Step 3: Identify Alternatives

Identifying alternatives opens up the potential for finding more efficient, safer, and more sustainable solutions. This step will help you get a clear overview of your different options.

  • Are there chemical alternatives that have been implemented in similar applications?
  • Are there material changes or process changes that could replace the use of hazardous chemicals?
  • Are there other businesses that are also seeking safer alternatives for the same chemical or a similar use of the chemical? Are there opportunities to collaborate?

After targeting a chemical for substitution efforts, it is important to broadly consider all possible chemical alternatives, material alternatives, process changes, design changes, technological solutions, or other options to eliminate the hazardous chemical, even if particular options may be currently infeasible.

When looking for chemical alternatives, material substitutes, or process changes for a particular application/use, it is best to begin with industry-specific information and case examples about what is currently being used in the market. From there you can usually identify specific companies that are using alternatives; these companies are often good resources for identifying other alternatives they may be aware of or have tried. Talking to suppliers, workers, industry associations, government officials, professional associations, and non-governmental organizations can also provide information on existing alternatives.

Specific resources have been developed for researching alternatives to hazardous chemicals. These resources include case studies of substitution (SUBSPORT, CatSub, IFCS), databases of alternatives (Alternativas (in Spanish only), CleanGredients®, Cleantool), as well as completed alternatives assessments (Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse). Performing a single search of multiple online resources related to substitution is another rapid way to identify possible alternatives.

Additionally, searching recent scientific literature may lead to discoveries of chemicals, materials, or processes that are being researched for the application, or for similar applications that have the same or similar performance requirements. The Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute's technical research library of pollution prevention and chemical alternatives resources can help you locate this type of information about alternative chemicals, materials, products, and processes.

Where no alternatives exist, consider partnering with other businesses or trade associations to initiate innovative research on safer products and processes.

Key Resource

Case Story Database
Case Story Database

SUBSPORT's Case Story Database provides over 300 substitution examples as well as information on alternative substances and technologies from businesses, published reports and other sources. Substances mentioned in the case stories are evaluated for hazards and screened out of the database if they are identified as CMRs (carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxicants), PBTs (persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals), endocrine disruptors, neurotoxicants, or sensitization agents.

Key Resource


CleanGredients® is an online database of safer cleaning product ingredients that is a unique partnership between the nonprofit institute GreenBlue, the U.S. EPA, and industry. GreenBlue establishes health and environmental criteria for each chemical ingredient class with the input and approval of the U.S. EPA's Design for the Environment Program. The database lists a variety of chemical ingredient classes necessary for formulators to make their products, including: surfactants, solvents, fragrances, chelating agents, colorants, enzymes, defoamers, starter formulations, processing aids, oxidants, polymers, and preservatives and antioxidants. Each of the listed ingredients is verified by third-party reviewers (NSF International and ToxServices) as meeting the established environmental and human health criteria. In addition, the database provides supplier contact information, links to websites, material safety data sheets, and technical fact sheets for each of the listed ingredients. This resource helps formulators identify ingredients that have potential environmental and human health benefits and helps suppliers showcase their chemicals with potential environmental and human health benefits.

Case Studies

Danish Working Environment Authority. CatSub. This database is a catalog of more than 300 case stories describing successful substitutions with less hazardous chemicals.

Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety. Substitution and Alternatives Case Studies, Examples and Tools. This resource provides case studies and examples for selected chemicals and chemical categories.

Massachusetts Office of Technology Assistance. OTA Case Studies. This website provides links to technology case studies that profile actual applications of pollution prevention technologies and processes that businesses, municipalities, and other toxics users across Massachusetts have implemented.

Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute. Toxics Use Reduction Case Studies. This website provides links to documents describing actual applications of toxics use reduction in a variety of industry sectors.

SUBSPORT. Case Story Database. This database provides substitution examples, as well as information on alternative substances and technologies from enterprises, published reports and other sources.

Databases of Alternatives

Cooperation Centre Hamburg. Cleantool. This database highlights best practices for the cleaning of metal surfaces and provides information about less hazardous parts cleaning, metal surface cleaning, component cleaning, and degreasing.

GreenBlue. CleanGredients®. This is an online database of cleaning product ingredient chemicals, providing verified information about the environmental and human health attributes of listed ingredients.

ISTAS. Alternativas de Sustitución (Spanish). This database provides information on alternative chemicals, technologies, and processes, as well as case examples of substitution.

Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute. CleanerSolutions Database. This database provides information about safer alternatives to hazardous solvents for surface cleaning.

U.S. EPA Design for the Environment Program. Safer Chemical Ingredients List. This list contains chemicals that meet the criteria of the Design for the Environment Safer Product Labeling Program.

Completed Alternatives Assessments

Institute for Research and Technical Assistance. Reports. This website provides links to completed alternatives assessments on a variety of topics.

Interstate Chemicals Clearinghouse (IC2). Examples of Alternatives Assessments. This website provides links to completed alternatives assessments on a variety of topics.

U.S. EPA Design for the Environment Program. Alternatives Assessments. This website provides links to completed alternatives assessments on a variety of topics.

Scientific Literature

Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute. TURI Library. This library focuses on information related to toxics use reduction. Its online public access catalog describes over 14,000 documents and provides links to documents freely available on the Web.