Refrigerators keep our food cool, but they can warm the climate.

“Our refrigerators can contain very potent greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs for short, and these HFCs are often thousands of times more potent than CO2 when it comes to warming the globe,” says Kristen Taddonio of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, an environmental group.

She says HFCs are in the coolant and insulation used in many refrigerators. They’re not a problem if the fridge is working well. But if the fridge is not recycled properly, the HFCs can escape into the atmosphere.

The Environmental Protection Agency has moved to phase down the manufacture and import of HFCs by 2036. But in the meantime, Taddonio says, “It’s very important that when we are buying new refrigerators or recycling our old refrigerators that we do that responsibly.”

Taddonio’s group has made a list of fridge models that use climate-friendly refrigerants instead of HFCs. And she suggests buying through a retailer that will help you safely dispose of your old fridge.

So with careful purchasing, consumers can make sure their groceries and the planet stay cool.

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media