By Catherine Moran
In light of the heat waves that made their way across the country this past weekend, a friend suggested that I investigate some ways to keep cool while being green. While it’s tempting to rely on air conditioning if you live in an apartment in New York City—as I do—air conditioners are, on the whole, bad. They release pollutants into the air, hurting the environment. But they also let these same pollutants into your living space if the air conditioner isn’t properly maintained.
If you need to have an air conditioner, go for one with an Energy Star label. Try to only use it when you are in the room where it is located, and close the door to the room while the AC is in use. Always pick a lower setting. Oh, and unplug the thing when it’s not in use, okay?
But there are more environmentally-friendly ways to make the heat a bit more bearable.
The magic word: fans, both the ceiling and wall-socket variety. Both of these should be turned off when you are not in the room. Why? Because fans only stir the air to make it feel cooler—they don’t actually chill the temperature. You’ll just benefit from the circulation of the air while you are in the room.
Hand-held fans can also work well…especially if they are wielded by a friend.
Going outside might seem counter-intuitive, but if you are outdoors, there’s a chance for a breeze. Trees provide a relief from the sun, so if you need a break from absorbing vitamin D, you can admire the sky through green leaves. And, of course, spending time near a large body of water is an excellent way to cool off.
It may seem old-fashioned, but a cold washcloth on your neck or forehead can also help to provide relief from excessive heat. It’s an effective and easy method, and if you put the washcloth in a baggie beforehand, you can reuse the cloth multiple times before washing. Even better trick: put both the baggie and the wet cloth in the freezer, and you’ll feel the chill for even longer!
If all else fails, leave home for another indoor location: check out that cute café down the street, get your exercise in by making the rounds window-shopping at the mall, or hide out in a movie theater. (Interesting side note: air conditioning owes its existence in part to the film industry. You can read more about how going to the movies came to mean keeping cool instead of just seeing a flick by clicking here.)
Two final thoughts: keep hydrated and keep the lights off. A cold glass of water can taste like manna from the gods on a frightfully hot day, and keeping the lights off will cut down on the man-made heat that you are adding to an already fiery situation.
Try and keep it chill, Greenies! Know of any other green cool-down tips? Do share in the comments.
Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter here, or check out her excellent book blog.