ALDI U.S., the leading user of transcritical CO2 refrigeration in the United States, announced recently in its 2022 sustainability progress report that nearly 500 of its 2,000 stores now use CO2 (R744) as the primary refrigerant.

These efforts are part of a five-year project, worth more than US$5 billion, to expand its store count and remodel existing ALDI U.S. stores to make them more sustainable. According to the company, transitioning to more environmentally-friendly refrigerants has been a major focus of the remodeling project. 

In addition to CO2-based systems, ALDI U.S. is using full or hybrid propane (R290) systems in approximately 10 of its stores, with a plan to transition another 10 stores to R290 by the end of 2022. The company also uses ammonia/NH3 (R717) at all 25 of its U.S. warehouses.

According to the company, around 75 stores will transition to “near-zero GWP refrigerants” each year as part of its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2025. ALDI U.S., a division of German retail giant ALDI Süd with stores across 36 states, includes in this target emissions from refrigerant leakage from corporate offices, regional warehouses and stores.

“[In 2021], we set ambitious, science-based sustainability goals to help us accelerate the positive impact we’re already making on our planet’s resources and the people who depend on them,” said Jason Hart, CEO of ALDI U.S. “We take a lot of pride in the progress we’ve made toward these goals, while also maintaining the affordability of our products so you can be more sustainable too,” he added.

In terms of progress, ALDI U.S. says its “transition to natural refrigerants has lowered our potential carbon emissions damage average per store by over 50% since 2015.”

As well as adopting natural refrigerants, ALDI U.S. has reduced its energy consumption by installing energy-efficient HVAC systems and using energy-management controls for real-time monitoring. It also employs heat reclaim from the transcritical CO2 systems for space heating that is incorporated into a store’s air-conditioning system.

These efforts, along with others, have not gone unnoticed. In 2021, named ALDI U.S. the most sustainable grocery store in a ranking of America’s largest grocery chains. The company has also received recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its efforts to make refrigeration more sustainable, including its transition to natural refrigerants. According to ALDI U.S, it earned more EPA GreenChill store certifications in 2020 and 2021 than all other grocery retailers in the nation combined. This accreditation is awarded to organizations that are working to reduce refrigerant leaks and transition to more environmentally-friendly refrigerants.

“We’re proud of this [Brightly] recognition and to be leading the way, pushing the industry forward on sustainability practices,” said Hart. “Being a leader means we don’t just throw out lofty goals without holding ourselves accountable,” he added.

In a recent letter to ALDI U.S. customers, Hart wrote that “while it is incredible to look back on what we have accomplished in 12 months, what excites me most is our ability to go even further together to ensure that as our business grows, our environmental footprint doesn’t grow with us.”

“What excites me most is our ability to go even further together to ensure that as our business grows, our environmental footprint doesn’t grow with us.”

Jason Hart, ALDI U.S.

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