Chill out and defrost this summer with Green Labs

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rep green labs floating freezer 550pxScience never sleeps, but even the most hard-core lab tends to take a few days of summer vacation before fall’s grueling grant season kicks off. That makes this the perfect time to sign up as part of UAB’s entry in the International Laboratory Freezer Challenge, which runs through July 1, and get free help with an annoying lab chore.

Thanks to its Green Labs program, UAB is a perennial top contender in the annual Freezer Challenge. The challenge is to reduce energy usage by adopting “best practices related to cold storage management,” according to its website. In practice, one key to this is defrosting and maintaining the freezers that are a fixture of many labs.

Both the UAB lab that saves the most energy and the runner-up will receive a stipend from UAB Green Labs to send someone to the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories, or I2SL, conference in California this October. Third place gets a pizza party. “Or let’s say a restaurant party if you don’t like pizza,” said Emily Colpack, UAB Green Labs coordinator.

But every lab that takes part at UAB gets free freezer maintenance and storage space in the Green Labs “floating freezers” while their freezer gets a full defrost to ensure it is in peak shape. “We send one of our interns to clean freezer filters and freezer coils — which the lab would have to pay for otherwise — and ask some questions, which takes about 10 minutes,” said Nick Ciancio, UAB sustainability coordinator. “That is your participation in the Freezer Challenge. If you want to do more to try to win the Freezer Challenge, we provide guidance on what you can do in particular to save the most energy — all of which is pretty straightforward.” Labs that are interested in defrosting their cold storage units and are eager to use the Green Labs’ “floating freezers” can reserve a freezer here.

Get some ice packs

green labs ice packs MC bannerEven if you do not work in a lab, you can still get a cool perk from the UAB Green Labs efforts this summer: a few free ice packs (while supplies last).

UAB’s massive research enterprise is fueled by constant deliveries of needed supplies, many of which are kept cool in transit using 1-pound ice packs. A few years back, Green Labs began collecting, cleaning and recycling surplus ice packs for its lab members. Recycling in this case meant re-use: Ciancio and Colpack connected with community organizations needing portable cold, including a farmers’ market, Meals on Wheels and, just recently, a local pharmacy. (The pharmacy also re-uses styrofoam shipping containers recycled by Green Labs.)

What was once a 200-pounds-per-month stream of ice packs coming into the Green Labs warehouse has now reached 1,500 pounds per month. The donated ice packs save community partners about $500 per month, Colpack says. But there always seems to be an abundance of the blue ice packs, she adds. “I have them in my lunchbox; anyone who wants to come get some is welcome to them.” Email to arrange a visit.

Interested in joining the Green Labs program to receive these benefits and more? Email Certified labs also get a boilerplate template they can use in grants, “explaining how you are using your grant dollars as efficiently as possible,” Colpack said. “This can help increase the competitiveness of your lab in the grant applications.”