By: Marjorie DePuy, Senior Director, Supply Chain and Sustainability, Food Marketing Institute
Last month in Dallas at our Energy and Store Development conference, I noticed a copy of the book
Project Drawdown was being shared by one of the attendees. The book is the result of a large-scale analysis and identification of the most viable global climate solutions. On the top of the list of solutions that have potential to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide is refrigerant management, which is a hot topic for the grocery store. This year hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are being phased out as part of an international agreement made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Replacements are on the market, but even as noted in the Project Drawdown analysis, “the operational costs of refrigerant leak avoidance destruction are high, resulting in a projected net cost of $903 billion by 2050.” These kinds of costs are not trivial, and unlikely to be absorbed by an industry of 1-2% profit margins without assistance.
Refrigerant management offers an opportunity for food retailers to evaluate source refrigerants as well as examine their leak management practices. These opportunities are the driving forces behind the creation of EPA’s GreenChill partnership program with food retailers that aims to, “reduce refrigerant emissions and decrease their impact on the ozone layer and climate change.” Tom Land of EPA recognized industry achievement during the Annual Awards Recognition ceremony at the conference and I was inspired by the momentum and innovation in the industry. The award recipients are listed here: 2019 recognition list of food retailers
GreenChill partner companies account for about 29% of all food retail stores. According to EPA, if every U.S. supermarket met GreenChill Partners’ 2018 average emission rate (13.9%), the supermarket industry would:
- Reduce annual refrigerant emissions by 30 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
- Save $156 million in annual refrigerant replacement costs.
Store certifications have grown by more than 100 stores in the last year to now total more than 350 stores. Re-certifications and new certifications are also on the rise.
During the presentation, Weis Markets, Inc. was recognized for their 10-year commitment to GreenChill. I asked Kevin Small, vice president of construction & development, what the GreenChill partnership has done for Weis. He commented, “What GreenChill has done for Weis Markets is to provide us with the tools to set refrigerant leak goals, monitor our progress and manage our results. GreenChill also provides public recognition as we achieve our goals. This has not only created friendly competition between industry peers, but also has given us the opportunity to change the culture by communicating our goals and results internally and rewarding the best practices that have allowed us to successfully reduce our fugitive refrigerant emissions.”
EPA recognized Hy-Vee, Inc. as a distinguished partner for demonstrating extraordinary leadership and initiative in the GreenChill program. Jon Scanlan, director of refrigeration & energy management for Hy-Vee, Inc. shared, “The EPA's GreenChill program has really been a win-win for all involved. They provide a platform for retailers to share best practices as well as an opportunity to benchmark against others in the industry. Like other GreenChill members, we are deeply committed to lowering leak rates and using refrigerants with lower global warming potential.”
GreenChill is just one way grocers are tackling climate change. Learn more about the program and become a partner at www.epa.gov/greenchill. And for the latest on refrigeration regulations check out our recent member-only webinar.