Green Labs

UVA's 2022 Freezer Challenge is underway!

This semester-long competition encourages research institutions to reduce energy use of their cold storage systems. Earn points, win prizes, enter today! Scroll down for more info.


Research labs at UVA make up 9% of the University’s physical footprint but are responsible for 25% of its energy use. Most research institutions experience this imbalance, but why?

Laboratories are highly specialized spaces where UVA’s scientists engage in cutting edge research. Labs also tend to have large environmental footprints, consuming on average ten times more energy than office spaces, four times more water, and generating tons of waste.


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.  

Want to learn more about the program? 


This certification program helps labs evaluate and address their environmental impact, 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 and will be featured on the UVA Green Labs Website! You can learn more about previously certified labs in this article. 

Access resources for certification here.

Got questions? Email

green labs cert illustration

Participating in annual competitions can decrease your lab’s carbon footprint, enhance safety, win you prizes, and earn credits towards certification. Every Spring semester, UVA participates in the International Laboratory Freezer Challenge, and every October, Green Labs hosts our own Shut the Sash competition for chemical fume hoods. 

This semester-long competition, organized by My Green Lab and the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories, encourages research institutions to reduce energy use. Labs earn points for discarding old samples, decommissioning unused or outdated refrigerators and freezers, performing preventative maintenance and more. 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 Spring semester. Register your lab by signing up here. But you don't have to wait for the competition to take action -- consider these efficient cold storage tips.

Peng Xu and Robin Felder in their UVA lab
Dr. Peng Xu (left) and Dr. Robin Felder of UVA's Department of Pathology Felder Lab proudly display their Freezer Challenge prizes -- beaker mugs.

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. Raffle-winning teams will receive a prize. Registration for the 2021 challenge is closed; stay tuned for updates about our 2022 challenge!

Lab employee shutting chemical fume hood sash

The Green Labs Working Group operates under the Environmental Stewardship Subcommittee and the Committee on Sustainability. The Working Group meets on the second Wednesday of each month in the Fall and Spring semesters and offers an opportunity for various lab stakeholders from across Grounds to collaborate.  If you’re interested in participating, please email    

To raise awareness about chemical fume hood safety and energy consumption in labs, the Office for Sustainability tracked energy use in the Physical and Life Sciences Building in 2018. Within months, there was a 49% improvement in average building sash position. 

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

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. 

See more of our online content related to Green Labs.

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