How To: Stay Cool and Green
With much of the United States in the grip of one of the worst heat waves in more than 75 years, and a state of deadly, persistent drought across the southern and central states, it’s more important than ever to find ways to keep yourself and your family cool so that life can go on as close to normal as possible.
This doesn’t mean turning up the air conditioner, either. If everyone did that, the nation might see a blackout to rival the one on Aug. 14, 2003, which left 55 million people in the dark or without water, or trapped in elevators or buildings, or unable to use commuter trains to get home.
Instead, keep your AC set to about 80° F (or at least not lower than 78° F), and don’t run it at all in rooms that seldom get used, like the formal dining room (who can bear to cook in this heat anyway)?
Here are ten tips that should help lower your internal thermostat without costing you an arm and a leg (and your firstborn child!) in utility bills.
- One of my all-time favorites is the cornmeal sock. Fill a thick cotton sock with cornmeal and freeze it. Then put it on the back of your neck, under your arms, or on the top of your head to trick your body into thinking it’s 75 and sunny.
- Shower in cool water before bed, in your pajamas! Be sure to put a protective cover on your mattress, and don’t sleep with a fan blowing on you, as this can cause pneumonia. By the time your attire has dried (through evaporation), you will likely be sound asleep. Alternatively, you can sleep on a linoleum or tile floor, which is even cooler – if a little bohemian. If you have installed a grey water system to recycle shower and bath water, give yourself 50 points!
- Psychology is a large factor in overheating. To trick your mind in another way, get a DVD of Fargo (the movie, not the city). Play it, paying particular attention to the winter snowstorms, sleet storms and unplowed roads. And don’t skip the wood chipper segment; that will make you shiver if nothing else does!
- Visit the mall, even if you don’t like to shop. Bring a Dayton’s or Marshall’s shopping bag, put in towels, a clean shirt and your portable water bottle, then find a bench or platform and pretend you are resting your feet after a shopping marathon!
- With recent drought conditions getting worse, a lawn sprinkler is far from ecofriendly when used by only your kids. Instead, make it a neighborhood venture, invite the entire block (impromptu block party!), and rotate turns among parents to be fair. You may meet some interesting new people in the bargain. If not, at least the offspring won’t be quite as cranky.
- Of course you know about putting a bowl of ice in front of a fan, but did you know that keeping windows open at night to capture a stray breeze, or closing drapes and shades during the day, can drop your house’s temperature by an average of five degrees? And don’t forget to use those ceiling fans! Just remember to adjust the blades using the little switch on the side, or you will be blowing the hot air down as you did last winter. If you have installed a solar exhaust fan (and solar panels of course!), give yourself another 50 points.
- Run appliances like the washer, the dryer, or the dishwasher late in the evening or early in the morning. These times are known as “off-peak hours”, and electricity is somewhat cheaper.
- Use (and wear) 100-percent, fair trade (organic) cotton, in sheets, pillowcases, shorts, tops, children’s clothing and sportswear. Cotton is the coolest fabric you can use, and fair trade means you are being kind to the environment and your fellow humans in developing countries, many of whom work hard for small wages to provide the cotton.
- Finally, don’t run when you can walk, postpone outdoor chores to off-peak hours as well (when it’s marginally cooler), don’t cook if you can avoid it, and don’t serve large hot meals, which can exacerbate heat stroke.
- On that note, don’t forget to drink lots of fluids. Monitor fluid intake on children and elderly parents as well, since these two groups are more at risk of heat stroke.