Energy Saving – the Alaska Way

produces heat (and light)

If you listen carefully you can hear some politicians murmuring about saving energy, suggesting we should ride our bikes more often, insulate our homes a bit, or unplug unused electronic equipment. Some brave public folks even go as far as invoking ideas that are anathema to consumer society, such as a slightly smaller refrigerator.

But all their solutions, even applied consequently across the population, will hardly have any discernable effect other than the sarcasm, bitterness, hypocrisy and guilt it would produce.

Let’s assume for a moment that we CAN prevent the worst consequences of climate change, the sea level rising and massive species extinction. It won’t be through petty measures. But who will take radical steps if their results are not even sure to prevent disaster and their neighbors are living like there is no tomorrow?

How can the urgency of the problem, from the perspective of the planet, be made visible? Imagine, for a second, that the price we pay for electricity is fair and is a measure for the amount of damage its generation from fossil fuels has inflicted on the environment. Now imagine this price to rise fivefold. How creative would our solutions to save energy be?

In Juneau, Alaska, a 2008 Avalanche shut down electricity generators and made the price of electricity actually increase fivefold. One resident asked for help on a website, and I browsed the advise she was given. It was amazing. This proves for once and for all what we are capable of if we understand the urgency of our problems. What follows is a compilation of the tips I found (and you can search the web for many more).

1. “Refrigerator: Unplug it and put your food outside on the porch if you have one. Spring weather in Alaska is likely to be cool enough to serve as an outdoor refrigerator. If you have a cooler, use that. If you’ve got stuff in the freezer, use it or sacrifice it. Keep your fridge and freezer 3/4 of the way full, it will work at it’s best this way. Add jugs of water if you need to do. Do not rely heavily on food that easily spoils, such as meat or eggs. Bread, apples, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, peanut butter, canned goods, dried beans or grains do not have to be refrigerated at all.”

2. “You might consider going medieval and hanging heavy fabric on the outside walls to insulate them better (rugs, blankets). At night it’s definitely worth covering the windows however you can. Even the most energy-efficient window is much less well-insulated than an adequate wall. Personally, I’d also consider whether I could move my life into a single room temporarily (maybe sleeping on a mattress in the kitchen where the fridge used to be…), making it possible to shut off the heat and power in the rest of the apartment.” This does not come from Sarah Palin.

3. Organize community meals. It was suggested people eat at their neighbor’s place, and they return the favor the next day. “It takes no more energy to cook for ten than to cook for one.”

4. Dress warm, use electric blankets instead of space heaters. Sounds logical, doesn’t it?

5. Organize alternating sleepovers. Yes, we might incidentally turn into social beings again.

6. Eat a raw diet. This has proven to be healthy and consumes, well, virtually no cooking energy.

7. “Close all of your doors. It prevents drafts from circulating. If you need to use electronics use them all in the bedroom. The ambient heat from a desktop PC is pretty good. In reverse in summer: close the windows, blinds and curtains in the morning to keep the warm air out.  Only use your oven to cook once a day and cook everything you need for the 3 meals. I do this at dinner – I cook breakfast (muffins, quick breads, etc) while dinner is cooking and they are ready for breakfast.”

8. Use LED lightblulbs. They use only 10% of the energy a CFL uses. That is, if you don’t need the heat a normal lightbulb would produce.

9. Consider cooking with your car’s engine. Apparently, there has been a cult book about this called Manifold Destiny, but truckers regularly use the heat of their engines to heat up a can of food.

10. “Keep the plug in the tub while taking a shower to save the hot water. Let the hot water warm the room. When the water is room temperature, drain it. Wasting hot water is literally energy down the drain.” Did any energy conservation hipster mention that?

11. “You can even preheat your bed by putting a cast iron (type) pot with rice/pasta that’s been heated to a boil in it between layers of newspapers/towels tucked in your bed. The rice will cook without extra energy and you’ll have a warm bed!” Did we hear this from greenpeace?

12. “Use a humidifier or if you a really cheap hang up a moist towel. Better yet don’t use the dryer and hang your clothes in doors. Moist air can hold more heat than dry air.” Did you know?

13. Wear socks, a hat, use a sleeping bag, and cuddle up together – and then turn the thermostat (the usage of a programmable thermostat can result in one of the most dramatic reductions) down a few degrees. It could be all so simple.

14. Washing. “Alternately, you could heat a pot of water on the stove or in the fireplace or on a grill and then have each person take sponge-baths with a washcloth alone with their pot of warm water. It’s what they did before water-heaters.” Where did we come from?

One thought on “Energy Saving – the Alaska Way

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *