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Conserve Here, Conserve Now: A Lesson from Juneau

On Friday morning, NPR’s All Things Considered revisited the city of Juneau, Alaska two months after a series of avalanches destroyed the city’s main power line. Alaska Electric Light and Power, the only power utility in the state, had to scramble to meet the city’s energy demands with diesel-powered generators.

Overnight, the price of electricity shot up 400–500%.

The response was immediate. Anticipating the massive sticker shock of that first electricity bill, the good people of Juneau didn’t wait around for the next generation of LED lightbulbs or the rollout of the long-awaited (and probably over-hyped) Chevy Volt. Those hardy—and surprisingly resilient—Alaskan folk took matters into their own hands.

The city dimmed or shut off street lights. The International Airport left its runway lights off except when a plane was taking off or landing. People switched from electric to wood stoves, turned down their thermostats, and bundled up indoors. They started doing dishes by hand, with cold water, and hanging laundry to dry on clotheslines. They turned the lights on only when desperately necessary.

The citizens of Juneau were able to collectively cut their power consumption by nearly a third in one week, and maintain that level for the next six weeks.

And although many predicted that Juneauites would resume their pre-crisis levels of electricity consumption once the plant was back up and running, two months out they’ve been able to maintain a level 10% below last summer’s levels (this in spite of an especially cold and wet summer).

So what should we take away from this story? Two things:

  • Americans can and are willing to quickly and drastically change their behavior, given the right incentive—namely, a sucker-punch to the wallet.
  • We don’t have to wait around for radical new technological advances or government intervention—we, as individuals and communities, can do what it takes to lower our consumption of fossil fuels. Today. Right now.

Listen to the whole story here.


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Uncertainty got you down? The political world may seem like it’s crumbling around us, but this we know: We can make it, America. Literally, we can make things. Houses. Gardens. Food. Below we’ve selected some of our classic how-to and DIY books (and some new favorites) to help you sustain your self, family, and community. […] Read More

Chelsea Green on Instagram: Our Most Popular Photos of 2016

What a year for Chelsea Green on Instagram! We began the year with 500 followers and are now fast approaching 4,000 photo-loving brewers, gardeners, cheesemakers, permaculturists, foodies, seed-savers, homesteaders, foragers, and more. Our most popular posts of 2016 say a lot about what makes you happy: mushrooms, innovative garden designs and techniques, tiny cabins, and […] Read More

What’s a Carbon Sink?

World leaders met in Marrakech this month as part of COP22, to discuss the next steps to reducing global climate emissions. One of the solutions being discussed is carbon farming. Author Eric Toensmeier participated in COP22, in part, because he literally wrote a book on it. First off – what is carbon farming? It’s a […] Read More
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