Sustainability Scoop — June 2020

Cool Down This Summer With Efficient Lab Cold Storage

Summer’s here and many labs are working on safely reopening. A good way to beat the heat and keep your energy bills from rising with temperatures is to assess your lab’s cold storage. Before returning to full operations, you can freshen up your lab’s freezers by implementing these cold storage best practices:

  • Check freezers for samples stored before COVID that may now be too old or no longer viable and are consuming valuable freezer space.
  • After being out of use for months, lab freezers should be defrosted and cleaned. Brush ice off the gaskets around door seals and remove dust from coils and intake vents.
  • With the potential for reduced staff in the lab in the short term, this could be a good time to upgrade old freezers to more efficient models without disrupting work.
  • Tune the temperatures on ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers; setting your freezers to -70 degrees Celsius instead of -80 degrees Celsius can help reduce energy usage by 40 percent.

Check out the Freezer Challenge for more resources to get more efficient cold storage up and running and sign up for the Challenge before the program deadline, August 1, 2020.

Other Efficiency Opportunities

For the past several months, I2SL has been a member of the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium (HEASC). This involvement has given I2SL the opportunity to partner with a research fellow who can help advance sustainability across the higher education system. I2SL is excited to work with Michaela Barnett, a Ph.D. student in the Behavioral Science for Sustainable Systems program at the University of Virginia. Michaela’s background in the human aspect of recycling will help her contribute to the efforts of I2SL Landfill Waste Diversion Working Group.

Meanwhile, the I2SL Lab User Manual Working Group has been hard at work forming subcommittees that focus on various aspects of operating and maintaining laboratories sustainably. You can learn more about the group’s latest activities and future plans on the working group's web page. You can check out other working gorup activities on the I2SL website.

If you’re returning back to work and looking for other energy efficiency best practices, check out the new Smart Labs Toolkit created by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Smart Labs Accelerator. The toolkit, hosted by I2SL, can help lab owners and operators start and maintain their own Smart Labs program. To further promote Smart Labs, I2SL and DOE are presenting a Smart Labs webinar series. Register for the second webinar in the series this Tuesday, June 23, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., to learn more about evaporative cooling.

Did you miss I2SL’s first town hall on returning to the lab? We’ve got you covered! Watch the recording of the town hall, Returning to the Operational Lab Environment During COVID-19, and engage with others on topics related to safely returning to labs on the town hall’s discussion page. A second free town hall is in the works—stay tuned for more information. If you have any relevant information you’d like to share about COVID-19 and labs, please send it to info@i2sl.org and we’ll add it to I2SL’s E-Library’s Pandemic Readiness and Response section.