Warm weather and long, sunny days get people out of the house and into nature or trap them inside to avoid the heat and humidity. As a result, it’s also a time when people may forget about sustainable living

An estimated 90% of U.S. households use AC to stay cool. The average usage is around 1,100 kWh per household. In southern states, the average usage is almost 1,500 kWh. As global warming impacts weather, it’s also affecting HVAC systems. Fans and ACs run more in some areas while dehumidifiers and sump pumps work overtime in others. 

That’s home energy usage. In 2021, 25.9 U.S. households went camping at least three times. Some used tents, while others used RVs or rented cabins. It’s another area where sustainability is vital. Our tips will help you be most sustainable throughout the summer, whether you’re staying home or heading out to a forest, beach, or national park.

Stay Cool and Use Less Energy

Air conditioning is a wonderful thing, but it also consumes energy. If you have an older system, it won’t be very efficient. When possible, skip the AC and cool your home naturally using these techniques.

Run Window Fans at Night

Put in window fans before you go to bed and draw in the cooler evening air. When you get up, turn off the fans, remove them from the windows, and close up your home. Use room-darkening blinds or shades to keep the sun out. Run floor fans or ceiling fans during the day to keep a constant airflow.

Have Your AC Maintained Annually

If you have central AC, make sure it’s maintained each year. You want a trained professional to inspect electricals, clean the coils, and check the pressurization to ensure nothing is wrong. You should also change your air filters regularly to prevent dust, dirt, and hair from clogging the filter and making it work harder.

Wear Light, Flowing Clothes

Light materials like cotton or linen allow air to flow through the material. That helps your skin release heat without that heat getting trapped by the material. Light colors are also important as white is best at reflecting the sun’s rays. Dark colors draw them in and make you warmer.

Install Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats automatically adjust your home’s temperature to fit your patterns. If you leave work every day at 8 a.m., leaving the house empty until 6 p.m., a smart thermostat learns your patterns. It will turn the temperature up when the house is empty, which saves money and reduces energy consumption.

Create Shade at Patio Doors and Large Windows

Awnings over the larger windows in your home block out the sun’s rays without making your room too dark. There are also vinyl roofing panels that are UV-blocking, so you don’t have to forgo the natural lighting while keeping most of the UV-A and UV-B rays from getting through.

Damp Clothes Keep You Cool

If all else fails and it’s too warm, dampen a T-shirt and put it on. Damp clothing cools your skin, which keeps you feeling cool for hours. When all of the water evaporates, dampen it again for more hours of feeling cool.

Try Sustainable Gardening

Put some of your waste to work for you and build a garden. One of the easier, effective methods is a lasagna garden, which starts with a layer of wet cardboard. Cover that in vegetable and fruit scraps that you’ve set aside for composting. Add layers of grass clippings, garden soil, peat moss, and more wet cardboard. Plant directly into those layers and the roots will break it down into a rich compost. You end up with homegrown produce and reduce the amount of food scraps going to a landfill.

It’s also helpful to compost your scraps as a general habit. A tumbling bin composter is easy to use and works well to compost trimmings from your fruits and vegetables, shredded brown paper that comes in orders as packaging material, and grass trimmings. Over the weeks, it breaks down into soil that is full of nutrients for your gardens.

You don’t have to have a lot of room to plant a garden. Purchase 5-gallon buckets from a local home improvement store and drill holes in the bottom. Place a few inches of crushed stone in the bottom and fill the rest up with potting soil. Many vegetables grow well in container gardens, including peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, and squash. If you have a wider container, potatoes, carrots, and onions are possible.

Be Eco-Friendly When You’re Taking a Vacation

When you go on vacation, be eco-friendly. If you are going hiking, carry out everything you bring in. Don’t leave behind trash. If something blows away, make every effort to retrieve it. Put out fires when you’re done.

If you’re heading to the beach, make sure you choose a mineral-based sunscreen. It’s proven that chemical-based products damage coral reefs, and some areas have banned those products. Know the local laws.

Make it a habit to purchase mineral-based sunscreen products. You can limit the use of sunscreen by purchasing UV-protecting clothing. Many brands are out there and the clothing does a great job at protecting your skin from the sun.

Hold Sustainable Gatherings

Are you planning a backyard barbecue or party? Choose local meats where farms use sustainable and humane practices. Only prepare as much food as people will eat. Avoid having leftovers that will end up in the trash. If you do end up with more leftovers than you can feasibly eat, ask others to bring some food home with them.

Get plant-based plates, utensils, cups, and napkins. Instead of throwing them out, put them right into your compost after rinsing them off of any meat juices.  Backyard barbecues with a twist:

There are some excellent solar-powered fairy lights, deck post lights, and hanging lanterns for lighting options.  They provide plenty of light and don’t require any electricity.

Learn What You Can Recycle

Are you stuck on where to recycle items or find other ways to be more sustainable? Recycle Nation offers a recycling guide where you enter your ZIP code and the item you have to get rid of and learn where to bring it. 

We also recommend visiting Energy.gov to learn more about discounts you can use when upgrading your HVAC system, purchasing a window AC unit, adding insulation, or replacing windows and doors. Also, check with your local electricity company to see if you qualify for cash-back rebates when you purchase electric mowers and yard equipment.