It’s not your imagination, it actually is hotter than it used to be. Climate change has kicked in and we are breaking heat records left and right. It was a spring for the record books and we may be in line for another record breaking summer. No matter what state you live in, it is hotter on average now than it was forty years ago.
Of course one response to this heat is to crank up the A/C. But unless you select a renewable energy option from your utility (an option not everyone has), that response would actually cause more coal to be burned, and more global warming in the coming decades (making it even harder for your kids to keep cool). So what’s a parent to do with kids who are home for the summer? Here are a few short- and long-term ways to beat back global warming while still beating the heat.
1- Turn off the air conditioner when you are leaving the house for more than a few minutes. It is a myth that it is more efficient to leave your air conditioner on than to shut it off and re cool the home later. Also, since I’m in the myth busting mode– making the temperature on your thermostat lower does not cool the house any faster.
2- Take advantage of cool places. I like to turn off the air conditioning in our house and head to cool places. Museums and libraries are my favorite spots with babies. Most libraries have some baby and toddler programming, so it’s a great place to meet other kids and parents, and share the air conditioning with them.
3- Get wet. A trip to the pool, or even splashing in a fountain is always welcomed by my baby. Drinking as much water as possible is also a must in the heat for toddlers and young children ( infants do not need additional water until they are starting solids; nurse or give formula more frequently). At 20 months, drinking water from a big boy cup, usually ends with some nice cooling water on the clothes as well. If I need to quickly cool down when I walk in the house, I make a game out of splashing some water on all of our faces.
4- Turn the thermostat up. If you use air conditioning, make sure you are only using it to the extent needed to be comfortable. Others might disagree, but we find that if the a/c is set to 90 degrees it takes the humidity out of the air and makes the house comfortable to us. Okay, maybe not totally comfortable, but it definitely taks the edge off. When others will be in the house, we set it to 85 degrees. Most people find 78 degrees to be a comfortable temperature with short sleeves.
5- Use a fan. If a fan is blowing on your body, it moves the hot layer of air next to your skin away, and you feel cooler. We especially like ceiling fans, and have the most efficient ceiling fan on the market installed in every room.
6- Clean or replace the filter on your air conditioner more frequently during the summer. Don’t spend your electricity pushing air through a lint-filled filter. Also consider having a professional cleaning, so that any coils are cleaned. It’s also important to keep your air conditioner in the shade or build something to shade it, but make sure air circulation isn’t blocked. Remove any branches or other debree from your a/c unit as soon as they accumulate.
7-Get heavy curtains that block light for your windows, and insulate. We have double honey comb blinds that darken the room in one room, and that room is almost 20 degrees cooler when we have the blinds down. The bonus is that it’s makes it a great room for daytime naps! We also caulk heavily around windows and doors to keep the heat out, which has the added bonus of keeping ants and other pests out.
8- Plant trees on the western, southern, and eastern sides of your house. If you live in a place where trees lose their leaves, you’ll have shade in the summer, but get light in the winter when the tree has shed its leaves.
9-Use the microwave, the crock pot, or better yet, a solar oven. I know the saying says that ‘if it’s too hot, get out of the kitchen,’ but I say just don’t make the kitchen hot to begin with! We use a solar oven if we want an oven in the summertime. We use the microwave even more, though, and it is much more efficient than using a gas or electric stove, both of which also heat up your house. I make potatoes, pasta, and much more in the microwave. There is no home made baby food that is easier than a mashed banana or a microwaved sweeet potato, and both avoid heating up the kitchen. I also use the crock pot overnight at least once a week, which doesn’t heat up the kitchen much, and cooks during the cool night time hours.
10- When purchasing an air conditioner get an efficient one. There are Energy Star ratings for a/c window units, as well as for central a/c. If your unit is more than 12 years old, you’ll save money and energy by getting a new, efficient unit.
Any of these sound doable? What are your tips for beating the heat?
About Keya Chatterjee
Keya Chatterjee is a Climate Change and Environment expert, and Director for International Climate Policy at World Wildlife Fund. Her work focuses on the environmental crisis facing the planet, and what policies and measures should be taken to ameliorate the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. Keya’s commentary on climate change policy and sustainability issues has been quoted in dozens of media outlets including USA Today, CNN, and NBC Nightly News. Keya resides in Washington, DC with her husband Andrew and her son Siddharth. She enjoys practicing yoga, biking, and spending time with her friends and family. She is working on a book about how to have a baby without raising your carbon footprint to be published in 2013 by Ig Publishing. Keep up with Keya's writing on the nexus of climate change activism and motherhood at www.keyachatterjee.com.