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Up here in summertime Vermont, where a Canadian cold front is rarely more than a day or two away, most of my friends and neighbors don't see the need for air conditioners. Which is a perfectly acceptable strategy until those few days each year when the temperature hits the '90s. Then we get creative on ways to keep our cool.

When my house gets hot, our whole family shifts into a lifestyle designed to keep the heat away. Here are a few pages from our midsummer playbook:

  • We copy my great aunt Gladys and put cold water on our wrists and dab it on our temples -- our pulse points -- and this does seem to cool us down.
  • If it's really hot, we'll stick our feet in a washbasin of cold water, and/or wrap a wet towel around our heads and/or necks. We've even been known to soak in a cold bath, which is okay around here because water isn't in short supply.
  • We lower our shades and sometimes even close our windows to keep the sun and heat out. Our house cools considerably overnight. By sealing it up to varying degrees during the day, we lock that chill inside, especially when no breezes are blowing. As shade replaces sun, we slowly open the windows back up. Done right, it works.
  • We dress appropriately. I have been known to show up for breakfast in a swimsuit.
  • Indoor cooking is banned. Why add a hot oven to a house that already is one? It's the grill or salads and other cold dishes during heat waves. Eating cold stuff helps chill us down, too. And we aim for smaller portions and lighter foods to cut down on the body heat created by digestion.
  • It's lights out as much as possible because even our compact fluorescent bulbs give off waste heat and who needs that? So we lower the lights until temperatures fall.
  • We switch the living room ceiling fan's direction so it blows down and creates a breeze on our skin. Remember: ceiling fans cool people not rooms so aim yours at you.
  • We also use portable fans. Sometimes we'll freeze a few water bottles and set them between us and a fan to create a little low-impact air conditioning. It works better than you'd think. So does spritzing skin with water from a spray bottle.
  • We make lots and lots of frosty and reasonably healthy fruit juice ice pops.

These ideas work even if you own an air conditioner but prefer to keep it turned off to save energy.

How do you stay cool in the summertime?

photo: Ryk Neethling

Geoff the Inkslinger and his Dog

The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds!