Refrigerators Have Become a Climate-Change Hot Topic

Refrigerators Have Become a Climate-Change Hot Topic

When it comes to climate change, refrigerators are a hot topic. Project Drawdown, an organization that models the impact of climate change solutions, has named refrigerant management and transition as the #1 way to fight climate change. Inspired by this recommendation, Youthpower, a student-led organization with members in Alameda, Oakland, Albany, and more, set their sights on improving grocery store refrigerators in Alameda (“,” May 25).

They started their campaign by gathering data, enlisting classmates and family members to take pictures of grocery store refrigerators. With the help of Climate Friendly Supermarkets, a program run by the Environmental Investigation Agency, they mapped out whether local grocery stores had climate-friendly systems or not.

“Unfortunately, what we were seeing was lots and lots of HFCs,” said Bella Goldwasser, one of the leaders of the project and a junior at Alameda High School.

Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) are the most common refrigerant gas used in the United States, and they are potent greenhouse gasses, trapping 2,000 to 4,000 times more heat than carbon dioxide. HFCs became widespread after Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerant gases were phased out under the Montreal Protocol, which took effect in 1989.

The Montreal Protocol sought to protect the ozone layer, as CFCs were associated with its destruction. However, HFCs came with problems of their own, namely their unfathomably powerful heat-trapping abilities.

Even worse, refrigerator systems leak HFCs at an alarming rate, with approximately 25 percent of the gas entering the atmosphere. In a year, American grocery stores emit the same amount of greenhouse gasses as the electricity associated with 12 million California homes, which is equivalent to 49 billion pounds of coal.

Luckily, alternatives exist. Propane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide are all effective coolants with a much lighter impact on the climate. And Alameda has some already!

Youthpower was delighted to locate two local grocery stores that already had a few climate-friendly fridges. On Sunday, March 21, they presented the two businesses, Alameda Natural Grocery in Marketplace and Jazeera Market on Webster Street, with awards for their refrigerators.

“I knew that these refrigerators were more energy efficient and now I know that they are also better for the environment. Acquiring such equipment is a win-win situation!” said Saleem Saleh, the manager of Jazeera Market.

At Alameda Natural Grocery, Youthpower and students from Alameda High School’s AP Environmental Science class hosted an informational booth and a raffle, raising awareness about the issue and celebrating Alameda Natural Grocery’s accomplishments so far.

In terms of next steps, Youthpower is looking to support small local grocery stores in transitioning all of their refrigerators to climate-friendly models. They are actively partnering with Alameda Natural Grocery to pursue community fundraising, state grant programs, and other funding opportunities.

If you are an owner of an interested local grocery store, part of a service organization, or have any experience in grant-writing, community organizing, or publicity do not hesitate to reach out to They are still building their team and partnerships!

“Replacing refrigerants is a fast track to cutting our collective emissions in half by 2030. We plan to mobilize community support to help the smaller stores, who have fewer financial resources,” said Heather MacLeod, the adult advisor of Youthpower. “But the larger stores — Safeway, Nob Hill, Trader Joe’s, Target — have massive amounts of refrigeration, and the worst kind. When they transition to natural refrigerants it will make the biggest impact.”


YouthPower advances solutions through integrated research and development programs to improve the capacity of youth-led and youth-serving institutions.