Summer’s almost here! That’s the good news. The bad news is that some summer habits are bad for the environment. Too many of us crank up the air conditioning too high or leave the hose or sprinkler running to excess. We’re also more likely to apply bug sprays, which aren’t good for our health. But we can modify our behavior to be better for the environment and healthier while maintaining a pleasant summer lifestyle. Here are four ways to make a difference this summer.
Use Less Air Conditioning
We wait all year to be warm, so why as soon as the mercury rises above 72 do we crank up the A/C and turn our living spaces into igloos? Start with the realization that it’s okay – actually pleasurable – to be warm. If it gets really oppressive, open the windows and turn on the fans. A whole-house fan or ceiling fan does a better job circulating air than a window fan. A neat trick is to place a bowl of ice in front of an oscillating fan: it’s a lot like air conditioning.
If you’re not home during the day, close the blinds and draw the curtains. Unplug electronics, including televisions, computers, and stereos, which all draw current and generate heat even when they’re turned off. And at night, open the windows and enjoy soft, sweet, non-noisy fresh air.
More Power Savers
Your clothes dryer works by producing something that’s available free and in abundance this summer: warm air. Hang a clothesline and use it instead. Your clothes will smell better and get just as dry without a single watt of electricity of cubic foot of natural gas. If you’re concerned about some clothes fading in the sun, at least use the line to dry linens.
Change your cooking and eating habits too. Salads, sandwiches, and many other cold dishes use less energy to prepare and taste better when eaten outside. By not cooking, or by grilling outdoors, you’ll also avoid heating up the house.
Many areas of the United States are experiencing serious drought and have enacted watering limits or bans. Even in the absence of regulations, conserving water is one of the best things we can do for the environment.
If you’re committed to maintaining a green lawn and watering is permitted, do it early in the morning, while it’s still cool. This reduces evaporation and gives the roots plenty of time to soak up the water.
A better way to use water, however, is to turn your lawn – or part of it – into a vegetable garden. You’ll save money on food, teach your children how to live more sustainably, and enjoy the freshest vegetables available anywhere.
Cut Back on Chemicals
While you’re outdoors enjoying your cookout or doing the gardening, mosquitoes may be a problem. Most popular insect repellants rely on DEET, a chemical that has been linked to some health issues. There are natural alternatives, however. Essential oils of lavender, lemon, eucalyptus, and tea tree combine nicely to repel bugs, and they certainly smell better than N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide (that’s the chemical name for DEET).
We are always thinking of ways to reduce our carbon footprint and reuse what we already have. Do you have any tips for conserving energy and minimizing waste in the summer? We’d love to hear from you!