The most environmentally-advanced grocery retail refrigeration system in the US was unveiled last week with the opening of the Whole Foods Market store in Santa Clara, California.

The Hydrocarbon/CO2 Cascade system is the first of its kind and eradicates all direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from refrigeration. In total, it prevents more than 7,000 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent being emitted every year.

Liz Whiteley, Executive Director of the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council, stated, “This is one of the most significant steps in decades in the quest for more sustainable refrigeration systems.”

“This is one of the most significant steps in decades in the quest for more sustainable refrigeration systems”

The system uses propane to condense CO2, which has significantly less impact on the climate than hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The CO2 is then piped through refrigeration systems to keep products cool, whilst a heat reclaim system captures the heat generated by the system and uses it to preheat the store’s water.

Tristam Coffin, Sustainable Facilities Coordinator for Whole Foods Market Northern California, explained, “Ultimately, the system uses the least possible amount of the most climate-friendly refrigerants in a format that both reduces the energy it takes to operate it and re-uses the heat its operation generates.”

The Californian store was selected as the first region in the US to adopt the innovative system, as its Governor Jerry Brown aims to reduce the state’s GHG emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Nationally, the US Environmental Protection Agency recently banned the use of common refrigerants such as R-404A and R-507A for new installations and retrofits, due to their damaging environmental impacts.