Refrigeration Emissions Really Screw Up The Environment. Here’s How We Reduced Ours

by Tom Guillette

When you hear ODP and GWP, do you think Facebook acronym? Or maybe you imagine stock tickers.

ODP, or Ozone Depletion Potential, and GWP, Global Warming Potential, are ways in which we look at very complicated atmospheric chemistry. They are also ways the Co-op measures and chooses our refrigerants used in our cooling systems. These systems house more than 65 percent of all our products.

In 2011, our Co-op entered into a voluntary agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to monitor and report refrigerant leaks. This partnership program, called GreenChill, allows the Co-op to become part of a nationwide grocery industry team of food retailers, including supermarkets, grocery stores, supercenters, and wholesale clubs. Our Co-op was the first food cooperative to enter into this partnership.

What does this mean? How does it work?
Our Co-op, like all partners, generates an annual plan of how we are going to work to reduce our emissions (leaks) and then establishes best practices for monitoring. Included in these plans are future upgrades.

As a GreenChill group, we have monthly webinars and conferences in which we all participate and discuss each other’s successes and failures. Many times, guest will be industry leaders in refrigeration technology that share new refrigerants or state-of-the-art systems.

Each year reports are generated showing the overall impact of what we, as a national group, have done to reduce ODP and GWP.

When we first started GreenChill we had some very old systems in place. Our stores in White River Junction, Vt, and Hanover, NH, were running on very old and outdated systems.

Each time the system compressors started (hundreds of times per day), the plumbing would vibrate and chafe against the cases. Over time holes wore into the piping and we lost refrigerant and products before we knew we had a problem. It was not uncommon to have emission rates of greater than 45 percent, down time of days, and cost exceeding $300,000 per year in repairs. In addition, we had to purchase huge amounts of refrigerant inventory because you never knew when you would spring a leak.

We began to put together annual plans. As each capital expenditure was budgeted, we included refrigeration as a discussion piece of the equipment or project. We slowly began to upgrade our stores and over time achieved the following:

  • New replacement protocol high efficiency units placed in the White River Junction, Vt., store.
  • A completely new system during the Hanover store renovation including state-of-the-art rooftop condensers called Trilliums. They are approximately 60 percent more energy efficient than conventional condensing units. They operate with high efficiency EC (electrical commutated) fans and less water consumption. In addition, the Co-op received a 40 percent rebate of purchase cost because of the energy savings.
  • Replacement of single-unit rooftops that used high ODP and GWP refrigerants with new units and different refrigerant.
  • Replaced numerous medium temperature cases with ones with sealed doors.
  • Upgraded our Danfoss monitoring systems so that any change in case temperature pressures and equipment failures will be messaged directly to the Facilities Department.

During our first few years we planned our emission rates to have a gradual reduction. Our last few years the goal was reduced and planned at 10 percent. As of 2016, we achieved this goal with an actual rate of 9 percent. Plus we have minimal cost in repairs and inventory, and we have eliminated our usage of the worst refrigerant, R22, which is now restricted by the EPA.

Our refrigeration emissions were 50 percent in 2010. They were 9 percent by the end of 2016.

This is truly an amazing goal! This reduction has saved our Co-op thousands of dollars while at the same time reducing both ODP and GWP. We continue to work at our End 7, “To be a thriving business organization that protects and restores the environment.”

Congratulations to all Co-op employees and vendors who helped make this happen. We will continue to work toward furthering our efforts and be a leader in the world of cooperatives.

If you have any questions or comments please email me at tguillette AT coopfoodstore DOT com.

Learn More

  • To see the listing of GreenChill partners go here.
  • A listing of GreenChill system manufactures.
  • GreenChill reports showing the overall impact of the partnership are here.

Tom Guillette is the Co-op’s facilities manager. Our Co-op’s vision is a well-nourished community cultivated through cooperation. Learn more about us on our website or at DailyUV.

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