Three weeks ago we lost power during one of the seemingly weekly snow storms that have been hitting the Northeast all winter long. It is never fun when you lose power, especially during extreme weather. But if you have ever spent some time outside of the United States, you may have experienced a power outage more often than the occasional blip here. I was in NYC when power dropped at home in PA, but I soon got a text message from my folks letting me know that power was down.

Here in the U.S., we are quite fortunate. Our power outages are often averted by our power utilities, who are managing outages & spikes without much interruption to customers. When we do have power outages, they typically do not last longer than a few hours. But they are happening more frequently. Many people think about power consumption when the lights go out, or when they get their power bill. My last bill alone was almost $200! I cannot easily control the heat my apartment much less building. The only way most New Yorkers regulate excessive heat in the winter time is by opening their windows. Nothing more frustrating than to see ambivalent wastage of a valuable resource. Seems a bit smug for our society, no?

I have been thinking about just how I could reduce my daily, weekly, monthly, energy consumption levels. A staggering quote from PowerScoreCard.org:

“The average American produces about 40,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per year. Together, we use nearly a million dollars worth of energy every minute, night and day, every day of the year.”

The three easiest things to do:

  • 1. Unplug any electronics when not in use.
  • 2. Walk, Use Public Transportation more, & Drive less.
  • 3. Use Compact Fluorescent Lights
  • I am sure most people do these thing. But If you really want to do more: use energy efficient appliances, insulate your walls, replace your windows with energy efficient ones, caulk all seals, the list goes on… Regardless of where you live, there’s always an easy thing that can be done. What will you do?

    Our power outage in PA lasted for four days. Outside temperatures were in the teens and twenties, while it wasn’t much warmer inside. I know what your response may be… Yes I put on a sweater! My folks were okay after moving to a place with heat and hot water, but I camped inside with my 20 sleeping bag and plenty of blankets. We lost parts of seven iced over trees and we were lucky. On the fourth day, a brief half hour reprieve of power felt much like putting on sneakers after being in ice skating or ski boots. Heat never felt so warm, a hot shower never felt so good, a plugged in appliance never seemed so unwelcome…

    An assessment of everything in the house yielded a short list of new projects. Many will take a lot of time, investment, and changing of habits. Out of the three, changing habits is easiest. While I do see a Nest thermostat in my future, I do think a bit more about being mindful about the little things I can control. Shutting off that light, unplugging that tv (for more reasons than just energy conservation), and hoping that the next power outage will be a voluntary one.