UC Davis logo

Sustainable 2nd Century

Sustainable 2nd Century

Join our networks

  • Instagram

In this section

Take Action: Store Smart

The Store Smart approach was started at UC Davis with a goal of using laboratory cold storage as efficiently as possible. The Office of Sustainability seeks to collaborate with researchers to improve sample access, reduce the risks related to freezer use, and save energy.

Store Smart

Photo: Store Smart logo with DNA snippet

Store Smart logo, designed by UC Davis senior Design/English double major Brittany La, as part of a course project taught by Lect. Gale Okumura in spring 2010.

Each ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer could use up to an equivalent amount of electricity as a typical single family home. ULT freezers incur maintenance costs. When a freezer fails, samples may be lost permanently or damaged, jeopardizing research projects and data archives. And, without sample management tools, samples and bioassay materials can be misplaced or forgotten about, resulting in an uncertain archive of important scientific data.

So, let's Store Smart!

The Store Smart approach has four components: 1) good management practices; 2) temperature tuning; 3) freezer retirements and upgrades; and 4) cutting-edge techniques.

Store Smart led to The Freezer Challenge, in which researchers around the world compete annually on these four core strategies to protect research and save energy.

The Freezer Challenge

The Freezer Challenge is an international competition, which started at UC Davis as a way to introduce the laboratory cold storage management techniques described below. The goals for the Freezer Challenge are to save energy, retire as many freezers as possible, and improve sample access and security.

The annual Freezer Challenge typically runs from October to June.

While the main priority of this friendly competition is to save energy, it is also designed to help participants learn how to increase their sample access and security, develop key sample management skills, and maintain freezers in optimum condition to keep their research samples safer.

The challenge is for as many labs as possible to participate in freezer temperature tuning, cleaning & maintenance, and in organizing samples and identifying material in need of disposal.

Participating UC Davis labs can obtain points in multiple categories by undertaking various best practices, such as cleaning out freezers, retiring old freezers/refrigerators, and freezer temperature tuning. Winners will be determined by most points won. The FAQ provides an overview of the contest.

To participate in this campaign, please take the preliminary step of registering online. Your lab ID or team name will be your identification for the subsequent questionnaires to track your involvement with each campaign.

Freezer Challenge Contest Description

Participants choose which Freezer Challenge activities make sense for their labs' participation. The Freezer Challenge organizers realize that these activities require effort and hope that labs will join in because it not only benefits the campus' energy use and contributes to UC Davis' Climate Action Plan; but it will also help improve participating labs' long-term sample storage and extend the life of vitally important (and expensive) freezers.

Contest Point Categories

There are four contest categories, and actions and points are detailed in the score sheet that participants will receive with they register. To win points, participants must record their actions in the score sheet.

Temperature Tuning  (Record points in the score sheet.)
An ultra-low temperature freezer minus 60 degrees Celsius may use half the electricity of one set at minus 86 degrees Celsius. Temperature tuning seeks to encourage researchers to use science-based storage guidelines for their samples by ultra-low freezer temperature tuning (raising the set point by 10 degrees Celsius or more) or storing DNA at minus 20 degrees Celsius. At minus 70 degrees Celsius, there are examples of microbial cultures, proteins, yeast strains and cell lysates, among other sample types, being stored for years. DNA can be stored safely at minus 20 degrees Celsius, in standard freezers, for an energy savings of nearly 75 percent. This DNA storage practice is already standard practice with both plant and animal DNA in various labs at UC Davis and across the country. To earn points in the Freezer Challenge, users tune their freezer set-point by +10 °C (or more) for at least 6 months. Participants need to identify the sample types (i.e. tissues, molecules, cultures, reagents, etc.) being stored. Participants can also earn points for storing DNA at -20 °C in standard freezers, or for moving DNA from an ultra-low temperature freezer to a standard freezer.

To earn bonus points, identify the time frame for each sample type stored at these temperatures. There is very little scientific data that shows the appropriate temperature for various sample types and this response will establish the range of credible sample storage methods.

Freezer Retirement and Upgrade (Record points in the score sheet.)
With cleanout and safe disposal of unwanted samples, researchers may find they can consolidate or share a freezer with another lab group, and be able to retire a freezer altogether.

Freezer retirement is the ultimate challenge (and wins the most points) as it requires researchers to remove freezers. Ultra-low temperature freezers use the greatest amount of energy and therefore garner the most points. The Freezer Challenge also welcomes retirement of -40 °C, -30 °C, -20 °C and multiple glass door refrigerators. “Retirement” includes a one-year pledge not to replace the freezer. Challenge program assistants can also help recycle old items that you no longer need.

Tip: Assess the material in your ultra-low temperature freezer. Often, samples do not require -80 °C and can be safely stored at higher temperature. For example, if you have an ULT freezer full of DNA, consider switching to dry storage or a -20 °C freezer instead.

Equipment upgrade is the replacement of an old unit with an energy-efficient one. The freezer must be validated with kW of Amp measurements, data from Labs21 Wiki, Energy Star, or the manufacturer. For those lab groups that decide to replace an old freezer with a new, more energy efficient model, rebates may be available.

Good Management Practices (Record points in the score sheet.)
Labs will be awarded points according to the number of refrigeration units that samples were removed from, through reorganizing, discarding unneeded samples, and proper inventory & labeling. Practices for cleaning a freezer are explained in detail in the Freezer Cleanout Information flyer (PDF). To learn about safe sample disposal, see the Disposal Guidelines flyer (PDF). Each newly cleaned and organized freezer will receive an award sticker for successful participation in the Freezer Challenge.

It is important to note that a full freezer runs more efficiently and cools down more slowly if power is lost. If your samples do not take up a whole freezer, consider loaning space to another Principal Investigator or fill the empty space with frozen water jugs (or anything, such as an old cooler, that displaces air). The fuller your freezer, the less your compressor must work to cool the air and the longer the compressor will last. Similarly, raising the temperature in your ULT freezer requires the compressor to work less, which should result in a longer lasting freezer.

Cutting Edge Techniques (Record points in the score sheet.)
Freezer sharing accrues points when additional PI’s store samples in the same freezer and thus avoid purchasing another freezer. Points will be received for every additional researcher that shares the freezer. Also, if sharing a freezer allows for the retirement of another freezer, points for both actions will be calculated.

Sample inventorying, for example with sample management software, can definitively organize your current and archived samples, assist with retro-studies, identify expired samples, and enable organization by research objective rather than researcher. You will gain extra points if you enter your samples on a searchable database.

Room temperature sample storage: Researchers now have the ability to store DNA, RNA, and materials saved for later extraction of DNA and RNA at room temperature for the long term or short term.  Presently most DNA and RNA samples are typically stored in freezers by researchers.  However, a switch to room temperature storage will result in not only energy savings but also better security for the researcher’s samples since it will avoid the dependence on continuous electricity or a mechanical freezer, both of which could fail.

Bookmark or share this article

  • Logo: del.icio.us
  • Logo: Digg
  • Logo: Facebook
  • Logo: Google
  • Logo: Mixx
  • Logo: Newstrust
  • Logo: Newsvine
  • Logo: Reddit
  • Logo: Slashdot
  • Logo: Stumbleupon
  • Logo: twitter
  • Logo: Windows Live
  • Logo: Yahoo Bookmarks