Bottom-Up Approach to Energy Efficiency in Labs

Lisa Sanzenbacher, University of Illinois at Chicago
Jonathan Castillo, University of Illinois at Chicago

Energy saving is a concept that most people are aware of. Few people realize that saving energy can mean more than just a cheaper electric bill. Coal-fired plants make up the nation's number one source of carbon dioxide emissions, not to mention is the leading air pollutant when it comes smog, ashes, and acid rain. In the United States, 44% of the electricity generated comes from power plants that use coal. Areas around these plants are hazardous to the environment and can cause asthma and other lung diseases. Reducing energy usage not only lowers bill cost, but reduces health risks. Reducing health hazards is not a reason people generally think of when it comes to reducing energy usage.

The University of Illinois at Chicago's Climate Action Plan calls for energy savings campus-wide alongside other measures that should be taken to make the school more sustainable. The Office of Sustainability promotes and works towards a more eco-friendly school through various projects. One such project is the Ultra-Low Temperature Freezer Initiative at UIC which is focused on reducing energy usage in labs, more specifically through researching potential energy saving measures that can be taken in relation to lab freezers. This not only includes gathering information on freezers and how they're used by lab staff, but also includes educating lab users on why it matters. One of this project's main goals is educational outreach, and through this, the message can be spread on why sustainability and energy reduction matters. In a state with an uncertain budget, it is imperative to find energy saving techniques that don't require a capital investment. This session will explore those marketing and educational techniques.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn how to reduce plug load energy with a zero budget using examples of the case study
  • Learn how to effectively quantify plug load energy usage in a large university setting
  • Learn how to implement an energy efficiency outreach program
  • Learn how to measure plug load output in laboratories


In the Office of Sustainability, Lisa Sanzenbacher creates programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) dedicated to the UIC Climate Commitments of reducing carbon emissions, reducing landfill, managing stormwater, and increasing biodiversity on campus. Prior to her work with the Office of Sustainability, Lisa worked as the Laboratory Sustainability Analyst with the UIC Environmental Health and Safety office working towards reducing hazardous waste and other laboratory solid waste, moonlighting as a lab safety auditor. She was lead to sustainability in laboratories after her time as a lab manager in the Department of Psychiatry at UIC.

Lisa has a Master's degree from Illinois Tech in Environmental Management and Sustainability and a bachelor's degree from UIC in Biological Sciences. She holds a LEED Green Associate accreditation from the US Green Building Council.

Jonathan Castillo is a junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is majoring in Earth and Environmental and Sciences. Jonathan started as an intern at the Office of Sustainability last spring and has worked with Lisa on the ultra-low temperature freezer project ever since.


Note: I2SL did not edit or revise abstract or biography text. Abstracts and biographies are displayed as submitted by the author(s).