Sustainability Scoop — September 2020

2020 Freezer Challenge Winners Choose Efficiency During COVID

One of the bright spots of 2020 is that it didn’t stop labs’ commitment to reducing energy from cold storage. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, 218 labs or sites participated in this year’s International Laboratory Freezer Challenge, representing 88 research organizations around the world. This year’s Freezer Challenge participants saved a combined 3.2 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year. These energy savings helped reduce carbon emissions by 2,260 metric tons—the equivalent of removing 360 cars from the road for a year!

My Green Lab and the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) are excited to announce the 2020 Freezer Challenge winners. This year’s individual laboratory winners are:

  • Learning and Research Laboratory at the University of Bristol in England.
  • Janssen Biotherapeutics (JBIO) Lab at Janssen Pharmaceuticals in La Jolla, California.
  • Laboratory of Cell Biology at the Center for Cancer Research of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

The 2020 Freezer Challenge organizational winners are:

  • Whitehead Institute and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which saved an estimated 189,000 kWh per year.
  • AstraZeneca, which had eight sites participate globally and saved a total of 1.1 million kWh year.
  • National Institutes of Health, which saved 133,000 kWh per year.

In addition, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was deserving of the top academic organization spot for the third year in a row, so they will be receiving the Winning Streak Award this year!

Freezer Challenge participants reduced their energy consumption, costs, and environmental impact through a variety of strategies, including temperature tuning; retiring or upgrading old freezers; defrosting and cleaning out freezers; inventorying samples; and other cold storage best practices. For example, setting ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers to -70°C instead of -80°C where feasible can result in 40 percent energy savings. Scientists who participated also learned cold storage maintenance techniques to keep saving energy long after the Challenge is over.

You can read more about the winners on the Freezer Challenge website, or help us recognize them during the 2020 Virtual I2SL Annual Conference on October 7 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern. Stay tuned for more information on how to participate in the next Freezer Challenge and cut your cold storage costs in 2021!