Climate-Friendly Greenfreezers Come to the United States

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 6:18 PM EDT
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Climate-Friendly Greenfreezers Come to the United States

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WASHINGTON, DC, October 1, 2008 (ENS) - Greenpeace and Ben & Jerry's have jointly launched the first ice cream freezer using climate-friendly technology in the United States.

Ben & Jerry's will be running trials of these hydrocarbon freezers in the Boston and DC areas while the company seeks approval for widespread commercial use from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Cooled with Greenfreeze technology, these units do not use the hydrofluorocarbons used by most freezers yet they are just as effective and 10 percent more energy-efficient.

Hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, are potent greenhouse gases that, pound for pound, have 1,400 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas.

"This climate-safe freezer will keep pints of Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia as cold as ever, but it's also going to help cool our planet," said John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA.

"With hurricanes intensifying, tropical disease spreading, sea levels rising, and polar bears going extinct, we need to make sure that what cools our ice cream, drinks, and homes isn't also melting the ice caps," he said.

HFCs and other fluorinated gases are cumulatively responsible for 17 percent of the global warming pollution currently in the atmosphere.

"HFCs and other F-gases are the worst greenhouse gases you've never heard of," said Greenpeace Solutions Director Amy Larkin. "Now, it's up to other companies to follow Ben & Jerry's lead and make climate-safe refrigeration as standard in the United States as it is elsewhere."

In an effort to reduce the size of the annual Antarctic ozone hole, the chemical industry introduced HFCs as an alternative to ozone-destroying chemicals like Freon even though scientists warned that HFCs would still cause global warming.

To solve this problem, Greenpeace engineers developed a new climate-safe refrigeration technology known as Greenfreeze in 1992 and gave it away to any company that wanted it.

The technology was developed by two scientists, Professor Harry Rosin and Dr. Hans Preisendanz from the Institute of Hygiene in Dortmund, Germany, who were looking for a refrigerant which neither destroyed the ozone layer nor contributed to global warming. They settled on a mix of the hydrocarbons propane and butane.

Greenfreeze refrigerators use the hydrocarbons both for the blowing of the insulation foam and for the refrigerant. They are entirely free of ozone destroying and global warming chemicals.

"The beauty of Greenfreeze," Dr. Preisendanz told the UNEP magazine "Our Planet," back in 1996, "is that anyone can have the technology. It cannot be patented because all we have done is find the right mix of two existing common gases. The technology is totally free and can be used by the whole world, whether rich or poor, for a whole range of uses."

"The irony is that the chemical industry also searched for a substitute for CFCs but only in one direction - to find substances they could patent." he said.

In the spring of 1992, Greenpeace brought the two scientists together with an East German company, DKK Scharfenstein. The company had been producing refrigerators for 50 years and was the leading household appliance manufacturer in the former East Germany, but reunification brought severe economic problems and the company was due to be closed.

The meeting between the scientists and DKK Scharfenstein resulted in the birth of 'Greenfreeze' technology for domestic refrigeration. As Greepeace recounts on its website, when DKK Scharfenstein announced is intention to mass produce the new refrigerators, Greenpeace campaigned to gather tens of thousands of pre-orders from environmentally conscious German consumers. This public support secured the capital investment needed for the new Greenfreeze product, salvaged the company and saved the jobs of its workers.

Today, Greenfreeze technology is in use in more than 300 million refrigerators worldwide, but it was not allowed into the United States until earlier this year when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authorized Ben & Jerry's to run a test trial of units equipped with Greenfreeze technology.

"It's one small step for our business, and a giant leap for opening the door to prove that a more environmentally friendly refrigeration technology could work in the U.S. market," said Walt Freese, Ben & Jerry's chief executive. "The technology is commonplace in Europe with literally millions of home and commercial units in place."

The Greenfreeze technology is also popular in Japan, and a Greenpeace Japan campaigner even won an award in 2007 from the U.S. EPA for environmental leadership in phasing out ozone depleting substances by lobbying for the production and use of Greenfreeze technology in that country.

In the late 1990s, Greenpeace Japan atmosphere campaigner Yasuko Matsumoto persuaded Japanese manufacturers to produce Greenfreeze refrigerators in Japan.

Matsumoto held a Greenfreeze exhibit for the business community, including the refrigeration industry; hosted seminars for Japanese companies with the cooperation of European companies; publicized the technology through the media; and conducted consumer activities such as a postcard campaign, which helped to create market pressure on Japanese home appliance companies to produce the Greenfreeze refrigerators.

Now Ben & Jerry's has become the first company to test this environmentally friendly refrigerant in the United States. The company will test 50 freezers this fall, with approval to test up to 2,000 freezers in the next few years.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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