By: Elena Jordanov (EC ’18)
The Carbon Reduction Challenge (CRC) was started at the Georgia Institute of Technology by climatologist, Dr. Kim Cobb, over 11 years ago. The Challenge began as a course for students to take part in, pushing them to think of new initiatives to decrease carbon emissions in the atmosphere and develop cost-benefit analyses to incentivize Georgia Tech to engage in these initiatives.
In the past couple years, CRC evolved beyond the classroom via undergraduate and graduate students’ co-op programs with companies in the Greater Atlanta area. As increased involvement and success of the student-led CRC occurs, it will be demonstrated that carbon reduction initiatives are feasible for large companies, universities, and developed cities to implement.
This past Spring 2018 semester was the first semester Emory University joined the challenge. Through connections between Emory’s Climate Analysis and Solutions Team’s (ECAST) Daniel Rochberg and Dr. Cobb, the first CRC team at Emory was developed. The team includes Elena Jordanov (B.S. in chemistry, minor in philosophy), Miranda Mitchell (B.S. in environmental science, B.A. in political science) and Ken Wakabayashi (B.A in chemistry, B.S. in environmental science).
The Emory CRC team has partnered with the Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI) and developed an initiative to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through refrigerator and freezer management. Project Drawdown, a multi-national research effort that assessed the viability and effectiveness of possible strategies for decreasing potential global carbon dioxide emissions, ranked refrigerant management as the #1 strategy. After auditing a subset of the freezers and refrigerators in the Chemistry Department’s Atwood and Emerson buildings, the team estimates that at least 5.5% of these buildings’ total CO2 emissions results from powering cold storage equipment. The two buildings together emit 650,000 lbs of CO2 per month, and spend $38,000 each month on the energy creating these emissions.
In order to decrease these emissions, the CRC team has created an Emory Freezer Challenge, based off of the North American Freezer Challenge. In this challenge, chemistry labs will compete to implement fridge and freezer management strategies each month and gain the most points. To begin, a pilot challenge will take place from May 20th-August 31st in order to get feedback from Principal Investigators and lab managers on what works and does not work about the Emory Freezer Challenge. The Emory Freezer Challenge is 100% voluntary, and labs can get a substantial amount of points by choosing any management methods that work best for them. The Challenge has also been designed to not give labs with more equipment the advantage during the competition; labs get points for enrolling each of their equipment and supplying the manufacturer’s label. The label contains the power consumption information that are used in baseline energy consumption calculations.
One innovative aspect about the Emory Freezer Challenge is that the team will obtain a holistic picture of the total CO2 emissions produced from the Chemistry Department’s equipment by supplying energy consumption meters to labs that volunteer to use them. The team has been funded for a limited supply of meters and thus 3-4 meters will be implemented in laboratory equipment that are representative samples of different types of equipment, such as -80 and -20 freezers, 4 degree fridges and refrigerator-freezer cabinets.
Due to this structure, the first labs to volunteer for the Emory Freezer Challenge and to have a meter in their lab are more likely to win the most points. Labs who apply for Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 are all eligible for a meter. Follow the link below to sign up your lab and join the Emory Freezer Challenge!
Above is a great example of a before and after equipment organization from the Quave lab in the School of Medicine. On the left, you can see a more disorganized, frosted freezer. On the right, all samples are organized in racks, which the CRC team is happy to provide. The new, managed freezer has also been defrosted, which greatly increases the efficiency of the freezer. Also, making sure all equipment is full impacts the efficiency of a freezer or refrigerator. Placing foam blocks or ice packs where there is free space in a refrigerator or freezer, as well as consolidating as many samples as possible into one equipment, are all viable options for improving freezer and refrigerator management.
By properly managing samples within lab equipment, the goal is to not only make refrigerators and freezers more efficient, but lab members as well. By having a proper inventory of where items are and prioritizing accessibility, lab members will increase their efficiency during experiments.
Getting Green Lab Certified is a lot easier than most think. Follow this link to get more information on how you can do it, and be eligible for funding to implement sustainability innovations in your lab! The Blakey Lab and Wuest Lab in Chemistry have done it; you can too!