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In Living

Power Down Week co-organizer Sarah Moore reflects on Riverwest's family-friendly Power Down Week. (PHOTO: Royal Bonde-Griggs)

Power Down Week fired up Milwaukee


During the last week of June, the Riverwest neighborhood celebrated Power Down Week, a grassroots event that inspired hundreds of people in Milwaukee and beyond to use less electricity and fewer resources.

Co-organizer Sarah Moore says about 150 people from Riverwest and Bay View participated in the workshops and social gatherings, but many more people participated privately in various parts of Milwaukee and beyond.

"I am still running into people, getting e-mails from people or being told about someone's husband's friends at work saying they powered down for the week. These are people who did not live in Riverwest or that never made it to an event," says Moore.

Next year, Moore says there will be a second Power Down Week, as well as a few smaller "power downs" in between.

"I hope we have mini power downs on the equinoxes and winter solstice, and that more of us incorporate aspects of Power Down Week throughout the year," says event participant Sura Faraj. "I still haven't turned my hot water heater up all the way."

One of the goals for next year it to expand the event into more Milwaukee neighborhoods.

"I think we could improve on helping other neighborhoods put on their own Power Down Week, making the 'game' aspect easier to play and doing some events leading up to the week," says Faraj.

The participation of local businesses was a large part of the event's success. Multiple Riverwest businesses donated goods, Sunrise Foods, 2879 N. Weil St.. Sunrise donated a large supply of ice and The Riverwest Co-op, 733 E. Clarke St., did not turn on their lights for the week, using candles at nightfall instead. The cafe -- which is connected to the co-op -- continues to stay "powered down."

"The businesses in Riverwest were very willing to participate and donate prizes. I would love to see them organize on their own and find ways for them to incorporate some powering down throughout the entire year," says Faraj.

Power Down Week featured dozens of workshops and community events, including an edible food walk, instruction on how to build a cob over, rooftop garden tours, beer making, soap making, urban camping, gardening classes, yarn spinning, group bike rides, a "kale-gate" potluck party and more.

"I learned about growing mushrooms, tying knots and I taught people about my no-knead bread. A lot of people learned about electrical currents and I am excited to see if the bike generator works," says Moore.

Transition Milwaukee, a local organization committed to "rebuilding community resilience and self reliance," presented many of the workshops.

"I couldn't believe how many things were happening. So many, that I missed some of the ones I wanted to go to," says Faraj.

Moore says there were not any major problems during the week-long event, just a couple of minor disappointments, like the failure of a solar-battery-powered projector that was scheduled to show a free movie.

"Even failures were learning experiences. The movie did not work, but my 10-year-old son came home explaining to me why it didn't work," says Moore.

Although organizers behind Power Down Week were moved by serious concerns about the future of the environment and humans' need to rely less on rapidly-depleting resources, Power Down Week was designed to be a fun "staycation" for local individuals and families. Moore described it as "camp for grown-ups"and a "staycation."

"I had people tell me it was the best vacation they ever had. I recommend it to everyone. Just stay home and unplug with a bunch of friends and enjoy Milwaukee," she says.

Talkbacks

Broner | July 9, 2010 at 4:30 p.m. (report)

Thanks for the invite, nicb. And when the "Energy Descent" (sounds scary when phrased that way) doesn't happen, you're welcome to turn on the lights, watch some TV, and take a shower. In the meantime, have fun living like a near homeless person and feeling good about yourself.

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nicb | July 8, 2010 at 10:16 p.m. (report)

In response to other comments... Marginalizing Power Down Week as mere "good intentions" or a feel-good "hippie" project is a good strategy if you don't want to examine (and modify) your own behavior. Meanwhile, Transition Milwaukee will be working toward real-world solutions (which most of tend to believe will not come fast enough from the government). When the realities of Energy Descent sink in, you're welcome to join us!

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erinlinn | July 8, 2010 at 3:20 p.m. (report)

I live in Riverwest, 22 years, and I wasn't aware of it.

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Natemarq | July 8, 2010 at 11:22 a.m. (report)

Sounds like a horrible vacation.

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Victor Golf | July 8, 2010 at 9:39 a.m. (report)

Is there a blog somewhere that explains why Molly changed her byline from Snyder Edler to just plain Snyder?

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