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Zimbabwe must start to move away from coal: Emmie Chiyondiko

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  • Zimbabwe would benefit from moving away from coal-related investments and instead focus on tapping the potential of renewable energy, such as solar.

ZIMBABWE-born chemist Emmie Chiyindiko grew up dreaming of superheroes and watchingCaptain Planet and the Planeteers, but now she’s a chemist exploring green chemistry: reducing the carbon footprint by making industrial processes more efficient.

The 26-year-old, now a chemistry PhD student at South Africa’s University of Free State, in her opinion piece below talks passionately about green chemistry and why recycling ♻️ isn’t enough.

Emmie also encourages Zimbabwe to move away from coal-related investments and instead focus on tapping the potential of renewable energy, such as solar. Read on…

My research looks into how we can make industrial processes more efficient, ultimately reducing the carbon footprint. This branch of social and environmentally conscious chemistry is termed “green chemistry”.

Green chemistry applies across the entire life cycle of a chemical product, including its design, manufacture, use, and ultimate discarding.

The objective of my research is to reduce pollution at its source by minimizing time and material required to produce energy.

I hope to achieve this by studying the synergy between electro analysis and computational chemistry of novel catalysts (materials that speed up chemical reactions).

Phasing out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

Since the Industrial Revolution, human sources of carbon dioxide emissions have been growing. Green chemistry fulfills a fundamental and crosscutting role that is essential to the critical pathway toward sustainability.

Green chemistry, or sustainable chemistry, involves developing chemical reactions that give rise to new products and processes that meet sustainability goals, such as becoming more energy-efficient, and reducing the amount of waste or harmful matter found in the environment.

Some important examples of green chemistry include phasing out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in refrigerants, which have played a role in creating the ozone hole and use of catalytic converters in motor vehicles.

Best science communicator

I got into Chemistry because of my innate and unquenchable desire to figure out how the universe works. I have always been inquisitive.

I was named the national winner and best science communicator in the FameLab 2018 competition supported by British Council.

I went on to represent South Africa in the international finals on an all-expense paid trip to Cheltenham, UK.

Emmie doing what she loves best: research PHOTO: @ScientistEmmie

I have received many accolades in my field, including winning our institutional three-minute thesis competition (3MT) and best conference posters but FameLab comes top.

I got to travel, meet national finalists from all over the world and build long-lasting professional relationships.

A global problem

Responding to climate change will involve reducing the flow of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and changing aspects of our lifestyle to adapt to the existential climate challenges.

Behavioral change like recycling and cycling to the nearby store instead of driving will help, but that alone is not enough. This is because climate change is a global problem with economic, social, political and moral ramifications, the solution will require both a united globally-coordinated response.

Renewable energy potential

Zimbabwe’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels in the transport and energy sector is highly correlated to increased carbon emission.

Zimbabwe would benefit from moving away from coal-related investments and instead focus on tapping the potential of renewable energy, such as solar.

The clock is ticking on climate change, the world cannot afford to waste more time, and a bold, decisive, ambitious way forward needs to be agreed.■

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