Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Use Natural Lighting and "Air Conditioning"

This is part of my series20 Ways to Go Green that Make a DifferenceThis series discusses practical ways we can go green in our lives, that will have a measurable effect on the environment.  This is an alternative to the many lists that offer 100+ suggestions, many of which are not easily applied to our lives or the impact is minimal. 

The summer is coming, and that means long days and hot weather.  For many people this means high bills from central air conditioning.  This is one of the most wasteful and unnecessary creature comforts that human society has.  While it is comfortable and pleasant, there are plenty of ways that we can mitigate the environmental waste and damage caused by these creature comforts.

Since summer is coming, the days are going to be much longer.  This means that we will not need to waste as much electricity on lighting, since days are going to last longer.  It is important to harness as much natural light in both office and residential settings.  Large, well placed windows will allow us to bath in the radiance of the sun, and avoid wasting electricity for artificial lighting.  This is fairly straight-forward, but the design of many buildings does not effectively take advantage of the free solar lighting offered.  To make this change, demand windows and natural lighting.  Also, if you have it available to you, make sure to take advantage of it, and consciously turn off lights if they can be avoided.  Furthermore, get out and enjoy the sun, especially for those of us who live in the northern part of the country, take advantage of long summer days and get outside in the evenings rather than watching TV indoors.  Have a bar-be-que, play sports, or just lounge outside with a book.  Free lighting everywhere!  I also try to take advantage of this in the winter, by going to bed earlier, so I do not need to waste electricity at night.  Candles are great, especially before bed!

As far as natural "air conditioning" this is a bit more difficult.  Obviously, everyone loves the cool comfort provided by central air and fans, but do we really need it?  No, humans are well adapted to warmth, and we sweat out all of our excess heat.  Instead of using a fan or the air conditioner, open up the windows!   This goes for both the car and the house.  No need to waste gasoline by using your air conditioner, just slow down and roll down those windows and drink in the breeze.  Although there is a chance that pests may get in your house, its not much of a bother, just get a screen!  If it gets unbearably hot, try to use low levels of air conditioning, rather than cranking it up to the highest setting.  Most of the time, you just need a little bit of conditioning rather than the frigid cold in the middle of July!

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