Beat the Heat Sustainably!

by Alison Lueders, Great Green Content

No one needs to tell you that it’s hot – really hot. As I write this, here in toasty Tampa, Florida, the Weather Underground tells me that it’s 88 degrees, with a “feel like” temperature of 98. Phew!

Stay cool - but take it easy on the A/C!
Stay cool – but take it easy with the A/C!

Temperatures are rising everywhere

Tampa’s temperatures are actually better than most of the rest of the world’s. Globally, we just racked up the hottest  month of June on record . Both Europe and India have experienced heat waves this year that go far beyond “uncomfortable.”

Luckily for many people here in the States, there’s air conditioning (A/C) to get us through these “dog days of summer.”

Some fun facts about A/C

But before you crank the air conditioning down another degree or two, know that:

Bottom line: while you personally are “cooling down,” Mother Earth is actually warming up. Air conditioning releases roughly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year — an average of about two tons for each home with an air conditioner.

Keep-cool Alternatives

So air conditioned comfort comes at a cost, and not just what you see in your monthly electric bill. The good news is that there are many actions – large and small – that you can take to beat the heat sustainably. Pick the ones that work for you and DO them.

Here’s just a partial list:

  • Use a fan – whether it’s a ceiling fan that moves the air around a whole room, or a small, portable fan that you aim at yourself, moving air cools you by helping moisture evaporate from your skin. A fan uses a tiny fraction of the power needed to run an air conditioner.
  • Dress appropriately – The New York Times recently featured an article titled “Enduring Summer’s Deep Freeze. “ It’s a fascinating look at the reasons why so many buildings are over-air conditioned in the summer. Until the building engineers and managers get on the same page, you’d be wise to wear cool, breathable clothing AND layers.  If your office is 68 degrees and outside it’s 88 degrees, a flexible wardrobe can help you to stay productive.
  • Drink up – you may not realize how quickly you lose moisture in the heat. According to the American Heart Association, “by the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. “ So take a reusable bottle with you, and sip, sip, sip the day away.
  • Use shades – to block the sun and keep your house cooler throughout the summer months. Depending on the direction your house faces, and how many windows (and window shades) it has, you may leave a cool house in the morning only to discover a roaring oven when you return. Shades, shutters, blinds– whatever suits your style and needs, keeping the sun OUT to begin with saves money.
  • Eat cool – cooking meals on a stove just creates more heat inside your home that your A/C then has to cool. Instead, find summer foods and recipes that come from the pantry or the refrigerator to your plate. Think fresh fruits and veggies, smoothies, yogurt, sandwiches and salads. A cold soup like gazpacho can be wonderful on a hot day.
  • Tune the A/C– if you do use the air conditioner, make sure it is operating at its highest efficiency. That means a yearly tune up with a licensed A/C technician, clean air filters, and, if appropriate, an upgrade to a higher efficiency model.

“Keep cool and carry on!”