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Freezer challenge

Campus Labs Challenged to Maximize Freezer Efficiency

Laboratory users have essential roles to play in reaching Northwestern’s sustainability goals. Labs often use five to ten times as much energy per square foot as office spaces, and freezers are among the most energy hungry pieces of equipment in labs. An average 25-cubic foot ultra-low-temperature freezer, or -80C freezer, uses approximately the same amount of electricity per day as a small U.S. house.

This is why the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) and My Green Lab have partnered to establish the first annual North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge. The challenge is designed to optimize cold storage management practices to help reduce energy use in laboratories. Labs will gain points in the competition by completing maintenance practices outlined in a score sheet that targets temperature tuning, proper sample management, and maximizing freezer efficiency.

The competition runs from the end of January through May 1, 2017, and winners will be announced at the Boston I2SL Conference in October, 2017. The winning lab will be featured in an article in Nature and will win a coffee machine.  

Northwestern’s sustainNU staff is coordinating registration for interested labs within the University. Throughout the competition, participating labs will receive email updates with tips on maximizing freezer efficiency. Some labs will also receive meters that they can use to measure how much energy their freezers are using and evaluate the results of their energy-saving actions. Meters are available in limited quantities and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you work or study in a lab that would like to enter the competition, please complete this form by January 30, 2017.  For more information, contact sustainNU at or (847) 467-7507.