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Simple Ways to Get Ready for a Greener Summer

Apr 5, 2008
Spring is here and I'm already thinking about summer. In my area that's easy, since days get over 80 degrees F with some regularity already. But summer presents some challenges to living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Today I'd like to share some of my tips for keeping cool during the summer without using a lot of electricity.

Tip #1: Set the air conditioner thermostat to 78 or higher (if you use it in the first place)

The higher you set the thermostat, the less energy you're going to use, obviously. If you're finding it difficult to endure a warmer house, work your way up to it. Remember that people got along for a very long time with no air conditioning at all.

My own thermostat is typically set somewhere over 80, but the air conditioner is also generally turned off. You can get used to very warm temperatures if you don't insist on adapting to air conditioned temperatures.

Tip #2: Try to keep the house from getting hot in the first place.

Good insulation really helps, but another key is to keep the heat from coming in through the windows. I have old cardboard boxes from the last time we moved. As the days get warmer, they get put into windows to help keep the heat out. More ambitious people cover cardboard with black cloth or aluminum foil to keep still more heat out.

Curtains also help. My office gets direct sunlight all morning in summer through the French doors, which are much harder to block with cardboard. But heavy curtains, sometimes supplemented by a sheet or blanket on really hot days, do quite a bit to control the heat.

Tip #3: Use fans.

While fans don't really cool a room, they do make it feel cooler, and they use much less electricity than air conditioners. Ceiling fans are my own preference, but portable ones are nice if you don't have a ceiling fan available.

Tip #4: Dress in cool, light clothes.

Should be obvious, but sometimes it's easy to forget that lighter and more breathable fabrics really are more comfortable in warm weather. Cotton can be wonderfully comfortable.

Tip #5: Install or start using a clothesline.

In some areas this is more challenging than others, as homeowners' associations often have rules against clotheslines, but do the best you can. If you can't have one outside, take advantage of the warmth of your house and use clothesracks indoors. Line drying is gentler on clothes and is very kind to your power bills.

Tip #6: Think before you cook.

During the summer my crockpot gets a lot of use because it doesn't heat the house the way the oven does. And of course there's always grilling outside or even using a solar oven. There are a lot of resources online on how to build your own solar oven, or of course you can buy one.

Tip #7: Drink a lot of water.

You will feel better if you keep yourself well hydrated. Get a good quality water bottle that you can keep filled throughout the day. You can keep a bottle of water in the fridge or just use tap water and ice cubes to ensure easy access to a cold drink of water all day long.

Obviously, don't buy individual plastic water bottles from the grocery store if you're trying to be green about it. If you're concerned about the quality of your tap water it's better to get a filter for it. Filtered water is still cheaper than buying it from the store.

There's plenty more you can do, depending on the commitment you want to make, but these tips should help you to get started. Long term possibilities include things such as planting trees or adding insulation to your home. Now is a good time to start so you're ready before the weather really heats up.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster blogs at http://www.greensahm.com/ about being a green stay at home mom. She offers more tips on budget environmentalism at her site.
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