Way To Go Juneau!

by Katy on August 16, 2008 · 1 comment



I was listening to the local National Public Radio (NPR) station this morning. (It’s a super dull commute, but the real, grown-up news is a nice change from the Foo Fighters that dominate the car radio these days.)

A story came on about how the residents of Juneau, Alaska drastically decreased their electricity usage after an avalanche knocked out their power line in April of 2008. As a result, these poor people saw their electricity rates increase five-fold!

So they turned off lights, plugged electronics into power strips, hung laundry to dry and heated with wood stoves. 

But the NPR story was not simply about what a great job Juneau residents did in the face of adversity. The story focused on how, even though the power is back to normal, people are still continuing with their extreme energy conservation methods. 

And why shouldn’t they?

Decreasing your energy usage not only saves you buckets of moolah, but it’s a great way to do your part for a healthy planet.

But it shouldn’t take a catastrophe to bring about change. Change can happen in the uneventful here and now.

So go ahead and:

  • Lower your thermostat in the winter.
  • Hang dry your clothing.
  • Replace your incandescent bulbs with energy saving compact fluorescent light bulbs. And turn them off when not needed.
  • Plug your vampire electronics into a single power strip, and then turn it off when not in use.
  • Keep your hot water heater at a lower temperature.
  • Only run your dishwasher when completely filled.

Don’t wait for an avalanche to start making positive changes. Heck, you could even use the money you save for a trip up to gorgeous Alaska.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

CanadianKate August 17, 2008 at 5:50 am

“Decreasing your energy usage not only saves you buckets of moolah, but it’s a great way to do your part for a healthy planet.”

I disagree. You mentioned how they heated with wood stoves during that time. A lot of smog is caused by wood burning. Singapore springs to mind from the burning to clear land in Indonesia (I was there for a week and never saw the sun once even though it wasn’t during the rainy season), but even in Canada we get smog warnings such as the following from 2005:

“Both Environment Canada and public health officials … point to a boom in the installation of fireplaces in types of residences that never had them before.

“New condominiums that are going up, they’re all equipped with fireplaces,” said Norman King, an epidemiologist who works with Montreal’s department of public health.

“It seems to be a more popular phenomenon, so what we ask people to do during the smog alert is to stop using their wood-burning apparatus.”


Into the 1900’s the major fogs in London were caused by heating and cooking fires. Electricity cleaned up that dramatically. Here’s an account of the last major one, in 1952:

“On 5th December 1952 hanging in the air were thousands of tonnes of black soot, sticky particles of tar and gaseous sulphur dioxide, which had mostly come from coal burnt in domestic hearths. Smoke particles trapped in the fog gave it a yellow-black colour.

The water from the fog condensed around the soot and tar particles. The sulphur dioxide reacted inside these foggy, sooty droplets to form a solute sulphuric acid creating in effect a very intense form of acid rain.” (http://www.portfolio.mvm.ed.ac.uk/studentwebs/session4/27/greatsmog52.htm)

Remember that heat from electricity is much cleaner than from wood source due to the fact that electrical generating plants have major scrubbers on their stacks to reduce particulates.

I’m all for reducing waste usage of electricity (it was in Alaska that I got my 3 sheets to the wind magnet that sits on my dryer to remind me to use my line) and am working to get my usage down to the point where solar will handle almost all our electrical use except heat (my house is electrically heated). We are starting with solar hot water but hope to expand in the next 5 years to everything but heat.

But I don’t use CFC bulbs everywhere because the ‘wasted’ heat from regular bulbs directly reduces the electricity I need to heat my house, especially in the ‘shoulder seasons (Sept/Oct and April/May) when we don’t run our furnace but rely on the sun heating the house in the day and the insulation to hold that heat until morning.

We don’t use A/C so our summer usage is my best indication of how we are doing with our ‘base’ electrical use (fridge, freezer, computers, electrical items – I cook with gas.) But that isn’t completely accurate since I get up to 15 hours of daylight so lights aren’t used hardly at all. In the winter, I get as little as 8 hours so lights will be used then (but the heat from the bulbs offsets my heating bill.)

Energy conservation to save money is easy and clearcut. Energy conservation for a healthy planet is much less clear. As you know from the Compact, saving money doesn’t always go hand in hand with saving the environment.


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