Eco-Friendly Ways to Keep Cool This Summer
According to experts from the U.S. Storm Prediction Center quoted on MSNBC.com, most of the country can expect a summer with higher than average temps, and lower than average rainfall.
In addition, the West and Southwest especially are going to be at increased risk of high temperatures and wildfires. There have already been several wildfires in Colorado, and experts are worried because it’s uncommon to see fires so early in the season.
The reason why we’re going to see a hot summer is because La Nina, the cyclical weather pattern that is the opposite of El Nino (and leaves behind dryness in its wake, and hotter than average ocean temperatures) dissipated last month. As a result, there is less moisture in the air, the air is warmer, and the soil is drier. It’s these dry soils that have helped spread the Colorado wildfires this week.
The Downside of Air Conditioning
Most people ensconce themselves into refrigerators during the summertime (for refrigerators, read “homes”). They blast the air conditioning, often turning it down to 68 or even 66 degrees, and keep the windows closed against the heat and fresh air. Not only does this reduce people’s intolerance to heat, but it also accounts for an incredible uptick in energy use during the summer months. And since people are relaxing in the cool indoors, they’re not outside being physically active. This could also be a big contributor to our nation’s rising obesity epidemic.
I feel lucky that my 1910 home doesn’t have air conditioning, and no one felt strongly enough about it to ever put it in. During the warm months, we live with the windows open day and night. On hot days, we turn a fan on or migrate to our deep front porch. Summer really feels like summer.
The lack of air conditioning also keeps us outside. We interact more with our neighbors, and we definitely get more exercise. We’ll lay a blanket in our shady backyard and read, listen to the radio, do an art project, or just talk. It’s far more fun than sitting inside watching TV.
Keeping Cool This Summer
One of the best things you can do for the environment this summer is to reduce your dependence on air conditioning. Or better yet, don’t use it at all!
First, keep the air conditioning turned up. Keep it at 70 degrees or higher, which is more than comfortable enough, especially if you pair a higher temp with a fan, which can make you feel up to four degrees cooler.
Next, open the windows at night when it’s cooler. In the morning, before the sun gets hot, close the windows and shades to keep the house cool while you’re away at work. Doing this means you can avoid turning on the air conditioning during the day (unless you live in a particularly hot climate, such as the South or Southwest).
You can also keep cool by drinking cold water or unsweetened tea. Or, dip a bandana in cold water and tie it around your neck; because your neck is a pulse point, this cools your entire body down.
Another tip is not to eat big meals. You’re better off eating cool salads, or small portions throughout the day. And when you do it, try to eat spicy foods. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, spicier foods can actually help cool you off, which is why the world’s hottest places (like South America and India) have such spicy cuisine.
Last, if you use moisturizer after a shower, skip it during the summer months. Instead, use an aloe vera moisturizer, which will naturally lower your skin’s temperature.