International Laboratory Freezer Challenge

What is the International Laboratory Freezer Challenge?

A competition among laboratories from around the world, designed to promote energy efficiency in cold storage (refrigerators, freezers, and cold rooms). The challenge is coordinated by My Green Lab and the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) and is FREE to participating labs.

Is my lab eligible to participate?

The challenge is open to any lab with: 

  • Mechanical -96°C or colder freezers that DO NOT use Liquid Nitrogen as primary cooling agent
  • ULT freezers (between -40°C and -96°C)
  • -30°C and/or -40°C freezers
  • -20°C freezers
  • 4°C refrigerators
  • Liquid Nitrogen Storage (-96°C or colder)

What is the timeline for the challenge?

  • Score sheets became available on Jan. 1, 2024 
  • Labs can register at any point between January and July
  • Score sheets due for submission July 1 (labs can include any actions that lab has completed since August 1, 2023)
  • Award recognition (see below)

How are labs scored?

Participants earn points for implementing actions such as the ones below:

  • Practicing preventative cold storage management (i.e. regularly brushing frost from lab freezers or conducting a full defrost)
  • Materials management (i.e. creating freezer and sample inventories)
  • Temperature tuning (i.e. setting -80°C freezers to -70°C)
  • Retiring, upgrading, and unplugging cold storage units
  • Utilizing cutting edge practices (i.e. sharing cold storage units or transitioning to room temperature sample storage for select samples)

Most actions count as one point. And if one action is carried out on multiple freezers, each freezer is generally a point. My Green Labs looks at the overall spread of data and normalizes the points. Actions and score sheets are based on best practices for cold storage as listed on the Freezer Challenge website.

At the end of the challenge, participating labs will submit a scoresheet with responses in four categories.

  • Here is the sample scoresheet for 2024
  • The official 2024 scoresheet will be sent to participating labs once they register for the challenge 
  • Once the scoresheet is submitted, each lab will receive a preliminary estimate of their energy savings

Why should my lab participate?

  • Improve cold storage energy efficiency, improve sample accessibility, prolong the life of your cold storage unit, reduce risk, and save money.
  • Cold storage units are often the second biggest energy consumers in the lab (after fume hoods). Ultra-low temperature (ULT, -80°C) freezers in your lab can use around as much energy as an average U.S. household (, so properly maintaining cold storage units is a great way for your lab to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

How can my lab sign up?

  • If you are interested in participating in the Freezer Challenge, fill out the Office of Sustainability’s Green Labs intake form (includes a question about freezer challenge interest) to let the Office of Sustainability know that you will be participating. Jerrod Bley from the Office of Sustainability is registered as the site coordinator for participating med center labs, so he will act as the main point of contact between My Green Labs and participating med center labs. The VCR Office will also be involved in providing support for participating labs.
  • Also, fill out this form on the Freezer Challenge official website, which will register you in My Green Lab’s database.


How can the med center’s Green Labs program help my lab?

Reach out to Gary Dobesh at the VCR Office to receive:

  • Backup freezers to store samples as you defrost your lab freezer. Click here to download a PDF containing information about the VCR Office’s backup freezer protocol.
  • Tools for full defrost (besides backup freezer): water collection basins or absorbent towels to collect water, mild detergent to clean
  • Tools needed for regular maintenance: gloves, a soft brush, an ice scraper

The VCR Office will coordinate with each lab in developing a Freezer Defrost schedule and assist in any other inter-laboratory needs.

What can my lab receive for participating in the Freezer Challenge?

Internal awards for participating med center labs: COMING SOON

Challenge awards

  • Top laboratory award winners will earn a certificate, will have their lab name and photo published in an online publication in the autumn of 2024 (see 2023 article here), and will be recognized at a virtual event
  • Top organization award winners (organizations that have encouraged many laboratories to participate in the challenge) will earn a commemorative plaque, will have their lab name and photo published in an online publication in the autumn of 2024, and will be invited to accept their plaque in person at the annual I2SL conference awards luncheon