Activist holds the teather of the Balloon near the Utah Olympic Sports Park.
They've done something to help the planet! Recently McDonalds
took the first concrete step towards meeting their promise by
opening the first restaurant with environmentally friendly
refrigeration. Why this is such a significant step involves gases
that keep you alive, chemicals with long names, huge corporations
and the global chemical industry in retreat.
Twenty years ago the average person had no idea what the ozone
layer was, never mind know it was vital for sustaining life on
Earth. The dramatic discovery in 1986 of a hole in the ozone layer
changed all that and public opinion forced the chemical industry to
replace ozone destroying chemicals. Unfortunately few people
realise that the industry replaced the ozone destroyers with new
chemicals and new problems.
Located in the upper atmosphere the ozone layer filters the
sun's deadly ultraviolet rays and allows all life to survive. The
discovery in the early 1970's that industrial chemicals like
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) damage the ozone layer along with the
dramatic discovery in 1986 of the Antarctic ozone hole forced
governments to enact measures to reduce and eliminate ozone
depleting substances. The chemical industry was compelled to reduce
the damage their products were inflicting upon the ozone layer.
However, rather than use environmentally friendly replacements
it chose chemicals like Hydroflourocarbons (HFC's) that are
powerful greenhouse gases. These gases are several thousand times
more powerful than carbon dioxide in causing climate change. The
major industrial sector that uses HFC's is refrigeration and
At first the industry claimed there were no alternatives to
these new refrigeration chemicals. But we knew that natural
chemicals such as ammonia and hydrocarbons were viable
environmentally friendly alternatives. Greenpeace responded by
developing a new environmentally safe domestic refrigerator using
hydrocarbons, which we called
Greenfreeze. The chemical industry said it would never work and
the big refrigeration users lined up with their friends in the
industry to dismiss our claims.
Today there are over 100 million Greenfreeze refrigerators in
the world, produced by all the major European, Chinese, Japanese
and Indian manufacturers. Greenfreeze is now available in most
major markets with the exception of North America.
While Greenfreeze technology gradually gained a foothold in the
domestic market in the late 1990's, large commercial users
continued to use refrigeration that causes global warming. In the
run up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 we targeted big refrigeration
users such as Unilever, Coke and McDonalds, all Olympic sponsors,
to live up to the guidelines of the green
games which excluded HFC's.
Coke caved in after being faced with a concerted internet campaign
before the 2000 Olympics to buy green refrigeration for new units.
Before the start of the games all three companies announced phase
out plans for damaging refrigeration technologies by the time of
the 2004 Olympics. While good words come easy, actually doing the
right thing is what matters.
Recently McDonald's in Denmark, took the first concrete step
towards meeting their promise by opening the first HFC/HCFC free
restaurant. Hopefully it will be the first of many such restaurants
for the company and that it will spark more sustainable innovation
from the refrigeration industry and others in the food service
Even though big corporations like McDonald's, Coca Cola,
Unilever and Nestle are taking steps to move away from
environmentally harmful products in refrigeration, the chemical
industry is still vigorously marketing its polluting products in
other applications like car and commercial air-conditioning. As
several European countries like Denmark, Austria and Germany have
either enacted or are considering legislation to ban and limit the
use of HFCs, the industry is keen to dominate the vulnerable
markets of developing countries.
It is clear that the industry is fighting a losing battle and
will eventually have to admit that natural chemicals are a better
alternative. Industry not listening to environmentalists is nothing
new, but when some of your biggest corporate customers are
switching to green alternatives, then it really is time to
Making a Difference - Greenpeace campaign to save the ozone
layer (pdf file).