It's been up and down the last little while, but New York summer's definitely around the corner. And with the heat and the long days, the traveling and the hanging out, summertime can either be a massively un-eco energy suck, or your big chance to live a simpler, greener way.
And with the neverending oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, we all need to try a little bit harder to save energy and help move us as quickly as possible to an oil-free future. We aren't gonna survive too many more super-accidents (it remains to be seen if we'll survive this one).
Making greener choices in your day-to-day routine can be a lot easier in the summer: get into good habits now, and when the shorter days set in you'll have a season's worth of practice.
One low-tech, energy saving, summer option is line- or rack-drying your clothes. With any outside space at all, laundry dries in a flash in the summer sun. Even inside, hot days make short work of damp clothes.
If you have access in your building, install a line on the roof: all you need are a couple of wheels, a length of clothesline, and a bag of clothespins (there are also more creative options like tub-top racks or wall-mounted arrays). Team up with eco-minded (or just cheap) neighbors, and you can share the costs of the setup. You'll save a fortune in electricity, and prevent a lot of wear and tear on your clothes. And if you ask me, hanging damp laundry is one of the few domestic chores that is a real pleasure...
Air-conditioning is a terrible waste: it takes a lot of energy, generates heat and leaves you less able to adjust when you go outside. Start by paying attention—open your windows when it's cool outside (at night) and close them before it starts heating up. Draw the curtains on any windows that admit direct sunlight: consider buying a couple of darkening shades or heavier curtains if you get a lot of sun. Adopt a cooling routine to help you cope without the box: like Mr. Rogers, change your clothes when you get home, donning only light woven, loose, natural fiber garments and flip-flops. A one-minute cold shower can lower your core temperature, and a single fan can keep it down, and will give you the same sleep-enhancing white noise that the AC does.
Another way to stay cool and save some energy is to eat more uncooked food—no gas or electricity needed, no heating up your apartment, and a healthier meal to boot. Hit the local greenmarket for the freshest lettuce and vegetables, add some bread and a local wine, and you've got dinner—no sweat. If salad says 'diet' to you, remember all the hearty things you can add to make a real meal: beans, sauteed tofu, nuts and cheese. When you do cook, cook in bulk to keep the heat down: an entire package of noodles can be cooked and stored in the fridge for use in several meals (salads!); a dozen eggs hard-boiled at once can go in salads, be eaten as stand-alone snacks, or make egg-salad sandwiches over the course of a week.
Think cool for breakfast too. Smoothies are simple and healthy, and even coffee can be cold brewed: all you need is a pitcher, a smallish cloth bag (look for a drawstring bag at a kitchen supply store) and some finely ground coffee. Fill the cloth bag loosely with coffee, tie tightly, and soak overnight in cold water. In the morning you'll have the best coffee you've ever tasted. No power needed. If you're a tea person, you, too, can cold-brew—just toss tea bags into cool water and wait.
Got any stay-cool tips to share? Send them in... And happy (almost) summer!