Minimising laboratory energy use and environmental impact in practise

NSCN_blog_greener_labs_2016Text: Tomas R. Poulsen, University of Copenhagen

Laboratories are extremely energy-consuming and responsible for most of the university’s climate and environmental footprint, specifically in institutions concentrating on laboratory-based research. 42 engaged lab coordinators, researchers, sustainability professionals and health and safety coordinators from the Nordic countries gathered to a workshop at the University of Copenhagen to discuss the key issues in managing labs. The workshop was arranged jointly by the Green Campus UCPH, S-lab and Nordic Sustainable Campus Network on March the 3rd 2016.

Going from -80 to -70 degrees

There is no documentation on why lab freezers should run at -80 °C. Maybe it was just because freezers are able go down to -80 °C that this setting turned in to a common practise? Nobody really knows. But what we know is that running the freezer at -70 °C instead of -80 degrees can save 20-30% of the electricity consumption – and reducing the need for cooling as well.

60 of the labs at University of Colorado, Boulder, are now running their Ultra Low Temperature freezers at -70 degrees without jeopardizing their precious stored samples. That was just one of the success stories for efficient cold storage presented by US green laboratory champion, Kathy Ramirez-Aguilar coordinating the universities green labs program.

Making energy efficient purchasing a win-win situation

At most universities researchers purchase ULT freezers with their own limited research budgets and with the faculty or another central body paying for the electricity. Thus, there is not much an incentive for researchers to select the energy-efficient one, if it is more expensive. However, in 2014 the University of Copenhagen has  managed to establish a win-win situation getting the most energy efficient models with 40-50 % listed retail prices via a central purchasing agreement. Energy consumption of the freezers is 30% below other models. “Savings of 15-25 million Danish kroner is expected over 4 years due to the purchasing agreement”, explained Line Colle and Caroline Wolf from the UCPH purchasing department. In addition, Peter James, the director of S-lab, presented some of the great resources available on safe, sustainable and successful laboratories available for everybody. Particularly the Laboratory Assessment Framework was emphasized as a good approach, which can involve also student engagement.NSCN_blog_greener_labs5_2016

The workshop also focused on ways to improve chemicals and waste management in laboratories with presentations from University of Colorado, Boulder and Gothenburg University.

University of Copenhagen has in collaboration with Egnaton another interesting conference on sustainable laboratories coming up May 31 – June 1. Find more info here.

The presentations from the workshop can be found here:

Read more about:

Green Campus, University of Copenhagen:


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