UCSF Sustainability Stories

Lauren Ng, Sustainability Outreach and Communications Fellow

The Results Are In! 2019 Adopt a Spot Competition

Dat Nguyen of Parnassus GI Lab won the grand prize of an iPad for being the biggest energy saver of this year’s Adopt a Spot campaign

Each year, the Office of Sustainability hosts a six-week competition called Adopt a Spot to conserve energy in the labs by asking researchers to power-down equipment at the end of the day.  Labs are energy-intensive spaces, consuming three to four times more energy per square meter than most offices. The results of this year’s Adopt a Spot show that small actions really do add up.

If researchers continue the power-down habits for one year, the program could save over 249,000 kWh of electricity. This is significant, because climate change poses severe risks to health, especially to our most vulnerable populations, and one of the most effective ways we can mitigate climate change is by reducing our demand for energy while transitioning to more renewable sources.

How does it work? You may have seen the Office of Sustainability hanging around the lobbies of Medical Sciences at Parnassus or in front of Sandler in Mission Bay, offering cookies and signing researchers up for this program, enticing them with weekly prize drawings and the grand prize of an iPad. Each researcher is allowed to adopt as many pieces of equipment in their lab as desired – this year, we had a grand total of 124 pieces of equipment, including centrifuges, thermal cyclers, microscopes, and even a pipette robot! To make things fun, the Office of Sustainability encouraged participants to name and sticker a face onto their adoptee.

Spin doctor


Over the course of the competition, weekly spot-checks were conducted by visiting the labs in the morning to see if the equipment was turned off overnight. If it was successfully powered-down, the researcher was entered into a prize drawing. Each piece of equipment was eligible to for a prize drawing. This year, weekly prizes included solar chargers, tote bags, reusable utensil sets, and backpacks!

infographic of results
In the end, the six-week campaign saved ~$5,000 and 28,744 kWh. This is the equivalent of saving the greenhouse gas emissions of driving a vehicle for over 49,000 miles, or the carbon emissions of burning more than 2,200 gallons of fossil fuels.

The Office of Sustainability hopes that UCSF researchers continue their energy-saving habits, because that would amount to annual savings of over 430,000 miles driven in a vehicle, or almost 20,000 gallons of gas. Furthermore, by projecting these savings over the course of a year, UCSF could save over $43,000. It is the hope of the program that after the six-week competition, participants will have formed new long-term energy saving behavior habits. 

And the Winner is…

Our winner this year was Dat Nguyen of the GI Lab at Parnassus. Through his efforts, he saved over 500 kWh, equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions from driving more than 860 miles.  When asked if he had any advice for being green in the lab, he shared, “Simple actions such as remembering to turning off instruments or correctly disposing recyclable waste is helpful. But as bench lab workers, we should strive to reduce the total generation of waste by favoring the usage of products with less packaging and reusing packing material to ship or transport samples.” When asked why he thinks sustainability is important to his work, he responded, “I care about the environment, because it is something that all of us share and affected by, no matter what we do for a living… So I feel like it is my responsibility to do the most that I can to preserve the shared living space for everyone and for later generations.”

Jiyoo Chang, a research analyst at Shieh Lab in Parnassus, was one of our weekly prize winners. She shared, “I’ve been looking for ways to live more sustainably in my personal life, so when I heard about Adopt a Spot, I thought, why not apply this in my work life as well?” Her advice: “Start small, and try to make it a habit. I started to turn off the lights when I am the last person leaving in my lab and that habit has stuck with me. Putting stickers on the devices is a good reminder as well.” In fact, the Office of Sustainability can provide free stickers to help remind you to turn off lights and monitors, as part of our LivingGreen Certification program for labs, offices, and clinical units.

Interested in what it takes to become a LivingGreen Certified Lab? You can preview the certification checklist and read more about UCSF Green labs.