Ben & Jerry’s recently announced a sweet treat for climate-conscious ice cream lovers: a line of “greener freezers” that will help the brand conserve energy and reduce harmful emissions.
The new freezers will use at least 10 percent less energy than traditional freezer cabinets and replace harmful “F” gas coolants with hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants, according to a company statement. This dramatic change is the result of Unilever’s (Ben & Jerry’s parent company) advocacy work with Greenpeace and the Environmental Protection Agency, which only recently approved the the use of HC refrigerants in the United States.
Hydrocarbons like propane and butane have been used as refrigerants for many years and have an almost negligible effect on global warming. These greener freezers have been used with great success for the past several years across Europe and Asia. In 2011 alone, Unilever rolled out 22,000 climate-friendly freezers in non-U.S. markets, resulting in a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 12,000 tons of CO2.
Bringing these eco-friendly freezers to the United States is yet another step toward Unilever’s public sustainability goals. In 2000, the company committed to stop buying cabinets using hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs). In 2004, Unilever started replacing these cabinets with HC refrigerants. The greener freezer program, initiated by Ben & Jerry’s, kicked off in the fall of 2008. Today, Unilever operates more than 900,000 HC freezers across the globe and has committed to replacing all 100,000 of its U.S. freezers with those that utilize HC technology, a task that the company predicts will take between 8 and 10 years.
According to a statement on Ben & Jerry’s website, it hopes the greener freezer program will help inspire other stores and food manufacturers to follow suit.
“An important aspect of this [HC] technology is that it is not patented, so is freely available,” the company said. “Other business or industries are free to use the same suppliers as we do or select other suppliers. In this way there are no barriers to the broader use of this technology arising from patents. We are also trying to share our approach to introducing this technology so that other businesses who want to implement this or similar technology will have guidance to do so.”