The Green Labs Program works with researchers, staff, faculty, and building managers to implement sustainable practices and technologies in lab buildings. Because of the resource intensity of lab science and the unique conditions in each individual lab, sustainability is approached at the lab-specific level in addition to a building-wide perspective.

Take Action



  • Pledge to close your fume hoods and join the Shut the Sash competition. 

Benchtop Lab Equipment


Recycling and Reuse


Shut the Sash

Fume hoods are one of the most energy intensive types of equipment in a laboratory environment, but significant savings can be achieved by keeping them closed when not in use. The Shut the Sash fume hood competition was started in 2005 in the Harvard Chemistry and Chemical Biology (CCB) Department as a way to combat the high energy consumption of variable air volume (VAV) fume hoods. Since then, the 5-lab pilot program has expanded to involve 19 labs and over 350 researchers. The program has high visibility department-wide and has led to significant improvements in user awareness and behavior. To date, this program saves more energy than any other behavioral program at Harvard.

How it works:

  • Monthly competition with goals for each lab established in terms of exhaust airflow averages (in cubic feet per minute).
  • Each lab has customized goal based on number of hoods, usage patterns, and exhaust airflow ranges. This allows for lab to lab comparisons despite differences in research habits and lab setups.
  • Real-time exhaust airflow readings for each lab are taken every 30 minutes automatically through the building automation system (BMS). These points are used to track performance on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
  • Each month a pizza party is raffled off to one lab that met its goal for the previous month.
  • Bi-annual wine and cheese celebrations reward labs that are consistent on an ongoing basis.


  • As of 2010, a 30% reduction in fume hood exhaust levels had been achieved compared to pre-contest levels, resulting in:
    Annual energy savings of over $240,000 at $7/cfm
    Annual reductions of over 300 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Researchers are excited to see the results, and there is a very “feel-good” atmosphere at the parties, as everyone feels that they have contributed to the success.
  • Prompt reporting of fume hood problems ensures that issues are identified and resolved quickly, further contributing to energy savings. 

Get involved:

  • Close your sash each time you walk away from the hood—and remind your lab-mates to do the same!
  • Email for free fume hood reminder stickers and magnets!
  • Be the voice for your lab: report any fume hood issues to facilities ASAP to ensure they are resolved as quickly as possible. 

More outreach methods:

  • Visual cues are used to remind researchers to close their hoods after each use (including posters outside each lab, and reminder stickers and/or magnets on most fume hoods)
  • Bi-monthly emails are sent to all lab members:
    Mid-month updates let the labs know if they are on track to meet their goal
    End of month updates share the results from the previous month and announce the winner of the pizza party raffle
  • Posters with up-to-date charts of the results are posted every month on each lab’s bulletin board.
  • Each lab has appointed a volunteer within their lab to emphasize the importance of keeping unused sashes closed and to report any problems with the hoods promptly.
  • Presentations and recognition at the bi-annual wine and cheese parties to celebrate the semester’s accomplishments.

Freezer Management

Freezer Best Practices

The use of -80F freezers is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions on campus. According to data compiled on the EPA/DOE Labs 21 Program Energy Efficient Equipment wiki, the direct cost of electricity use for an individual -80F freezer could be between $1000 and $1500 per year (at $0.15/kWh). In 2008, Stanford University commissioned a study which found that its 2000 -80F freezers were costing the university $5.6 million per year to operate. Take the following steps to save money on purchases, extend the life of your freezers, and decrease energy usage and emissions.

Maintain your freezer

Host an annual freezer cleanout

Make wise freezer purchasing decisions

Freezer Management Program (FAS)

A study was conducted in the summer of 2011 that proved significant energy savings were associated with keeping freezer coils and filters free of dust, allowing for proper heat exchange. The study also revealed that routine freezer care is often overlooked due to competing priorities in research labs and a lack of understanding of the importance of these measures. In response, the FAS Freezer Preventative Maintenance Program was developed by the FAS Office for Physical Resources and Planning to provide a blanket contract that would cover all -80 freezers at FAS—relieving each lab from the responsibility of arranging for proper care and ensuring that a basic level of service was being performed on all freezers across the school. The program saves energy while providing a more secure environment for research samples—a win-win situation for research labs and facilities teams alike.

Key Facts:

  • Open to all labs at FAS with -80 freezer(s)
  • Covers one annual inspection and servicing per freezer by Shon’s Scientific Refrigeration
  • Actions include checking the temperature setpoint vs. actual temperature, checking that the freezer alarm battery is working properly, ensuring that gasket and seals are intact and that there are no tears, and cleaning the condenser filter.
  • Does not include any activities that involve disturbing samples (such as defrosting the freezer or cleaning out old samples). These tasks are the responsibility of lab members.
  • Please contact with any questions.

Sign up for this program