USA food co-ops win recognition for work to reduce refrigerant emissions

The Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society and the Onion River Cooperative were honoured for achievements

Two co-operatives were praised by the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their control of refrigerant emissions.

The Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society and the Onion River Cooperative in Burlington were two of the 13 organisations honoured for achievements in protecting human health and the environment under the EPA’s GreenChill Partnership Program.

As part of the partnership, the EOA works with food retailers to reduce refrigerant emissions and decrease their impact on the ozone layer by supporting a transition to environmentally friendlier refrigerants, lowering charge sizes and eliminating leaks, and adopting green refrigeration technologies and best environmental practices.

“We applaud all the supermarket chains that have demonstrated tremendous environmental leadership through the prevention of refrigerant releases and the use of advanced refrigeration technologies,” said EPA Office of Air and Radiation assistant administrator Bill Wehrum. “It’s good for the environment, and it’s just good business.”

One of Hanover Co-op’s food stores (Photo: the Hanover Consumer Cooperative)

So far, around 11,000 stores nationwide, representing about 29% of the US supermarket industry, have signed up to the scheme. The Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society’s food stores received the Environmental Protection Agency’s award for Most Improved Emissions Rate for the second straight year. Hanover Co-op’s current emission rate is 7.7%, down from 9% the previous year.

Ed Fox, general manager of the Hanover Co-op Food Stores, said: “For the Hanover Co-op, we may be the nation’s second largest food co-operative, but we’re tiny compared to the largest grocery chains in the world. So it is especially noteworthy to earn such an award along with mammoth retailers.”

“We’re all in this together,” added Hanover Co-op facilities manager Tom Guillette. “The team at our co-op has made massive improvements to our systems. We’re saving money, helping the planet, and we’ve even hosted webinars to share our knowledge with big grocery chains and other co-ops.”

The Hanover Co-op was the first food co-operative to join the GreenChill Partnership.

“The Hanover Co-op should be applauded for significantly reducing the emission of refrigerants from their coolers and freezers,” said Tom Land, manager of GreenChill. “They are demonstrating what is possible with good management of refrigeration systems and saving the co-op money.”

Onion River Co-op receiving the award at the ceremony (Photo: EPA)

Onion River Co-op has been running City Market community food store in downtown Burlington for 15 years. The store was developed on a 4.5-acre vacant industrial property. It includes a teaching kitchen, community space, and offices. The member owned co-op employs around 100 people.

According to EPA’s assessment, the co-op’s refrigeration system uses a fraction of the energy typical in grocery stores, and solar tubes, LED lighting, and high-efficiency blowers and fans also minimise electricity usage.

Referring to Onion River Co-op’s top honours for Best Corporate Emissions Rate, an award won by the Hanover Co-op last year, Mr Fox said: “It’s so great to see food co-operatives recognised for their long-standing work on issues of environmental responsibility.”

GreenChill Partners in the retail food business have refrigerant emissions rates nearly 50% lower than the EPA-estimated industry average.

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