The coolest (and longest) day of the year

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Published: 05 August 2019


We asked founder Steve Gill for his personal recollections of the first World Refrigeration Day.

So, World Refrigeration Day actually happened. How did you feel immediately afterwards?  
Immediately afterwards I felt exhausted! The Coolest Day of the Year was also the longest day of the year for me. There had been a lot going on in the run-up to June 26 but everything really took off on June 25 when I woke early (around 5am) to find over 700 new emails. The emails kept arriving at the rate of around 100 per hour; as soon as I had answered one, three or four more had arrived.  
I was in Kansas City at the time and hardly left my hotel room as I worked to reply to as many as I could. By the evening I was drained but I saw a message from New Zealand saying that WRD was about to start there. I was tired, but also excited and thrilled that WRD had arrived. 
 
After my first LinkedIn video post, I watched a live webinar from New Zealand. Matthew Darby from EcoChill interviewed some young people in a panel-style session. Even though it was on the other side of the world, it was easy to relate to these young people. WRD was connecting people.  

After that, I watched online via social media as WRD rippled across the globe. I should have gone to bed but I became drawn to the fascinating event that was unfolding. By 2.30 am Kansas City time, I was due on a webinar organised by Danfoss with a great line-up of speakers from Asia and particularly India. By the time that finished I had already been awake for 24 hours, but I had to prepare for another webinar that I would be hosting for UNEP and ASHRAE.

Immediately after the webinar ended, I flew down to Miami for the RefriAméricas Exhibition and Conference.  As I arrived at the conference I was whisked straight onto the stage and handed a microphone and gave a short speech about WRD which was translated into Spanish as this was the main language of the attendees. 

So, how did I feel immediately afterwards? Exhausted yes, but absolutely thrilled. There was a real sense that something extra special had just happened. As an industry we had become a community like never before. The scale of it and reach of it had surprised many. I also had a sense of relief, because this could so easily have failed, and a sense that something had changed; it was as if the floodgates had opened to let the industry tell its own message with a louder voice than ever before. 
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Madi Sakande with students at a training day in Burkina Faso
Do you know how many countries were actually involved? 
We are still collecting data and continue to be surprised. At the moment we believe it was marked in some way by physical events in at least 153 countries. This is truly astonishing but it is not just the number of countries that is amazing, it is that in many countries there were multiple events. In India, for example, the national association ISHRAE organised 18 events but indications are that there were significantly more things taking place. I am working with UNEP and others to try and gather the data but, in truth, we may never know exactly how many events took place and where they were. 
 
What made you most proud about the way the industry responded? 
I think our industry united and revealed itself as a global community. After the day, I started to refer to WRD as a community project because that is what I always hoped it would be. What made me most proud is that the industry responded with a community spirit. 

I was proud of the way our trade associations and professional societies responded by supporting the concept of WRD. Anyone with experience of being involved in one of these organisations will know that they are often managed by a voluntary board that only meets a few times a year so reaching a decision can be a slow process. Thankfully, over time, they have responded and supported WRD. Some as late as the day before suddenly wished to support it, while others such as the IIR, IOR, ASHRAE, AIRAH, ISHRAE, AREA etc have been involved and supportive for some time.   

Then, of course, there are the businesses and individuals working in the sector. A great many of these responded by planning events and actively being involved. We also put a call out for sponsors as the costs involved began to mount. A small number of businesses responded without hesitation and became sponsors. I will be eternally grateful for this as without them we couldn’t have done a fraction of what we did. What many people perhaps do not appreciate is that there is no funding, and the whole thing has been put together by myself in my spare time, with help from a few others from time to time. So the sponsorship was really very important.

I was also proud of our trade press, both here in the UK and abroad, who all supported WRD by carrying news items.
Is it too early to ask about plans and ambitions for 2020? 
It is too early for specifics but I can tell you that we will be aiming to extend the approaches that we piloted this year; reaching out to young people and their advisers/influencers through either open days or directly going into educational establishments. We will be launching this very shortly after consulting with our partners and sponsors so that we may better resource for WRD20. We want to make a real difference and that requires year-round activities.