Air-Conditioning Is Terrible for the Earth -- Here's How to Live Without It
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Lose a little weight? Air-conditioning is a prime suspect in widespread weight gain. Cut off the chilled air, and your body will burn more energy simply keeping cool. You'll eat less and be more active. And as the fat layer under your skin thins, you'll be less heavily insulated and feel cooler.
Adjust your schedule: Don't plan on spending much time inside your un-air-conditioned home in the afternoons, the hottest part of the day. It will be coolest in early morning and late evening, so plan your home time to take advantage of it. Try to spend your afternoons doing other things: work, running errands or even just being outside in the shade. People in two-story houses can move downstairs in the afternoon when the second floor becomes hot with rising air. And of course, you can migrate from there to the basement if you have one.
Adjust your attitude: Try to remember that comfort is relative; it's all a matter of what you're used to. If you feel hot or if you are drenched in sweat, you can let it bother you, or you can try not to think about it. You will get used to it eventually, and when you do, it might not even occur to you that you should feel hot or sticky. But be patient.
Embrace the outdoors: It's easier to survive the great indoors if you don't spend too much time in it! Going without the A/C will encourage you to spend more time outside. You'll find the outdoors much more welcoming than you would if you were emerging from an air-conditioned home. Go swimming, soak up some shade, and make your gentle breeze by riding a bike. Summer may be hot, but it can still be fun.
Watch your health and your pets: Don't go too far. Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If your home is designed with air-conditioning in mind, understand that it may be difficult to keep it habitable without A/C. Don't put your health or your pets' health at risk if the indoor temperature climbs too high.
Set a concrete, realistic goal: Don't try to give up A/C cold turkey. Work your way up to it with intermediate goals, and stick to them. And once you shut off the A/C, consider ahead of time which conditions, if any, would prompt you to turn it back on -- and for how long. Don't make up excuses to turn the A/C back on, but don't set yourself up for failure by setting overly aggressive goals. For example, in the first summer that you've shut off the A/C, if you have great difficulty sleeping for three consecutive nights, maybe you allow yourself a few hours of A/C usage to help you fall asleep on the third night (or, hopefully, you'll come up with another way to fall asleep before the third night). But decide on exceptions like these ahead of time and you'll be more likely to hold out and meet bigger and bigger goals.
New, more efficient (and more expensive) air-conditioning systems are coming on the market. Ground-source or solar-powered cooling are also possibilities. But before you go out and spend a pile of money, try following the above advice, tested by my friends in the nation's hot spots. You'll find it's really no sweat -- well, not much, anyway.