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How One City Kickstarted the Ozone’s Recovery

In 1987, two dozen countries agreed to take steps to protect the atmosphere. For Irvine, California, that wasn't enough.
Even if Irvine were to eliminate all of its CFC emissions, it wouldn't have made a dent in repairing the ozone layer. But the city was after something much bigger.
Even if Irvine were to eliminate all of its CFC emissions, it wouldn't have made a dent in repairing the ozone layer. But the city was after something much bigger.Reuters/Madison McVeigh/CityLab

In July 1989, a small city in Orange County, California, took a bold step. Barely 20 years old and with a population of just over 100,000, Irvine decided to jumpstart the municipal effort to save Earth from a giant hole ripping through the atmosphere.

In a 4 to 1 vote, Irvine’s city council approved a measure that would phase out the use of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, in nearly all industrial processes and consumer products. CFCs are major ozone-depleting chemicals that were used in everyday household products, from refrigerators and air conditioning systems to hair sprays and food packaging. Among other things, Irvine’s ordinance barred the use of CFCs in manufacturing, production, cleansing, degreasing or sterilization processes, and prohibited the use of CFC-laden packaging. Building insulation also had to be free of CFCs, and air conditioning and refrigeration repairing firms were required to capture the compound for recycling.