Greenfreeze production line 12/08/1993. © Ali Paczensky / Greenpeace
Do you have a fridge at home? Then, unless you live in North America, you probably have a Greenfreeze. And what is that? A fridge that uses a revolutionary technology that Greenpeace created two decades ago. And to celebrate its 20th birthday this month, Greenpeace will toast to this technology that transformed the global refrigeration market forever and saved tons of greenhouse gas emissions to our tormented atmosphere!
Back in the 80s, Greenpeace campaigned worldwide for an immediate global ban on the further production and use of ozone destroying substances, such as CFCs and HCFCs. We succeed and in 1987 the United Nations responded, banning the manufacture and use of these and other substances under the Montreal Protocol. As a result, and in order to keep alive their fluorinated business, the multinational chemical companies claimed that HFCs were the only possible replacement for these harmful ozone depleting substances.
Greenpeace actively disagreed. HFCs are super greenhouse gases and a growing threat to the climate. We understood that the best way to demonstrate that environmentally safer alternatives were indeed feasible was to research and prove that the chemical industry was wrong. In 1992, a young and impetuous campaigner called Wolfgang Lohbeck – also known as Wolo – started an unprecedented journey that would transform an industry and the way that society would see Greenpeace from then onwards.
Wolo met Dortmund scientists who pointed out how to avoid HFC's altogether. He found an old fridge factory called DKK Scharfenstein which was about to go bankrupt, convinced them to take up natural refrigerants, research more, build prototypes and test the technology. Soon after, Greenpeace Germany appealed to their supporters to pre-order enough units to finance a refit, helped build the market and voila! Greenfreeze was born. The goal was to produce a prototype of a fridge without fluorocarbons. Some called him crazy…
Within one year this initiative resulted in the highly successful commercialization of “Greenfreeze” hydrocarbon refrigeration in Germany. The technology rapidly spread to other European countries, and soon Greenfreeze revolutionised the refrigerator industry world-wide. Today we have over 700 million refrigerators using this ´Made in Greenpeace´ technology all over the world which represents 40% of global production each year. All major manufacturers produce Greenfreeze refrigerators and almost one billion tons of GHGs have been kept out the atmosphere thanks to Wolo and his tenacity. Greenpeace was able to prove that HFCs was not the only solution to ozone destroying gases, as the chemical guys initially claimed and that the world indeed didn´t need harmful in-kind technology to keep our food and drinks fresh. In 1997 Greenpeace received the United Nations Ozone Award for making the Greenfreeze technology freely available to the world.
But the fight is not over. Our technology in refrigeration has not yet penetrated the North American market. Over there, the tentacles of the chemical industry are still using their influence to avoid that from happening and preventing Americans having climate friendly fridges at home. Neither Greenpeace nor Wolo has given up on this battle. We keep on showcasing solutions and using our skills to intervene in the market to eliminate those barriers that the chemical industry is putting in the way. And we are closer and closer to a happy end. But that is another story.
Today, 20 years later, Greenpeacers celebrate a story of perseverance and success, a story of someone who had a dream and was brave enough to be the change that he wanted to see in the world…
Thank you Wolo!, Cheers, Greenpeace! Happy birthday, Greenfreeze!