Coca-Cola to champion Greenpeace cooling technology at Olympics

Feature story - September 18, 2007
All drinks at the Olympics are on us, kind of. Soft drinks giant Coca-Cola today announced a commitment to use coolers and vending machines free of HFC gases in all official venues of the 2008 Olympic Games, demonstrating climate-friendly technology developed by Greenpeace. Getting to here has been an amazing journey over 20 years involving the most unlikely characters and situations -- even George W. Bush makes a last-minute appearance.

E-card used by the Cokespotlight campaign, a joint Greenpeace/Adbusters effort, which successfully changed Coke's policy on climate-killing refrigerants.

Greenfreeze production line in Kelon factory.

CFCs to HFCs: frying pan to fire

When the dramatic discovery of the ozone hole in 1986 forced thebanning of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's), the refrigeration industryswitched to hydrofluorocarbons (HFC's). HFC's don't destroy the ozonelike CFC's can. But they do cause global warming. Indeed, some HFCgases are up to 11,000 times more harmful to the climate than carbondioxide (CO2), your garden variety greenhouse gas.

Solution: Greenfreeze

To highlight the madness of this switch from CFC's to HFC's andshow how it should bedone, Greenpeace launched the concept of Greenfreeze in 1992. We mettwoscientists who pointed out how to avoid HFC's altogether. We found anold fridge factory, appealed to our supporters to pre-order enoughunits to finance a refit, helped build the market and Greenfreeze wasborn.

It uses natural gases so avoids both depleting the ozone layer andfuelling global warming. The chemical industry said it would never workand the big refrigeration users lined up with their friends in theindustry to dismiss our claims.

Well that was then, and this is now. Today there are over 100million Greenfreeze refrigerators in theworld, produced by all the major European, Chinese, Japanese and Indianmanufacturers. It is now available in most major markets with theexception of North America.

While Greenfreeze technology gradually gained a foothold in thedomestic market in the late 1990's, large commercial users continued touse refrigeration that causes global warming. In the run up to theSydney Olympics in 2000 we targeted big refrigeration users such asUnilever, Coke and McDonalds, all Olympic sponsors, to live up to theguidelines of the green games which excluded HFC's.

[ More on the history of Greenfreeze.]

Coke in the spotlight

Coke caved in after a concerted online campaign(CokeSpotlight.org)before the 2000 Olympics to buy green refrigeration for new units.Before the start of the games all three companies we had targeted announced phase outplans for damaging refrigeration technologies by the time of the 2004Olympics.

Today Coke plans to install no less than6,350climate-friendly coolers and vending machines in the Olymic Gamesvenues in Beijing and six co-host cities throughout China. Calculatedbased on an expected ten year life span of the units, they reducegreenhouse gas emissions by approximately 4,500 metric tons.

This isthe first time that 100 percent of the coolers and vending machinesprovided by Coca-Cola to all Olympics venues will feature HFC-freeinsulation, and HFC-free natural refrigerant. For good measure, Cokehas also added a proprietary technology called Energy Management System(EMS) that improves energy efficiency by more than 35 percent.

"Thisinnovative approach of combining natural refrigerants and energyefficient technology is a great example of how a business can workwith other stakeholders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We hopeCoca-Cola's efforts can accelerate industry-wide actions to combatclimate change," said LO Sze Ping, Campaign and CommunicationsDirector of Greenpeace China.

What's next for HFC's

Not to be outdone by Coca-Cola, the Whitehouseis rumouredto beplanning an announcement at next week's UN meeting on ozone depletingsubstances (the Montreal Protocol), proposing aggressive targets tophase-out HFC gases.

Left unchecked, HFC's are expected tocontribute up to 5.2 percent of the world's global warming emissions by 2050.

It will take much more than publicpronouncements to tackle the climate crisis. But as the Montreal Protocol comes to it's 20th anniversary, and the story ofGreenfreeze demonstrates, creativity, vigilance and a "can do!"attitude can transform even the most familiar/dire characters andsituations.

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