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The International Freezer Challenge

Conduct safe, efficient, and energy-conscious research!

The International Freezer Challenge is the primary way UIC researchers can get involved in sustainability on campus. By promoting efficient, safe, and organized use of cold storage systems, the freezer challenge helps lab managers, PIs, and departments save money, time, and energy.

Reducing energy use in laboratories by effectively managing equipment is an important step in reaching UIC's goal to be fully carbon neutral by 2050. Join the movement to make UIC a more Energy Conscious Campus, and sign up for the Freezer Challenge using the form at the bottom of this page.

2020 Challenge Stats:

  • 288 Research institutions across the world competed in the 2020 International Freezer Challenge

  • 3200000 Kilowatt hours saved per year by all participants in the 2020 Freezer Challenge

  • 204 Kilowatt hours saved per day by the eight labs that competed in the 2020 challenge

Meet the 2020 Winning Labs

Why lab freezers?

Cartoon of a lab manager gesturing to a completely frozen-over freezer saying

Laboratories consume nearly 5 times more energy than a typical office space, and are often the largest consumers of energy on any given campus or at any given institution. After data centers, labs are widely recognized as consuming more energy per square foot than any other sector due to their around-the-clock operations, 100% outside air requirements, and high airflow rates, and their energy-intensive equipment. Some equipment, like microscopes and chargers, use a relatively small amount of energy. But others, like freezers and cold storage spaces, use much more: in fact, ultra-low temperature freezers (-80C) can use as much energy as an average household every day.

UIC is transforming our campus’s energy consumption, from the buildings we work in to the equipment we use. The International Freezer Challenge empowers labs to reduce their energy waste by:

  • Recommending action steps for labs to take to reduce their freezer’s energy waste
  • Providing estimated kilowatt hour savings for each action
  • Offering prizes and recognition, such as a mention in Nature magazine, for winning certain categories
  • Connecting labs to resources and data that can help guide sustainable decision making in purchasing and equipment management
Nick Perez, George Crabtree, and Robert Dixon

“The Freezer Challenge familiarizes you with efforts to better maintain your freezer, and you get information on how much energy you saved. The hardest thing was knowing how and where to sign up!”

Nick Perez  |  Lab Manager of the 2019 winner, the UI Health Biorepository

Student Perspective

Lab professionals don’t have to sacrifice time or sample integrity to be sustainable and energy conscious. UIC student Lizbeth Carrazco explains how and why researchers should get involved in the freezer challenge—and why this year’s challenge is the best year to join yet!

Read Lizbeth's take on sustainable research

Sign up for the 2021 Freezer Challenge!

Formal registration for the 2021 International Freezer Challenge is not yet open. If you would like to participate in the challenge or promote this competition to your department or colleagues, please fill out this form to be added to our email list.

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