When I think about the causes of climate change, coal-fired power plants and SUVs come to mind. But refrigerants matter, too. Not the refrigerator in your kitchen–it’s unlikely to be emitting greenhouse gases–but the chemical refrigeratants known as HFCs and HCFCs in your car’s air conditioner, commercial coolers and industrial freezers can all escape and cause problems, particularly when they are manufactured or improperly thrown away.
This is one of those important, complicated, technical and potentially dull stories that I try to tackle from time to time, in this case in today’s Sustainability column. The issue got my attention when Ben & Jerry’s and Greenpeace announced that they were able to get permission from the U.S. EPA to introduce what they call a “cleaner, greener” refrigerator into the U.S. (Turns out EPA was an obstacle to cleaning up the refrigerator biz.) Some other big companies, including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, have been working on the problem, too. Let’s hope they succeed so the rest of us don’t have to worry about it.
Here’s how the column begins:
No one wants melting ice cream. Nor do we want melting polar ice caps. The trouble is, keeping our ice cream cold warms the planet because powerful greenhouse gases are used in most refrigerators and freezers in the U.S.
That’s why environmentalists at Greenpeace have been working with some of the world’s biggest food makers – among them Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Unilever – to deploy refrigerators in supermarkets and convenience stores that are free of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are potent greenhouse gases.
Just last month, Ben & Jerry’s, the Vermont-based ice cream maker owned by Unilever, announced plans to roll out the country’s first HFC-free freezers.
“A company can be responsible in terms of the environment, it can be proactive in terms of solving problems, and it can make money at the same time,” said company co-founder Ben Cohen when he introduced the freezers at an ice-cream store in Washington, D.C. “That’s what we should expect from all corporations in this country.”
You can read the rest of the column here.