Local conservation leads to model for new ‘app’

Ever wondered how your energy consumption compares to others’? Curious how the neighbors’ behavior might affect yours?

Hood River utility users once set a benchmark for conscientious, voluntary conservation efforts back in the 1980s and that history is about to play a big part in influencing others across the United States.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has partnered with Facebook and Opower to develop a “social energy app” which they believe will help encourage energy conservation across 20 million households subscribing to the system.

Using the Facebook platform, users will be able to compare their own energy consumption with neighbors of similar household size and building square footage. Utility companies including an initial set of PG&E regions will be offering the service to their customers.

Back in the 1980s NRDC conducted a highly successful weatherization and conservation project in Hood River County. One of the most effective tools discovered through the process was “word of mouth,” ultimately leading to 91 percent participation in the project within the county, and significant energy savings.

The new Opower “social energy app” was created as a result of the social science research on human behavior change and energy use issuing from the Hood River project.

Customers using the “app” — not yet available in Hood River — can automatically track their use data, compare to other similar homes and enter energy-saving competitions as well as share tips with neighbors on how to conserve.

A sample comparison on energy use is available without a direct utility connection at the Opower website: https://social.opower.com/explore.

Until the social energy app becomes available to Hood River County utility users, it is still possible to obtain a reliable comparison the old fashioned way — call up your neighbors and ask.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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