Sitka Conservation Society
Nov 03 2013

Our Offices get an Energy Upgrade!

The Old Harbor Books Building in Sitka where SCS’s offices are located, received an energy audit by participating in the Alaska Energy Authority’s Commercial Building Energy Audit Program. This video series follows the building’s audit, energy upgrades and expectations.  Visit the Commercial Energy Audit program webpage for more information.

Video 1 of 5 provides background to the Old Harbor Books building and the community of Sitka about improving the efficiency of an old building. This is a collaborative project of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project and Sitka Conservation Society.

Video 2 of 5 tells about the Alaska Commercial Building Energy Audit Program and Brian McNitt, the building manager’s decision to apply for the program. Certified Energy Auditor Andy Baker explains how the building is benchmarked and what data is contained in the report. This is a collaborative project of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project and Sitka Conservation Society.

Video 3 of 5 explains what the certified energy auditor, Andy Baker, recommended for the Old Harbor Books Building. Andy also explains what information is offered in a Level II ASHRAE audit. This is a collaborative project of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project and Sitka Conservation Society.

Video 4 of 5 provides an explanation from the building manager, Brian McNitt, of what recommendations they tackled right away and which ones they will be working on in the near future. This is a collaborative project of the Renewable Energy Alaska Project and Sitka Conservation Society.

In the final video, the Old Harbor Books building manager provides his experience in the Alaska Energy Authority’s Commercial Building Energy Audit Program. Learn more about energy efficiency programs for commercial and residential buildings and how you and your community can benefit by using less energy:


Oct 25 2013

Tongass Building

There are countless reasons to ‘buy local’ ranging from defining and maintaining local character to strengthening the community to stimulating local entrepreneurship and keeping money in the community.  In a community like Sitka that can, more often than not, present a suite of challenges, primarily, a limited capacity to produce certain goods and commodities that other communities have easy access to. Not only are we limited by capacity, we are physically isolated and rely heavily on a barge system to provide us with many of the building blocks of an autonomous economy.

Roof in progress

The solution is simple, build a local economy around the materials you have, wood. As part of the transition framework, the USFS is diverting away from ‘big timber’ and devoted to diversifying forest product economics. This includes a Land Management plan that moves towards small scale, sustainable timber harvesting within roaded, young growth areas. SCS has worked to highlight this transition through community projects that demonstrate young growth and local wood as viable building materials. This shift in Tongass management opens Sitka up to develop a local workforce centered on our assets and ensures that we will capture the economic value of our resources within the local economy. The harvesting, processing and installation of local materials leads to jobs throughout the SE. This type of economy results in not just more jobs, but enhanced social capital in our communities, healthier buildings and the beginning of a robust building supply chain. Local materials means less CO2 emissions tied up in transport and less money leaving our community.

Jamal Floate (left) discussing the project

Today, more and more architects and builders are choosing local, sustainably harvested, produced or recycled materials. Enter Jamal Floate, local entrepreneur, builder and owner of Renaissance Construction. Despite the many challenges faced here in Sitka, he is buying and building local. He constructs projects with energy efficiency in mind and uses local, sustainably harvested wood products. His current project is a private home here in Sitka.  The external and support components consist of wood products sustainably harvested and milled in Wrangell. Floate hopes to use locally harvested and milled Sitka Red Alder from False Island for interior finish work. If he does, the alder can be kilned and processed right here in Sitka by Todd Miller.

Floate is equally committed to energy concerns, not only are the bulk of the construction materials locally and sustainably produced; the house will be highly energy efficient.  That starts with the design and size, the building footprint is only 780 square feet, and the finished square footage will be around 1000 square feet.  Despite the modest foot print, the house will include a great room with vaulted ceilings, a large loft bedroom and master bath,  guest bedroom, second bathroom, kitchen, utility room and covered outdoor deck.  This is due in part to the materials, as well as the building envelope, technology and design techniques. The design incorporates a radiant floor heating system that is more conductive than other types of radiant heat, and will run off of water from the home’s water heater.  The house will also have a zero clearance wood-burning stove, providing exceptional heating capacity and improving indoor air quality.

Floate maintains that this construction model can be replicated in Sitka, and the cost per square foot is no more expensive than traditionally produced homes made with imported building materials. The combination of design and materials will result in a healthier house  and distinct character.  It starts with a paradigm shift, that spaces can be smaller and with more thoughtful design and planning they can be unique and efficient.  This model is linking local businesses and strengthening the community. The possibilities are endless and could result in other opportunities in the retrofitting and renovating sectors of construction as well.

View across the soon to be kitchen and great room

Jun 04 2013

Conservation in the Classroom

Did you build your own water filters out of cotton balls and coffee filters, make homemade rainwater catchment systems, or simulate oil rigs with sand and straws when you were in third grade? Neither did I. Third graders in Chris Bryner’s class got to embark on a journey to learn all about water conservation in and around the Tongass over the course of the last few months through a project called Conservation in the Classroom. This new program, created by myself and Chris Bryner, aimed to teach kids everything about water conservation and how it relates to their lives. Throughout two months, I taught lessons on how water conservation relates to things like pollution, waste, energy, water filtration, and more.

Chris’s classroom is unique in that he uses the model of project based learning. This non traditional and adaptive teaching style gave me the freedom to let kids learn by building and being creative instead of talking at them. They learned how hydropower works by building their own water wheel. They compared this to oil rigs as they created their own ocean with layers of sugar and sand to represent oil and the ocean floor. They saw as they pulled the “oil” out of the water with a straw, the “ocean floor” was disturbed. Instead of me telling them, they got to create the simulation on their own. They could see how hydropower is a clean source of energy and understand how our Blue Lake Dam works.

We talked about the importance of protecting watersheds, which is a huge concept for third graders! Kids crumpled up paper to create miniature mountain peaks. I sprayed water on all of the peaks and they watched it trickle down to create this big watershed. We did the same thing with food dye and saw how far it could travel if you dump a pollutant at the top of a mountain. The kids watched it happen in front of their eyes instead of being told what might happen. After that, the kids asked f we could have a trash pick up day to remove all the garbage from Cutthroat Creek to stop it from spreading.

Sitka Conservation Society’s advocates for protecting the Tongass and promoting ecological resiliency. By teaching third graders why conservation matters, they will have a better understanding of why the Tongass is worth protecting. Through these projects and others that the kids created, we all learned how even though water is abundant here, it relates and impacts other things in the Tongass and should be monitored and protected.

After exploring these things, the kids got to break up into groups and focus on a final project they were most interested in. One group investigated the benefits and drawbacks of the Blue Lake Dam Expansion Project. They went on a tour of the facility, interviewed key people from the project, and talked to Sitkans about what they thought. Another group wanted to know how to proper filter water. They did a Skype interview with a woman who builds filters for families in Africa. The kids were creative, inquisitive, and had incredible results. Conservation in the Classroom was a terrific collaboration between SCS and Chris Bryner’s class. Students walked away with a better understanding of their landscape and how to protect it.

Apr 23 2013

“Do the Math” Film Screening – Thurs. April 25th

In honor of Earth Week, the Sitka Conservation Society invites folks to a screening of “Do the Math,” a thought provoking and action motivating film about the battle between the fossil fuel industry and our future as a species.  This film showing is free and open to the public.

Thursday, April 25th, 7:30 pm

Larkspur Cafe
Watch the trailer:
Event details:

Mar 12 2013

SCS Recommends: This Old Window Workshop ~ March 17th

Jan 22 2013

Climate Change on the top of President Obama’s “To-Do” List

In his inauguration speech yesterday, President Obama made clear the key issues that are of the most concern and importance going into his second term in office. Of those handful of issues, addressing the threat of climate change was arguably the most important – both to the President, and to our planet. After so many years of stagnant, and often non-existent, discussions and attempts at creating policies to address climate change, President Obama made it quite clear that this inactivity will not continue. Addressing climate change is not just something we “must” do, it is something we “will” do.

We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgement of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.

Now, more than ever, we need to keep vigilant in our efforts to make sure that our Senators Begich and Murkowski know that climate change policy should be at the top of their “to do” lists as well.  Writing a letter, sending an email, making a call –  all are important actions that everyone can and should do to make sure our representatives in Washington DC know what their constituents value and want to see addressed in this new term.  It only takes a few minutes, and we already have a page set up to get you started.


If you missed the President’s speech, you can read a transcript here

Dec 03 2012

Light returns to the JV House: An end to November’s Energy Conservation Challenge

“Do you know what the best part of energy fasting day is? When you open the refrigerator and there is light!” This is what my roommate told me as we sat in a dark kitchen with a few White E and homemade candles burning. This rather permanent state of darkness we had created for ourselves was starting to have its effects on us. As the sunlight got shorter and shorter every day, I had noticed my patience for darkness was doing the same. I loved being challenged by only using one light after 5pm, but it was not an easy way to live for a month. It is the best way to learn how often you use lights or energy. Even on the last day of November, I still would forget to take my headlamp into my dark room and would have to feel around for what I needed.

We only made one exception to our set of guidelines. We decided that on Thanksgiving we could use one main light and a bathroom light, but not before we had a long conversation as a community about changing our rules for a holiday. For every other day, it didn’t matter if a friend stopped by or if we had a guest staying with us, we made everyone play along with our challenge. Reactions to this new way of life were mostly positive.

I learned that this month took some preparation. Every Wednesday our community did a complete energy fast using only the refrigerator and heating. Anything else that had to be plugged into the wall or used energy was off limits for those 24 hours. On Tuesdays we made food that we could eat cold the following day. Usually that consisted of cold rice and vegetables or tacos. We learned our lesson after not preparing for our first energy fast and some major scrounging had to happen in order to eat dinner.

Sitka relies on hydropower from dams to give power to the city. This is an amazing opportunity that we receive. We are not forced to use coal, and we only rely on a limited amount of oil. Most of the country does not have the opportunity to use something as environmentally friendly as hydropower. Sitka still has experienced times of energy shortages. In times like those it is important to remember that energy challenges are completely doable. It is possible to live for a month with one light and without power once and a while. It is a challenge that everyone should try to help promote conservation and to come to a better understanding of how many lights are on in a home at any given time. Look out for more updates on next months challenge!

May 10 2012

Energy Star Rebate Program Makes Dent in Electric Consumption



Gary and Nancy Short were the first participants of the Energy Star Rebate Program sponsored by the City and Borough of Sitka and the Sitka Conservation Society. They replaced their old (1972), inefficient freezer with a new Energy Star rated freezer. Just look at the difference!

The Energy Star Rebate Program kicked off in late February and provided electric users with the opportunity to upgrade to an Energy Star appliance and receive a rebate ranging from $165-$1,500. The program was well received by residents in the first few months and is already showing great potential to make a dent in Sitka’s electric consumption.

The program grants rebates for five Energy Star appliances, which were chosen to maximize energy savings. Residents can choose between Energy Star refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, heat pump hot water heaters, and air or ground source heat pumps. After dropping off the old appliance at Scrap Yard and receiving a receipt of disposal, you are ready to complete the application. The application consists of a one page form that can be downloaded on the Electric Department page of the City website or can be picked up at the Electric Department at 105 Jarvis Street. One participant even described the application process as “surprisingly painless and very easy to follow”. After the information provided on the application has been verified, the City will write a check made payable to the applicant and mail it to the address provided – it’s as simple as that!

After only three months since the program start date, 47 participants have taken advantage of this opportunity and upgraded to an Energy Star appliance. The result: almost 50,000 kWh have been removed from the electric grid annually! The energy savings are expected to continue increasing as the remaining 75% of the allotted funds are used by homeowners seeking energy efficiency upgrades. To maximize the energy savings of the $100,000 in the initial fund, $70,000 is allocated for air or ground source heat pump rebates and the remaining $30,000 will go towards all other appliance rebates. Therefore, although a majority of the funds remain in the program, only $22,475 is available for appliances other than air or ground source heat pumps. Rebates will remain available until funds are used in each category or until June 30, 2012.

Are you on the fence about purchasing an Energy Star appliance? Now is the time to act! Make sure you get a rebate for an Energy Star refrigerator, freezer, washing machine, or heat pump hot water heater before funds run out! To learn more about the program, including frequently asked questions, visit


May 03 2012

Weatherization 101: Programming You Heater

Weatherization 101 is a six part series produced by the Sitka Conservation Society and the City and Borough of Sitka Electric Department to help Sitkans increase their energy awareness, conserve electricity, and save money.  Links to all six videos are below.

The State of Alaska has set a goal of achieving a 15% increase in energy efficiency per capita by 2020.  This effort is especially important in Sitka because the demand for electricity exceeds supply.  This effort is also important because the community has set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In an effort to help Sitkans take steps to reducing their energy use and save money on energy costs, SCS has teamed up with local partners to create a series of “how-to” videos.  The partners in the project include the City of Sitka Electric Department, Sitka Girl Scout Troop 4140, and local contractor Marcel LaPerriere.

Weatherization 101:  Programming your Heater

You can save up to 10% of your space heating bill by turning your heater 3 degrees lower for only 8 hours a day.  This video demonstrate how to use a programmable thermostat on a Toyo Heater.


Weatherization 101: Lightbulbs

Weatherization 101: Hot Water Heater

Weatherization 101: Choosing the Right Type of Caulking for SE Alaska

Weatherization 101: Caulking with Troop 4140

Weatherization 101: Home Breaker Panels

Video by Andre Lewis.


Apr 27 2012

Weatherization 101: Home Breaker Panels

During a panel outage, every electric user should turn off the breaker panels to ensure that the electric department can get power up and running again across the whole community. This video shows how to use your breaker panel to turn off the highest energy uses in your home.

Weatherization 101 is a six part series produced by the Sitka Conservation Society and the City and Borough of Sitka Electric Department to help Sitkans increase their energy awareness, conserve electricity, and save money.

Video by Andre Lewis.

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Keep up to date on all of the issues. Check out "The Southeaster" Blog.

  • Hungry for Huckleberry Pie, Venison Stew, or Fresh Greens? Come to the Wild Foods Potluck Nov. 2!
  • Stand Up to Corporate Influence!
  • Kayaking Kootznoowoo: Report on SCS’s Final Wilderness Trip
  • Encouraging Local Natural Resource Stewardship on the Tongass: Kennel Creek
  • Teaching the Alaska way of Life: 4-H in Sitka
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