F&S Organization

New Energy Conservation Record in the Freezer Challenge

Oct 14, 2023 | 3:50 pm

A university record 94 labs saved 1314 kWh/day during the competition

A group photo of 2023 Freezer Challenge participants in front of the Integrated Bioprocessing Laboratory

For the sixth straight year, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign was honored with an award for achieving significant energy conservation results in the International Laboratory Freezer Challenge. From January to July, researchers on the Urbana campus collectively earned a third “Winning Streak Award” by operating their labs with efficient and sustainable cold-storage sample management practices to improve energy efficiency, reduce costs, and protect sample integrity while earning competition points.

This year, 94 labs combined to save an estimated 479,792 kilowatt-hours (kWh), or the equivalent energy usage of 42.9 typical U.S. homes annually[1]. The number of research groups participating and the amount of energy consumption avoided, almost a 50 percent increase from two years ago, are both new campus records in the competition. The top-performing labs and a summary of key actions are available on the F&S website.

Freezer Challenge logo with a blue/green image that is a combination of a ice and a leaf

Additional Honors for Two Campus Labs
For the first time since the U of I joined the competition in 2016-17, two lab groups also received special recognition for outstanding participation in their respective categories.

Group photo of the U of I Labs shown that were recognized addtionally by the International Laboratory Freezer Challenge
U of I Winning Labs

My Green Lab and the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) will formally recognize the university’s achievements at the I2SL conference on Tuesday, October 24, 2023, in Anaheim, California. The university received honorable mention last year after being one of the top performers in the academic category over the four previous years. Almost 2,000 labs from 27 countries and 170 organizations competed in the challenge, which resulted in a combined savings of 20.7 million kWh. The reduction equals removing 14,663 metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere.

As a Tier One research university, maintaining numerous refrigerators and freezers, as well as other cooling equipment on campus, is necessary for effective and efficient research. Operating sustainable “Green Research” presents unique challenges to overcoming environmental carbon emissions; implementing reduce, reuse, or recycle initiatives; and upgrading to energy efficient equipment. Researcher participation in the Freezer Challenge helps meet energy reduction goals in the Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP).

How to Participate in Next Year’s Competition
Labs may sign up to join the next Freezer Challenge beginning in January 2024. Researchers interested in participating are encouraged to contact Energy Efficiency and Conservation Specialist Paul Foote, 217-244-1048, to enroll. More information about the competition is available at