With Memorial Day in our rearview mirrors, it officially means it's time to break out the BBQ. While that may mean more time at the beach, or in the park, you might have noticed it's been heating up for a few weeks already. Hate to break it to you, but more summer isn't necessarily a good thing - - thanks, climate change! In fact, since scientists first started recording summer temperatures in 1895, the planet has heated up almost 1.5 degrees °F. This may not sound like much, but if you were running a fever of 100 degrees (as opposed to your normal 98.6), you would be concerned about your health. It's the same for the planet. Most of the warming has occurred in the last 50 years, and, 2017 marked the third hottest year on record with more frequent and longer heat waves, plus increased humidity. New parts of the United States that have never seen spurts of crazy temperatures before are feeling the heat - think Portland, summer 2017 that hit temps in the triple digits. Scientists are even predicting Boston could feel more like Florida by the end of the century! Florida is great sometimes, but New Englanders still love their white winters.
As we head into summer, here are three ways to keep your cool:
1. Stay hydrated and take breaksGiphy
Any outdoor activity on a hot day can stress your body. People who work outside or may be more sensitive like children, the elderly, and pregnant women, are at a higher risk of heat stroke, dehydration, and other heat-related illnesses. That's why it's important to stay hydrated, take cooling breaks, and check in on family and friends who might need a little extra help. Also, check out our list of a dozen plastic-free water bottles - they're non-toxic and will help you stay hydrated.
2. Cool off with friendsGiphy
What's more miserable than slowly melting away at home? We'll tell you - it's melting at home with some cranky kids. When the summer heat has your family baking, consider heading down to the local pool (don't forget the non-toxic sunscreen!), strolling to the local library, or going to the movies for a summer blockbuster to chill in the cool comfort of a fully air-conditioned theater. Check your local weather station or smartphone weather app for heat advisories. Local heat advisories also often combine temperature and humidity to give you a "real-feel" temperature. Even when the thermometer says it's 86 degrees, a day with 90% humidity can feel a lot warmer. And, all of that humidity makes it harder for your body to sweat and keep naturally cool. BTW, we have a list of non-toxic deodorants to help keep the summer stink at bay without disrupting your body's cooling system.
3. Stay indoors to avoid extreme heatGiphy
When the outside temperatures get to triple digits or the humidity is very high, the safest and healthiest option may be to stay in an air-conditioned home or head to a cooling center. Air conditioning can literally be a lifesaver on very hot days, but keeping the air conditioning to a minimum and remembering to turn it off when you leave the home will not only keep your electricity bills down, but it's better for the planet and your health. Air conditioning releases some pretty strong global warming pollutants, mostly from cooling agents called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Even though HFCs only spend a little time in the atmosphere, they are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Being thoughtful about air conditioning use lowers the amount of HFCs that are getting into the world while keeping you cool when you most need it.
So, how do we keep ourselves and the planet safe? Remember, the goal is to keep your home at a comfortable temperature to prevent stressing your body. Here are some ways to minimize energy use indoors and lower your stress levels:
- Before cranking the AC to full blast, try keeping your home cool by closing the curtains and using fans to keep the air moving. Lighter colored curtains will filter the sunlight without making your home dark and keep the sunbeams from heating your floor and house.
- Keep the kids entertained without electricity by making crafts like decorating paper fans or a game of hide-and-seek.
- And, even when you are indoors, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, take cool water showers or use a cold foot bath or compress if you are feeling overheated.