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8 Tips to Prepare for a Greener Summer

Summer is getting close. While some places are still getting tons of rain, I’m dealing with temperatures in the 80-90s. Yeah, you can be jealous, but droughts suck and that’s what we have.

It does bring to mind, though, that it’s time to get ready for summer. And so I’m presenting some tips today.

1. Use the air conditioner less.

Yeah, this one goes on all the going green lists, doesn’t it?

Use fans rather than the air conditioner when you can. They use a lot less energy and really can help cool you. They don’t actually cool the house, but they do make it feel better. You can also fill 2 liter bottles with water, freeze them, then place in front of the fan to make a cool breeze.

Figure out how warm you are willing to tolerate your home, and set your air conditioner’s thermostat to that. Your home does not need to be 75 degrees F all summer long. You may not even need to keep it as cool as 80. Figure out your personal limits and try to adapt to warmer temperatures.

Our air conditioner is generally not turned on during the day even if it’s 85 degrees in the house. We may use it to cool the house for sleeping, but it takes a really hot day to get it turned on during the day. It’s not as bad as you may think to adapt to warmer temperatures, even when it’s humid. Humans have been doing that for millennia.

2. Block the heat from getting into the house.

I’m not just going to say “use the air conditioner less” and not tell you how. I’m saying flat out do what you can to keep the heat from coming into your home in the first place.

There are a few strategies you can use.

If you have the inclination, make quilted covers for your windows. These have the advantage of keeping the warm in during winter as well as blocking sunlight. Just remember that the sun’s rays will steadily fade the colors in the fabric and don’t be disappointed when that happens.

Cardboard boxes are an unattractive but good option too, especially if you have some empty ones already around the house. Such a simple thing to repurpose.

Mylar also works well in windows, and has the advantage that it can be put in carefully enough that you can still open the windows without removing it when the day cools sufficiently. If you want to go cheap stores that carry camping supplies may have Mylar emergency blankets for as little as $1 each.

You don’t have to block all your windows if you don’t want to. Definitely get the ones that the sunlight pours directly into in the morning. These generally add the most heat to your home.

3. Prepare your propane grill.

You may love charcoal more than propane (my husband certainly does!) but propane burns much more cleanly when you barbecue. If you really need to use charcoal consider some of the natural charcoal brands out there.

4. Try a solar oven.

I really, really want to do this one this year, as does my husband. We just haven’t agreed on which type to make. I’m all for a simple one, he keeps looking at more difficult ones. He’s afraid the cardboard boxes used in many models won’t hold up to the heat – no matter how many instructions say they’re what to use.

You don’t have to make your own if that’s not your style. You can buy solar ovens online fairly easily.

5. Keep that garden going.

If you have the space, I hope you garden. It’s one of the best and most affordable ways to combine exercise and organic produce.

If you’re in a drought area, try to think of ways to use less water in your garden. You can install drip irrigation, for example. We’re currently using gallon apple juice jugs for watering, as I posted yesterday. It’s rather like using those Aqua Globes you see on television, except we’re reusing things we already had, and they’re really ugly.

If the garden isn’t working out, this is the time of year to really enjoy that local farmer’s market.

And in general, whether or not you’re in a drought area, try to use less water.

6. Plan your travel carefully.

Flying is a great way to travel long distances quickly, but it’s not green by a long shot. Drive or take the train when you can.

Consider taking vacations that really let you enjoy nature too. Camping is a wonderful family activity that can help even the youngest of children really appreciate nature. Just be sure to respect the campgrounds, stay on the paths and if you bring it in, take it out.

7. Line dry your laundry.

Yeah, sure, it doesn’t look that good. It saves a lot of energy, though.

You may have to battle your homeowner’s association if you live in some areas. Check the rules you have to deal with first. Then remember that you can still line dry indoors if you choose.

Clothesline don’t have to be expensive. My husband just put up a rope for me to use. It’s thick enough to support the weight but thin enough for the clothespins to clip on to.

You might even consider joining the Clothesline Challenge.

8. Green your sunscreen.

A lot of sunscreens rely on some chemicals that aren’t good for you or the environment. Check out the sunscreens listed at the Skin Deep database to figure out which brands you would like to try. Soleo appears to be a good brand.

What tips do you have for a greener summer?