Washington, D.C. — On April 22, 2019 (Earth Day), the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) unveiled a new initiative identifying U.S. retailers committed to taking leadership action to reduce potent greenhouse gases used in cooling, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). As part of this initiative, ALDI U.S. intends to add 100 more stores in 2019 with HFC-free refrigeration systems.
“In a time of acute need for leadership on climate change, the U.S. retail sector has remained a laggard in adopting climate-friendly cooling compared to their counterparts in rest of the developed world,” says Avipsa Mahapatra, climate campaign lead, EIA. “Smart companies, such as ALDI U.S., committed to rapidly scaling up energy-efficient HFC-free technologies, demonstrate that it makes business and climate sense to lead in adopting future-proof refrigeration systems not reliant on potent super-pollutants.”
The average supermarket refrigeration system contains thousands of pounds of HFCs that leak out over time. These high Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerants — leaking from 38,000 supermarkets across the U.S. — emit up to 45 million metric tons CO2 equivalent annually.
“ALDI is deeply committed to reducing its refrigerant emissions and believes natural refrigerants are the best long term solution for the planet,” says Aaron Sumida, vice president at ALDI. “To put this value into practice, ALDI has adopted transcritical CO2 refrigeration systems in many of its new and remodeled stores and targets 100 more in 2019. We’re excited to continue to drive forward change with our commitment to hydrofluorocarbon reduction and adopting natural refrigeration systems.”
EIA analysis found ALDI U.S. as a standout leader, along with Whole Foods, Target, Sprouts and Ahold Delhaize USA as companies taking significant steps to reduce HFCs and increase energy efficiency in refrigeration. These companies are profiled in a new web platform, www.climatefriendlysupermarkets.org. The site provides a map of supermarket locations in the U.S. using climate-friendly cooling and highlights specific company actions in three key areas: adopting technologies, refrigerant management, and engaging in technical and policy dialogue.
“For nearly 40 years since we opened our first store, Whole Foods Market has been committed to environmental sustainability, and finding new opportunities to reduce our energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions,” says Aaron Daly, principal, global director of energy management, Whole Foods Market. “We currently have 30 stores using low-GWP refrigeration systems including CO2, propane and ammonia and have adopted propane self-contained cases across the entire chain. We have seen great results from our low GWP projects to date and continue to invest in innovation, exploring new approaches to reducing HFCs while addressing the varying needs of food retail refrigeration.”
The HFCs used as refrigerants in most supermarkets have a GWP of up to 4,000, whereas systems adopted by companies identified leaders here use refrigerants like carbon dioxide, propane, and ammonia, have an ultra-low GWP, that is near zero. These refrigerants are often colloquially called “natural refrigerants” as opposed to synthetic patented fluorochemicals.
“We are committed to limiting our climate footprint, including taking steps to reduce HFCs used in cooling,” says Brittni Furrow, vice president of sustainable retailing for Ahold Delhaize USA. “Our company’s global target to lower the average global warming potential of refrigerants in stores to 2,230 by the year 2020 reflects this commitment. We also continue to look for opportunities to use climate-friendly cooling technologies like those already employed in one Food Lion and three Hannaford stores in the U.S.”
Frank Davis, director of facilities and engineering at Sprouts Farmers Market, says: “At Sprouts, we are committed to lowering HFC emissions from cooling by reducing leaks and piloting sustainable refrigeration technologies in stores. We continue to follow through on this commitment through our participation and certification of stores in EPA’s GreenChill Partnership.”
“We commend this small group of companies for taking action, but there is much more U.S. supermarkets can and must do,” says Christina Starr, climate policy analyst at EIA. “These leading companies represent just 15% of the sector, so there’s a big opportunity for more commitments to phase out the worst HFCs like R404A, adopt climate-friendly technologies, and join the EPA’s GreenChill Partnership to reduce leaks.”
If all U.S. supermarkets join the EPA’s GreenChill Partnership and achieve similar reduced leak rates, it would mitigate an additional 15.5 million metric tons CO2e annually. For more information, visit http://www.climatefriendlysupermarkets.org/.
Reducing average refrigerant GWP in all U.S. supermarkets by 50% would shrink refrigerant emissions in the U.S. by 22.7 million metric tons CO2e annually in 2025.
SOURCE: Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA