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Freezer Challenge (Ongoing)


"The International Laboratory Freezer Challenge promotes sample accessibility, sample integrity, reduced costs, and energy efficiency by harnessing a spirit of competition within and between laboratories. Challenge participants use well-evidenced criteria and best practices that support science quality and resilience while minimizing total costs and environmental impacts of sample storage."
click the link for more information and to REGISTER:

This project received $9,900 in Student Sustainability Committee funding in December 2017 to kickstart the program.


A brief overview, the challenge works by:

  1. Registering your lab
  2. Receive a welcome email to the registered email address, that includes link access to the score sheet.
  3. Complete the score sheet with current practices you are already doing.
  4. Implement or add new practices (other labs are using this as motivation for completing “to-do” items).
    Points are awarded for items listed in the score sheet and can be found on the web page.
  5. Actions you do in regards to sample storage, fridge/freezer use that make your lab sustainable and are not listed in the score sheet can be added in the last section of the score sheet.
  6. Record your actions in the score sheet and submit before midnight July 1st.

Benefits of Participating
Being an efficient and sustainable lab is becoming more important as laboratory buildings continue to lead the top ten buildings on campus in energy consumption per gross square foot (GSF).
By participating in the International Freezer Challenge researchers:

  • Reduce environmental impact by becoming more sustainable
  • Gain an advantage over peer researchers when applying for grants
  • Receive leadership recognition for best practices
  • Save energy and space which reduces operational costs and frees up money for more research
  • Avoid/reduce future equipment failures minimizing risk of sample loss
  • Improve researchers access, identification and tracking of samples

Best practices for the competition are listed here and additionally the competitions organizers and participants have an ongoing Resources page and blog page that include evidence based criteria and best practices as submitted by peer researchers.

I realize many of our researchers lead their fields of study and have the best practices in their labs, if you do not see a practice on the scoresheet that you have implemented, please add the practice to your score sheet (last section) increasing yours and the university’s chances of winning, plus the organizers could share & add your item to next year’s competition.

In addition, the FAQ page is succinct and answers most of the freezer challenge questions. The organizers are quick to respond and can be contacted via email at  You can also contact Paul Foote at F&S by emailing


The University of Illinois campus participated in the inaugural International Freezer Challenge during the 2016-17 academic year. The promotion efforts consisted of contacting lab Pi's, Safety Officers and lab users via several emails and encouraging them to participate. The email list was obtained through the campus OVCR and DRS offices. Some of the Facilities Managers along with the office of Research for Compliance sent out emails encouraging participation as well. The first year's lab participation included five labs and seven participants across campus. This participation reflects support and interest for sustainability in labs at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus.





Don Ort



Institute Genomic Biology 




Beckman Institute




Micro & Nano Technology Cell & Developmental Biology

Nicholas Kirchner



School of Molecular  &
Cell Biology

Carla Caceres



Animal Biology

Jessica Brinkworth




Mateus Novakofski



Animal Chronic Waste Disease

Their participation scored 134 points for the Univeristy of Illinois Urbana Champaign campus during the 2017 Freezer Challenge
The Vice Chancellor of Research will be recognizing all lab participants by awarding certificates of Leadership and Environmental Stewardship in Sustainable Laboratory Practices

This began as an Student Sustainability Committee supported project.

No description has been provided yet.

Project Team

  • Primary Contact:

    Paul Foote

    Project Leader:

    Paul Foote

    Team Members:

    • Madeline Barone


Project Location(s)

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