GreenFreeze is Greenpeace's campaign to transform the refrigeration and cooling industries by eliminating the use of F-gases, the chemicals used to cool refrigerators, homes, cars, and food in stores and vending machines.
F-gases were directly responsible for 17% of man-made climate change in 2005. CFCs such as Freon, which you've probably heard of, have been banned. However, the HFCs that were presented as the "environmental alternative" to CFCs by chemical companies have had a similarly grave impact on the environment -- which is why we need to eliminate them now.
F-gases are the worst greenhouse gases you’ve never heard of.
If you're reading this website, you probably already know about the perils of global warming. We're going to assume you know that it's a serious issue, but we're also going to assume that you've only vaguely heard of something called F-gases — a group of industrial greenhouse gases that include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The "F" in F-gas is for Fluorine, the element common to them all.
F-gases are potent greenhouse gases that were originally called the "environmental alternative" to CFCs, the ozone depleting refrigerants (e.g. Freon) that were phased out in 1992 by the Montreal Protocol. But F-gases are not an environmental alternative to anything, and are making a significant but unnecessary contribution to global warming.
Greenpeace has been working to elminate F-gases from refrigerators and cooling units for over 20 years. In fact, led by our colleagues in Germany, Greenpeace has transformed the domestic refrigerator industry in Europe and Asia.
What is Greenpeace doing about F-gases today?
Greenpeace has been working to eliminate the use of F-gases since their introduction to the market in 1992. We have transformed the residential refrigerator industry on two continents (we're working on the others now) and are catalyzing the entire refrigeration and cooling industry toward natural refrigeration in all of its uses. In order to change these industries, we are working the problem from three perspectives:
Our first big success on natural refrigerants came in 1992, when Greenpeace developed an alternative refrigerator that did not use the extremely potent greenhouse gases HFCs and HCFCs. Greenpeace obtained orders from 70,000 Germans for the non-existent refrigerator in just three weeks, which in turn encouraged a manufacturer to actually build it. In the subsequent 17 years, over 300 million refrigerators utilizing this technology have been sold in Europe, Asia, and South America by leading brands including Whirlpool, Bosch, Haier, Panasonic, LG, Miele, Electrolux, and Siemens. On October 29, 2008, General Electric announced its intention to manufacture and sell a GreenFreeze-style refrigerator in the United States.
Greenpeace has been the major instigator for including F-gases in all of the international protocols - Montreal and Kyoto - as well as in most government environmental ministries or regulatory bodies. We will continue to advocate for policies that seek to abandon the use of harmful F-gases and promote the use of natural refrigerants. We published a position paper entitled "No Time For Complacency" to coincide with the 19th meeting of the parties to the Montreal Protocol, in which we lay out our proposed measures for how the international community can limit further damage from CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs.
The world's cooling industry has to be converted to natural refrigerants. If we are successful, F-gases will be a thing of the past within five years. On September 29, 2008, at scoop shops in Boston and Washington, D.C., Greenpeace and Ben & Jerry's unveiled the freezer of the future. It will, of course, keep pints of Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia as cold as ever, but it will also help keep the planet cool by eliminating the use of the potent chemicals known as HFCs. At the end of March 2009, PepsiCo Inc. announced they will be testing greener vending machines which will reduce their environmental impact, a move celebrated by Greenpeace.
In December 2009, Coke announced that 100 percent of their new vending machines and coolers will be HFC-free by 2015. Coca-Cola is using two HFC-free solutions: hydrocarbon refrigeration is used in smaller refrigeration equipment and carbon dioxide (CO2) is used in larger equipment. Coca-Cola committed to use its scale to aggregate demand and encourage supply as a means of accelerating the transition to HFC-free refrigeration equipment.
We're also currently working with a consortium of global companies to change the world's refrigeration and cooling. We've used carrots and sticks with these businesses, and our efforts have resulted in surprising alliances. Refrigerants, Naturally! was founded by Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Unilever in 2004 to encourage the elimination of F-gases from refrigeration and cooling. We work with these companies and many others by pushing for rapid change and constantly reminding them of the consequences of inaction. Just as importantly, we try to ease their way to a green solution by educating and developing the market and changing the policies so that the choice for natural refrigeration is also a profitable choice. It's expensive to retool a factory and there are many ways to mitigate these large investments.
Some quick facts about F-gases
- F-gases are found in most refrigeration and cooling units, including household and automobile air conditioners.
- F-gases are up to 20,000 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
- F-gases are regulated by the 1987 Montreal Protocol (CFCs and HCFCs), the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (HFCs), and governments (e.g., the EU and the United States' EPA).
Read the Greenpeace Cool Technology Report 2009 [PDF]
Read our HFC fact sheet [PDF]
Read about the alternatives to HFCs [PDF]
Read about Greenpeace's history with F-gases [PDF]
Read 2009 State of the World: Into a Warming World by The Worldwatch Institute [PDF]
Read our report, HFCs: A growing threat to the climate [PDF]