Marsh Lake-area family is working hard to demonstrate how well Northerners can reduce their energy consumption. Along the way, they hope to show other Canadians a thing or two.
Brian Kitchen and Marguerite Kuiack, along with their daughters, Simone and Marika, are taking part in Canadian Geographic’s Energy Diet Challenge.
The three-month challenge involves six families from across Canada competing to see who can reduce their energy and water footprints the most, while making creative use of social media to encourage other Canadians to follow suit.
The Kitchen-Kuiacke family is the only one participating from North of 60.
“I was driving home after work one day and I heard them explaining the challenge on the radio,” Kitchen explains.
“They mentioned that they had had very few applications from the North and I thought to myself, ‘We could do this’. So I filled out an application online as soon as I got home.”
That application got the family short-listed. After an interview via Skype, they found out theirs was one of the six lucky families that would start the challenge on September 12.
Along with reducing water and energy consumption, the family will create video and blog contributions for the Energy Diet website, and social media updates through Facebook and Twitter to engage the public in the program.
“When we started this program I didn’t even know what a tweet was,” laughs Kuiack. “The social media side of things has definitely proven a steep learning curve for me.”
For the younger family members, however, the blogging and video production are some of their favourite parts of the challenge.
“Trying to make the web content engaging and fun for people has been one of the best parts so far,” 12-year-old Marika says.
Their efforts appear to be paying off.
“We’ve had comments on the blog from people from across the country,” Kuiack says. “It makes us feel like we are doing something that really resonates with others, which is very empowering.”
The four family members have instituted a number of changes to try to winnow down energy and water consumption in their home – originally a log cabin – beside the Yukon River bridge.
They’ve installed power bars that they turn off at night to eliminate phantom power use.
They are also shutting off the propane at night so that the pilot light on their stove doesn’t gobble up fuel.
For Thanksgiving, the Kitchen-Kuiacks had a stove-less feast, opting for a creative raw-food holiday meal.
They are using grey water from their shower to flush their toilets, and improving their trip planning to reduce their vehicle use.
“Because we live outside of Whitehorse we always assumed that the majority of our mileage was the result of our daily [70 km] commute,” Kitchen says.
“It turns out that isn’t the case. Since we’ve begun tracking our mileage daily, we’ve come to realize that we put on many more miles running around town. One day we put on 150 km!”
“I think because everything in Whitehorse is so convenient, we don’t think that we are driving very far, but we are,” Kuiack adds.
“By simply better grouping our errands by their location in town we have managed to significantly reduce our daily mileage.”
Families competing in the Energy Diet, which is co-sponsored by Shell Canada, have the opportunity to come together as a group three times during the process.
They first met for an orientation when the program started. Then, on October 1, the families converged in Calgary for the Urban Challenge.
The event started at the Chinook Centre mall, where the participants sold environmentally-friendly products for the benefit of a charity of their choice, followed by a trip to Rona to collect eco-friendly products to complete a featured showroom in the store.
This weekend they will come together for the third time in Toronto for the One Litre Challenge.
Seventeen-year-old Simone will get the opportunity to learn from the world’s most fuel-efficient couple, John and Helen Taylor – holders of 88 world records – who will teach her as many tips and tricks as possible.
She will then compete against the other families on a closed course to see who can drive the longest distance on a single litre of fuel.
Apart from the satisfaction of helping to encourage other Canadians to reduce water and energy consumption, the six participating families are also vying for prizes that include a 2012 Toyota Prius hybrid, as well as energy-efficient appliance and technology packages.
Throughout the competition, families accrue votes on the Energy Diet website, http://energydiet.canadiangeographic.ca.
As of the time of writing, the Kitchen-Kuiacks were leading the popular-vote race. Those votes account for 30 percent of their final score in the competition.
The actual reductions they make go toward 20 percent of their score. Thirty percent comes from their blogs, videos, and social media work, and a final 20 percent from their application of innovation and creativity.
More information about the challenge and how to vote can be found at the website mentioned above.
Amber Church is a painter, writer and sports enthusiast. You can reach her at email@example.com.