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A Greener Alternative to Cold-Chain Shipping - Pilot Program

Shipping temperature sensitive products is critical to scientific research, but it also represents one of our major environmental impacts. As part of the UC San Diego and Thermo Fisher Scientific partnership, we’re exploring new ways to safely deliver orders while keeping the environment in mind.

UC San Diego receives more than 6,000 cold-chain shipments a year. Many of these items are shipped in single-use expanded polystyrene (EPS) coolers, which are not readily recyclable and typically end up in landfills. UC San Diego is collaborating with Thermo Fisher Scientific to pilot a more sustainable method of shipping products requiring cold transport and storage. 

Pilot Program Details

The partnership teams are piloting a returnable and reusable cold-chain shipping system for shipping temperature-sensitive products.

Estimated Outcomes

Based on the order history of participating labs, we estimate ~9,000 lbs. of packaging waste (EPS, paper coolers, and gel packs) will be diverted from landfills during the 6-month pilot

How It Works

  • Cold-chain orders are shipped from Thermo Fisher Scientific's Carlsbad warehouse in the temperature-controlled, reusable cold-chain delivery system.
  • UC San Diego receives and stores the order in a temperature-controlled refrigerator or freezer at Trade Street and returns the cold-chain system to Thermo Fisher Scientific for reuse.
  • UC San Diego's Logistics team prepares the order and delivers it to end-users in our labs in a validated, reusable cooler bag with reusable gel packs.
  • Upon receipt, the lab immediately stores the order in a temperature-controlled refrigerator or freezer.

Participating Labs

The project team is working with a few selected UC San Diego labs. Participants will start receiving shipments via the reusable cold-chain delivery systems in January 2023. 


  • Decrease the amount of EPS shipped to campus from Thermo Fisher Scientific's Carlsbad warehouse
  • Reusable shipping containers reduce the supply chain's greenhouse gas emissions footprint
  • Help UC San Diego and Thermo Fisher Scientific meet their respective goals to reduce waste 

Once the pilot phase is complete, the team will work on scaling the program to maximize the environmental benefit.

Interested in participating in the cold-chain packaging Pilot Program or have feedback to share?

Email the project team at and mention 'Cold-chain packaging Pilot Program' in the subject line. 

Find answers, request services, or get help from our team at the UC San Diego Services & Support portal.