Summertime is thought of longingly in the winter months, when you’re thinking about how to keep your home warm and your utility bills low. But, summer presents its own challlenges when it comes to conserving energy, reducing consumption, and maintaining harmony in general with the natural world.
A lot of this has to do with cooling down, or finding ways to avoid the heat without drawing huge wodges of energy off of the grid. Another aspect of green living in the summertime is about how to make sure that our vacation plans aren’t leaving too deep a footprint where eco-systems are concerned. Still another aspect is responsible use of water to keep green things growing, while also thinking about leisure time and how water is used to enhance it in the summer months.
In the light of all of this, I thought I’d gather a few easy ideas on how to have an eco-friendly summer this year, or to build upon how our current green lifestyles. Here they are.
1. Get creative with natural air conditioning
Recently, Nan Fischer talked about ways to keep cool without air conditioning which touched on keeping air in your home moving naturally, as well as strategies surrounding window coverings, and many other ideas for lowering the heat in your home, and thus reducing your need for air conditioning. All of these are good ideas since air conditioning is known to be very energy intensive and a significant draw on our energy grid.
In addition to Nan’s pointers, one cool (and I do mean cool!) idea is to use fans strategically, with a bowl of ice at the base of the fan. The fan pushes the cool air from the bowl around the room as the ice evaporates. This is a low-tech, and low cost approach to air conditioning, or at least to lowering room temperatures during hot days. Another idea is to treat windows with a sheet treated with cold water. The cold, wet sheet will naturally cool the air that’s coming in from the open window.
Check this article from Lifehacker.com (@Lifehacker on Twitter) that talks about these, and other ways to naturally air condition without an air conditioner.
2. Eat cool!
You helped to keep your home warm in the winter by cooking meals at home instead of ordering out, and using the heat from your stove to keep you toasty while winter raged outside. In the summertime, it’s time to switch gears. Reducing the use of the stove is a key strategy in keeping your temperatures bearable in the heat of summer. Ways to do this may include:
- cooking in bulk, and freezing meals, rather than cook everyday
- finding recipes for summertime eating that are prepared and served cold for main meals
- cooking outside more often in a summer kitchen or bbq, using green bbq coals
- drinking water more often, while also exploring new recipes for cold, refreshing drinks
Not only will these ideas help cool you down and your home down too, they might lead to a new discovery of food and drink you can enjoy all year round.
Summertime, at least for me, has always been a time where I enjoy a quiet read. And this summer, why not build upon your knowledge of green issues as you find more time to relax on your holidays? Books about green topics can expand your perspective on green lifestyles. And they can help to inspire you to integrate eco-friendly practices which you may not have considered before.
Climb into the blow-up pool, pour yourself a frosty drink, and start those pages turning. Reading more, and relying on heat-generating TVs and computers less, can offer a cooler choice in quiet leisure time no matter what you’re reading. Think about your kids’ story time too. Green books for kids can help to inspire them as well. And family reading time can help them build their awareness of our responsibilities to the world around us.
4. Find an eco-friendly summer program for the kids
Since the kids aren’t in school learning the three Rs (reading, writing, arrithmatic) during the summer months, why not consider a summer program where they can learn more about the three other Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle)?
In addition to learning about ways to live in a more eco-friendly life, eco-friendly summer camps and programs generally focus on getting kids outside, and helping them to connnect with the natural world. After all, how will a new generation come to value the natural world if they’ve never spent time in it, and become in awe of it? By the time they’re through, maybe your kids will have something to teach you, too.
5. Take an eco-friendly vacation
Keeping your vacation green doesn’t necessarily mean a full bore eco-tourist destination, nor does it mean having less fun. Like most green living principles, a “green vacation” just means that you don’t forget things like recycling, avoiding products with excessive packaging, and where you decide to place your garbage. It’s about self-awareness, not austerity.
Sometimes, planning an eco-friendly holiday is about being more creative when it comes to choosing destinations. Hidden local gems may result in a very enjoyable holiday which is just as rewarding as a big package tour that is far afield. And there will be less fuel expended. Find a local campsite, or hiking trail. Spend a night or two in a nearby B&B. Take a series of day trips with the kids instead of one long (and far flung) trip that requires air travel, and a higher fuel demand.
Check out localattractions.com for local attractions in the United States & Canada to build a list of destinations close to where you live.
6. Cool down at the community pool and water parks
It seems to me that a close-knit community, and green living go hand in hand. Why not investigate the parks and pools closest to you, and meet other members of your local community while you’re at it? The cost of cooling down at a local community facility is generally cheaper than investing in a private pool. It also reduces the draw on our finite supply of usable drinking water, too, while making the most of that precious resource when shared with our neighbors.
In my neighborhood, and in the surrounding area, most public parks have a water park where scores of kids can gather. This is another option for communal cooling down – and it’s usually FREE.
7. Get Outside!
It seems like a simple statement. But, it’s one of the best ways to reduce how much energy you’re expending to keep cool while sitting at home. Get out there in the summer breeze. Bring your water bottle. Wear a hat. Put on your sunscreen. Find a shady trail or park. Explore your world and reduce your energy bills all at the same time.
So, now that summer is commencing, have a great one! And please share your own strategies which have worked for you in the past in the comments section of this post!