualify the environmental impact of their reactions and assist with the comparison of different routes/methods.  Early green metrics focused largely on efficiencies in terms of mass inputs and outputs, but this has since expanded to incorporate a much more comprehensive and holistic approach.

To study this area in more depth, see Metrics

Recommended reading:

The following references provide an excellent overview of available green chemistry metrics:

D. J. C. Constable, A. D. Curzons and V. L. Cunningham, Metrics to 'green' chemistry-which are the best?, Green Chem., 2002, 4, 521-527.

C. Jimenez-Gonzalez, D. J. C. Constable and C. S. Ponder, Evaluating the "Greenness" of chemical processes and products in the pharmaceutical industry-a green metrics primer, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2012, 41, 1485-1498.

R. C. McElroy, A. Constantinou, L. C. Jones, L. Summerton and J. H. Clark, Towards a holistic approach to metrics for the 21st century pharmaceutical industry, Green Chem., 2015, 17, 3111-3121.


  1. P. T. Anastas and J. C. Warner, Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice, Oxford University Press, 1998.
  2. J. A. Linthorst, An overview: origins and development of green chemistry, Found. Chem., 2010, 12, 55-68.