Step it up from Earth Day to Energy Independence Week

Here’s a great idea from Graham Wright, PHIUS Senior Scientist and Chair of the PHIUS Technical Committee. We hope you’ll take up the challenge.

So, Earth Day was great, and everything. And the Earth Hour there.

Energy Independence Week. It's fun, it's patriotic, and we're virtually certain Stephen Colbert would approve.

Energy Independence Week. It’s fun, it’s patriotic, and we’re virtually certain Stephen Colbert would approve.

But let’s be real, Earth Day doesn’t challenge you to actually do anything in particular, and while Earth Hour does, that is vanishingly little  — one hour out of 8760 is addressing like 0.01% of the problem. After how many years now of Earth Day, what do you say we step the game up?

I call it Energy Independence Week. The idea is that, you extend the 4th of July holiday to a full week, during which you observe these three rules:

1. Use no grid electricity.
2. Burn no fossil fuels.
3. Make no trips to the grocery store.

It’s patriotic and fun. Like a staycation. You’ve got the charcoal grill out anyway. Notice that it’s twice as good even as “1% for the planet” in a couple of ways.

A) it’s 1 out of 52 instead of 1 out of 100, and
B) it’s not just a sacrifice concentrated on you for a diffuse benefit to the planet – it increases your own resilience.

I did this in 2008, a few months before I ever heard of passive house. But I like how it ties in – because of the time of year, it focuses attention on avoiding overheating, not a bad thing. (You will be fine if your passive house is not designed too hot. 😉 And it’s forgiving to the many of us who do not yet live in passive houses; this would be a much harder challenge yet in the winter, in most places.

At the time, I was living in rural Minnesota in a straw bale cottage, so heating and cooling wasn’t a problem. I got by with one solar panel and one battery for electricity. That was enough to run the well pump and my laptop. You don’t need much lighting in Minnesota that time of year. Instead of hot showers I swam in the river, which was a short bike ride away. It’s like camping but, you’ve got all your books or shoes with you.

Your challenges may vary. On rule 3 there, stocking up ahead of time is ok, preparations are part of the idea here. One of the other preparations I made was for irrigation — at the time I was trying to keep a bunch of discount hazelnut seedlings alive in the baking sun. I figured my little panel could not generate enough electricity to run the well pump for that, so I set up a big water barrel so I could gravity feed the orchard. Yeah, I faked it by filling it from the well ahead of time; ideally it would have been a real rain barrel all along.

Again, learning stuff like this is part of the fun. So, I hope you’ll take up the challenge and start planning now. And please, share your strategies, tactics, and experiences in the comments section here at the Klingenblog.

3 thoughts on “Step it up from Earth Day to Energy Independence Week

  1. I live in Portland now and its much farther to the river, plus like a 250 foot climb back up from it. I’ll have to think about this.

  2. While I love the idea of energy independence and changing things up, I’m going to risk being a nay-sayer. Passive House is not off-grid technology that is 100% renewable power driven. I think prescribing an energy budget we could use for a week would be more analogous to PH. Finding measurable quantities for the general public would be key. Or looking at it from a reduction standpoint, after all we tout that PH reduces through conservation by up to 90%.
    Say…use only 1 gallon of gas for the week. Or…remove all the light bulbs from your light fixtures and give everyone an LED bulb they must screw in and out to get the light they need. Or … implement “sailor showers”.
    And thinking about no grid power use for those in hot and humid climates on the 4th and the week after could be a death sentence. I’m all for weaning our collective being off what we consider “normal”, but making PH and our philosophy accessible has to be figured. Love the thought and challenge.

  3. I do not agree with this proposal, although I agree with the concept. Notte everyone has the chance ‘to do what was proposed. A week of initiatives to spread the concept would be more fleasible.

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