For the past 37 years, Dr. Robin Felder has led his team in UVA's Department of Pathology to invent solutions to achieve breakthroughs on issues ranging from sensors for elder care to cell transplants to controlling hypertension. 

“Pick a problem, then solve it,” is Felder’s motto, and sums up the lab’s research that is centered around clinical chemistry, toxicology, and medical automation. And that’s the approach the lab team took when they signed up for the 2021 UVA Freezer Challenge. 

Labs at UVA participated in the challenge for six months, from January to June, earning points by completing sustainable actions with their cold storage units.  We are excited to announce the winners of the 2021 UVA Freezer Challenge.

  • 1st : The Felder Lab, Department of Pathology
  • 2nd : The McGlathery Lab, Department of Environmental Sciences 
  • 3rd : The Flow Cytometry Core Facility, School of Medicine

The combined impact of the actions taken by these three labs saved more than 100 kilowatt hours per day. That’s equivalent to more than three houses worth of electricity. Their actions are especially impressive when you consider that October is Energy Awareness Month -- these labs are celebrating in style! 

The Freezer Challenge is an international competition organized in partnership between the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) and My Green Lab. Since 2017, participants have saved an estimated 9.9 million kilowatt hours through the implementation of cold storage management practices such as

  • Defrosting/deicing freezers
  • Efficient space management and inventories 
  • Equipment sharing 


Saving Space, Saving Energy

It’s no wonder that a lab perpetually chasing ways to do things more efficiently would be interested in sustainability. Research Associate and lab manager Dr. Peng Xu shared that the Freezer Challenge led the team to have larger discussions about their cold storage needs to make sure that future decisions would be considered with a lens of sustainability, too. 

Xu went so far as to learn a new skill, cleaning the coils on their ultra-low temperature freezers, which can significantly reduce energy use. The Felder team also consolidated items in their 10 cold storage units, with the result that each unit is operating more efficiently now. Xu said the Freezer Challenge enabled the group to learn more about cold storage and opportunities to reduce their environmental impact.

Peng Xu and Robin Felder in their UVA lab

With their teamwork and willingness to learn, the Felder Lab’s combined impact of improving management of their 10 cold storage units is saving 44.2 kilowatt hours per day --  almost as much as 1.5 average American households use! By reducing their energy consumption so significantly, the Felder Lab is contributing to a major push at UVA to reduce carbon emissions as much as possible. (In the photo at right, Xu and Felder hold the coveted beaker mugs, their prize as 1st place winners!) 



UVA Green Labs congratulates the three winning labs and all the other participants for their efforts! It’s incredible how much positive difference that making some basic, thoughtful changes in laboratory spaces can have. If you have questions about opportunities to make your lab greener, whether by participating in the Freezer Challenge or getting Green Lab certified, don’t hesitate to reach out to

You can also follow Sustainable UVA on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to catch #LabTuesdays content from UVA Green Labs. 

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