Harvesting Rainwater at Americold

October is National Energy Awareness Month, and we’re marking the occasion by highlighting a unique program within our resource management strategy – rainwater harvesting.

Cold food storage is, by nature, an energy-intensive industry. Temperature-controlled warehouses utilize large refrigeration condensers to maintain their environments. While efficiency standards have come a long way over the past decade, these machines do consume a fair amount of energy. They also require potable water to transfer heat via evaporation from the condenser.

Americold is dedicated to responsible energy practices and is always seeking new ways to reduce our environmental footprint. We commit time and resources and deploy innovative technologies to drive down water usage and increase energy efficiency.

Our rainwater harvesting effort grew out of our 2019 acquisition of Cloverleaf Cold Storage. Five of Cloverleaf’s 22 warehouses were equipped with rainwater harvesting systems. Americold fully vetted the systems and found them to be a sustainable method for reducing municipal water demand.

So, how does it work? Rain that falls onto the rooftop of a facility is captured and sent to storage ponds or tanks, then treated using a proprietary method. This recycled water replaces municipal water as feed for the facility’s refrigerated condensers. The system reduces wastewater treatment costs as well as storm water run-off, thereby diminishing contamination from surface water.

Americold’s facilities are structurally conducive to rainwater harvesting, as their large rooftops can capture quiet a bit of rainwater runoff. In Q2 2020, Americold flipped the switch on its first rainwater harvesting system in Indianapolis, Indiana. The system is similar to those at the former Cloverleaf locations, with some customization to optimize operations.

Since its commissioning, Americold has reduced its municipal water consumption at the site by 70 percent. That’s a reduction of 6 million gallons per year—enough water to fill more than nine Olympic-size swimming pools. Wastewater treatment costs and water conditioning costs also decreased, including a 71,000 pound per year reduction in water softener salt savings.

With the pilot system a success, Americold is now working to build organizational experience in best practice technologies to deploy the approach at scale. If deployed across 35 Americold sites, rainwater harvesting has the potential to ignite $2.4 million per year in water savings, not to mention broad environmental benefits.