Green Labs

Green Labs

Laboratories play a central role in reaching our institutional sustainability goals. The Office for Sustainability’s Green Labs program was founded in 2016 to engage lab occupants -- students, researchers and investigators -- in co-creating strategies to support sustainability in their work space. Working closely with the Smart Labs Program, Environmental Health & Safety and numerous other groups across Grounds, the Green Labs team helps UVA scientists identify sustainable solutions that support their research goals while reducing the environmental impact of their laboratories.  

Sign up for the Green LaBS LISTSERV

A group of 8 researchers are sitting on the steps of the Rotunda with a cute dog with long, soft, fluffy ears. They're all smiling and holding their Certification plaque and beaker mugs.
The Machan Research Group in the Chemistry Department was certified as a Gold Green Lab in Fall 2022.

Green Lab Certification

This certification program helps labs evaluate and address their environmental impact from a holistic perspective, focusing on five key areas:

  • Cold Storage
  • Chemicals & Reagents
  • Materials & Refuse
  • Electronics & Appliances
  • Engagement

Any of UVA's research laboratories can participate in this program. Using this online certification form, labs are asked to document their sustainable actions and work with the Green Labs Specialist to learn how to make headway in new areas. Certified labs receive a 3D-printed plaque, beaker mugs, and will be featured on the UVA Green Labs Website! 

Check out this guide to Getting Started with Certification to kickstart your efforts. 


Certification fillable form here 


International Freezer Challenge 

Felder Lab
Dr. Peng Xu (left) and Dr. Robin Felder of UVA's Dept. of Pathology Felder Lab proudly display their Freezer Challenge prizes.

This semester-long competition, organized by My Green Lab and the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories, encourages research institutions to reduce the energy use of cold storage units. Labs report preventative maintenance they've done on their cold storage units such as discarding old samples, decommissioning unused or outdated refrigerators and freezers, performing preventative maintenance and more. At the end of the challenge, labs find out exactly how many kilowatt hours they've saved throughout the year (from July 1 of the previous year to June 30 of the current year).  Make this annual competition part of your lab’s routine to extend the life of your units, keep your lab organized, and lower your carbon footprint.

The UVA Freezer Challenge occurs every year from January until June. Sign up for the next challenge.

Sign up here

Did you know? UVA won the Top Academic Organization Award in the 2022 International Freezer Challenge, saving approximately 14 households' worth of energy. In 2023, we saw a record number of labs - 39! - participate in the challenge, with the Kibbe-Tsihlis Lab leading the charge. Learn more here

Shut the Sash Competition

Gilliard Lab Shut Sash 2022
Kim Hollister of the Gilliard Research Lab, in front of a closed sash. The lab was one of two winners for the 2022 Shut the Sash Challenge.

Shutting your chemical fume hood sash reduces lab occupants’ potential for exposure to harmful chemicals. Additionally, this single action can help limit the loss of conditioned air, therefore yielding significant energy savings; an open chemical fume hood can use as much energy as three and a half homes. For these reasons, the American National Standards Institute and American Industrial Hygiene Association consider it “good work practice” to keep the sash shut when the hood is not in use.

Participating in UVA Sustainability’s annual Shut the Sash competitions each October is great way to remind researchers, old and new, that shutting the sash enhances safety while reducing your carbon footprint. Winning teams will receive a prize!

Sign up here

Did you know? In the 2022 Shut the Sash Competition, labs in the Chemistry Building saved a documented $7,600 in one month just by shutting their fume hood sashes! Read more about it here. 

Green Labs Working Group

The Green Labs Working Group operates under the Environmental Stewardship Subcommittee and the Committee on Sustainability. The group meets monthly in the Fall and Spring semesters and offers an opportunity for various lab stakeholders from across Grounds to collaborate. Students, faculty and staff are welcome to join!

Email us with questions, ideas and to join the working group

Energy Impact Tracker

UVA has an energy and water tracker relating to hundreds of buildings around Grounds, including useful tips and information.

Energy tracker

Sustainability in UVA Labs

The Office for Sustainability conducted a pilot project in 2018 with three UVA labs to assess a combined approach to reduce energy by of improving structural energy efficiencies in the physical space (upgrading lighting, adjusting room temperature, etc) and improving behavioral changes of the researchers (shutting fume hood sashes, etc). Read about the project and results in this whitepaper. 

2018 report (pdf)


Green Labs Resources

For questions or more info, including to request copies of the signage documents in this list, contact [email protected].


Certification Form Labs interested in the Green Lab Certification will need to fill out this form to submit to the Green Labs Specialist. It outlines the certification process and offers suggestions for incorporating sustainability more directly into lab operations.

Green Labs Certification: Getting Started  This guide can support your lab in mapping out the process of getting certified. Use this tool to maintain your group's momentum and keep your eyes on the prize!

Green Labs Certification Credit Tracking  This spreadsheet can help labs pursuing Green Lab Certification in delegating tasks throughout their lab and tracking credit completion.

Certification Survey Credit E-6 for Green Lab certification asks that participating labs have their members fill out the Certification Survey so that UVA Green Labs can learn more about sustainable laboratory spaces.

Certification Pledge Sheet Several credits in the Green Lab Certification (R-6, A-7, and A-8) require participants to sign and submit the attached pledge sheet to [email protected].

ACT Label Interest Form Credit M-4 in the Green Lab Certification asks participants to fill out the form to acknowledge they have read and learned about the ACT Label's efforts to promote sustainable lab supplies.

Smart Energy Routine Credit A:6 asks you to participate in the Color Dot, Shut It Off program, which has been renamed "Smart Energy Routine." Use this guide to complete the credit. Stickers are available through the Green Labs Specialist ([email protected]). 

My Green Lab Ambassador Training  This free training offers a comprehensive overview of sustainability impacts of laboratory research and related initiatives. This educational resource created by My Green Lab is highly recommended for anyone interested in furthering their knowledge of laboratory research sustainability and engaging with an international community of likeminded peers.  


Sign up for the 2024 International Freezer Challenge  This annual competition hosted by the International Institute for Sustainable Labs (I2SL) and I2SL promotes best practices in laboratory cold storage maintenance that can improve the efficiency, safety, and sustainability of your research. 

Freezer Challenge Resources  Visit the official Freezer Challenge website to find resources to support your participation and maximize your impact in the annual international challenge, including their "How to Win the Freezer Challenge" guide.

-70 Cold Storage Evidence More and more laboratories are finding that storing samples at -70C is an effective way to save energy without compromising research objectives. This small presentation offers further detail on this energy-saving measure.

-70 CU Boulder Database Colorado University at Boulder maintains a database of samples that they have successfully maintained at -70C. This can be a valuable resource when considering how to store samples at -70C.

Freezer Cleanout Decision Tree Tool  This resource was created by the UVA Green Labs Working Group to help researchers clear out unnecessary materials from their cold storage units. This makes research more efficient, safe, and sustainable. 


Lab Energy Star Freezers This link offers guidance on using the Energy Star label to select energy efficiency laboratory grade refrigerators and freezers.

ACT Label Background The Accountability, Consistency, and Transparency (ACT) Label is a sustainable purchasing label for laboratory supplies. It was created by My Green Lab and all products are independently verified by SMS Collaborative, LLC (SMSC). 

Guide to Stocking a Sustainable Lab This basic guide created by UVA Green Labs provides a framework for understanding and exploring sustainable procurement habits and tools in labs. 


Chemical Fume Hood Tip Sheet  This tip sheet encourages safe and sustainable chemical fume hood practices! 

What is the Shut the Sash Competition? This resource gives an overview of the annual Shut the Sash competition and how it can benefit your safety and lab's sustainability. Email [email protected] for more information about how to get involved year to year. 


12 Principles of Green Chemistry There are ways to reduce the environmental impact of chemical reactions. The above link outlines a framework for doing so, developed by Paul Anastas and John Warner.

Green Chemistry, Alternatives My Green Labs highlights several resources for finding more sustainable alternatives to chemical supplies commonly used in the lab. The ACS Solvent Selection and DOZN tools are incredibly useful for exploring these conversations further.


Recycling Lab Plastics “Do’s” This signage indicates which lab plastics can be recycled. 

Recycling Lab Plastics “Don’ts” This signage indicates which lab plastics cannot be recycled. 

EHS Guidance on Empty Chemical Containers Environmental Health & Safety details their official guidance and restrictions for proper reuse and disposal of chemical containers. 

MERCI Program The MERCI program at UVA supports recycling medical supplies. If you work in the UVA Health System and want to donate supplies or are interested in acquiring recycled supplies, check the link for more information.


Green Lab Tips If you're just starting your lab's conversations about sustainability, this tip sheet can be a great place to get started and explore the basics of lab sustainability.

UVA Environmental Health & Safety UVA's Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) team works tirelessly to keep researchers at the university safe. They are frequent collaborators with the Green Labs Program and offers lots of valuable resources on their website.

BETR Grants This initiative is led by the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories' (I2SL) University Alliance Group (UAG). It works to integrate sustainability into grant applications, coordinating with major funding agencies to provide research-based incentives for labs to become greener.