EDF’s Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.
Refrigerants are modern day inventions that allow us to keep our ice cream cold and our homes comfortable. These gases are used everywhere from kitchen refrigerators to cooling systems in grocery stores and food warehouses to air conditioning in homes, office buildings, data centers, and cars. While refrigerants have become essential to modern society, most are very harmful to the environment when released into the atmosphere. Refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), also known as F-gases, are greenhouse gases thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Over the past 50 years, global population and economic growth has resulted in a dramatic increase in demand for refrigeration and air conditioning worldwide. As a result, a significant amount of leaked refrigerants have reached the atmosphere. Further, the common practice of sending retired equipment to recycling centers and landfills, many of which are not equipped to properly dispose of refrigerants, has meant that most refrigerants are released during end-of -life practices. EOS Climate and JACO Environmental are aiming to solve this problem.
Based in San Francisco, EOS Climate was founded in 2008 by Presidio Graduate School classmates Jeff Cohen, Todd English, and Joe Madden, as an outgrowth of their MBA program in Sustainability Management. Their idea was to create economic value for organizations that properly manage refrigerants and other F-gases. EOS’s solution was to develop a scalable system to recover and destroy CFC refrigerants from older equipment, which could be financed through the generation and sale of Verified Emission Reductions in California's cap-and-trade program under the Ozone Depleting Substances offset protocol.
By working through AB 32, EOS has avoided millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions, bolstered California’s recycling industry, and helped accelerate a transition toward more climate-friendly technologies. With venture backing from Firelake Capital and partnerships with companies like JACO Environmental, CleanHarbors, and Hudson Technologies, EOS is proving that AB 32 gives companies the tools to make fighting climate change a winning business model.
"We figured out a way to help cut climate pollution while making a profitable company. Without AB 32, CFC refrigerants would continue to be released from aging equipment and the climate benefits would not have been possible" says Todd English, VP of Operations at EOS. "The rise in refrigerant emissions threatens the progress the world is making to cut other greenhouse gas emissions. We wanted to make a company that could move the needle by showing that alternatives are out there – helping cut emissions while growing jobs. I think we've demonstrated that it can be done… and we are just getting started. We recently launched the Refrigerant Asset System (RAS) which expands our initial approach of using markets to drive economic and environmental outcomes to address the entire refrigerant lifecycle across multiple industries and sectors."
One sector that EOS has seized upon is appliance recycling. By working with JACO Environmental, they are changing the way refrigerators are collected, handled, and recycled. In the partnership, JACO collects fridges and sends them to specialized facilities like the ones in Hayward and Fullerton. There, the fridges are taken apart and the refrigeration gases inside are sucked out, collected, cleaned, and measured. The gases are then further processed and transported to a certified destruction plant. According to JACO, the removal of a single aging refrigerator or freezer can prevent up to 10 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent gases from entering the atmosphere. EOS and JACO estimate that together they have prevented greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 800,000 cars off the road annually.
“Recycling refrigerators and freezers in an environmentally friendly way is something my company is very good at. The partnership with EOS is good business, and has given us more opportunities for growth.” says Michael Dunham, Director of Energy & Environmental Programs at JACO. “We aren't doing all this just to stop climate change. We are doing it because it's good business, and the fact that AB 32 says the state has to cut greenhouse gases has helped us expand year after year. Our experience in California, in conjunction with our partnership with EOS, means we are poised to transform the way we approach refrigerator lifecycles across the United States.”
With their rising ‘Refrigerant Revolution’ Refrigerant Asset System, and a growing list of customers and partners, EOS Climate has created a business model that drives economic and environmental outcomes while helping the Golden State reach its aggressive climate goals and bolster its position as the global hub of innovation.
Please note that EDF has a standing corporate donation policy and we accept no funding from companies or organizations featured in this series. Furthermore, the EDF California Innovators Series is in no way an official endorsement of the people or organizations featured, or their business models and practices.
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