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No more cold drinks: Most of Quebec's liquor stores are getting rid of their fridges

Alcohol products are shown at an SAQ outlet in Montreal, Tuesday, December 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes Alcohol products are shown at an SAQ outlet in Montreal, Tuesday, December 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

The Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) is drastically scaling back its supply of cold drinks.

The Crown corporation says it plans to remove the majority of refrigerators from stores across the province to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the next 15 years, the 2,700 fridges in its fleet will drop to 918.

As a result, the SAQ says its environmental footprint will plunge from 12.6 tons of carbon dioxide today to four tons in 2037—an 83-ton reduction over 15 years.

Équiterre, an environmental non-profit in Quebec, applauds the move.

"It's always good to see that state-run organizations are showing an example and have an ambitious view on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and they are putting it into action," said executive director Colleen Thorpe.

Thorpe says commercial fridges have "enormous" greenhouse warming potential because they are frequently opened.

The new measure follows a two-year pilot project at three SAQ locations: Atwater, Maisonneuve and in the town of Saint-Sauveur.

The results suggest customers are on board with the change but still want access to some cold drinks, said the SAQ.

To keep customers happy, it will leave one fridge in all SAQs and three inside its "Selection" stores. Express branches will not be affected.


SAQ spokesperson Genvieve Cormier says the move is part of a broader environmental plan.

"As a Crown corporation, Quebecers expect us to play an important role in society. So we are," she said. "We want to answer the collective call when necessary."

The move will also mean more cost savings.

"It is certain that in the end, there will be a reduction in costs at the SAQ, that is certain. But that's not the main objective of this initiative," said Cormier.

Sanjith Gopalakrishnan, assistant professor in operations management at McGill University, says it's a good first step but there are "bigger pieces" to consider.

"This is clearly going to have some cost savings for SAQ, and there might be some environmental benefits as well. Then there are other initiatives like, let's say, transportation, where it's much less clear whether you can achieve an alignment between your economics and environment," he said.

"It remains to be seen whether they will proceed and target these harder-to-reduce emissions."


About 90 per cent of refrigerant emissions are released at the end of the equipment's life, meaning proper disposal is essential, according to Project Drawdown, a non-profit that analyzes climate solutions.

"It is certain that we are very concerned about disposing of them in an eco-responsible manner," said Cormier.

She said the fridges in good condition will go to food banks and other organizations that need them. Top Stories

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