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Air conditioners are bad news for the environment—try these 7 OG methods to stay cool instead


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Photo: Stocksy/Milles Studio

Once the temperatures start to rise in the summer, it’s second nature for many folks to turn on the air conditioner to full-blast. No judgment: The #struggle of blowing out your hair while swimming in a pool of your own sweat can certainly feel like reason enough to crank up that fan speed to “arctic”. But since the environmental impact of using an AC to stay cool is way worse than once thought, it might be time to rethink your heat-fighting order of operations.

new study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, analyzed five predictions of extra energy use in the summertime as a result of warmer annual summer temps (ahem, global warming) to forecast effects on power consumption, air quality, and public health. The results showed that 1,000 people who live in the Eastern part of the United States alone are expected to die every year as a result of complications from increased levels of pollution in the air—something tied to frequent air conditioner use. Because electricity is required to power air conditioners, more fossil fuels are burned to create that energy, and the process releases harmful particles into the air. The study predicted that if current air-conditioning habits continue in conjunction with rising temperatures, by midcentury, the mortality rate could reach 13,000 people annually just in the Eastern US.

“If our nation continues to rely on coal-fired power plants for some of our electricity, each time we turn on the air conditioning we’ll be fouling the air, causing more sickness and even deaths.” —Jonathan Patz, MD

“We’re trading problems,” senior study author Jonathan Patz, MD, says in a press release. “Heat waves are increasing and increasing in intensity. We will have more cooling demand requiring more electricity. But if our nation continues to rely on coal-fired power plants for some of our electricity, each time we turn on the air conditioning we’ll be fouling the air, causing more sickness and even deaths.”

Until clean energy is more widely available, saving the environment might be as simple as relying on some OG methods of staying comfortable in the heat. Sure, you might be a little more sweaty, but you’ll be making the world a greener in the process. And hey, you could always just think of your living room as a health-boosting infrared sauna.

Here are 7 smart ways to stay cool in the heat—no air conditioner necessary

1. Take a cold shower

Cold showers might not typically be your go-to, but they sure do feel great during the summertime. When you start getting hot, hop on in and enjoy the cooling effects for as long as you can afterward.

2. Use a peppermint body wash

While you’re in the shower, try using peppermint-infused soap. It naturally cools down your skin, making you feel totally refreshed and invigorated (and not at all like your former sweaty self).

3. Grab a bag of frozen veggies

Yes, meal prep can totally include a warm-up (er, uh, cooldown) phase of resting a bag of frozen peas on your face for 20 minutes of pure bliss. Plus, once you feel the heat fade away, your side dish will be ready to toss into a pot on the stove for dinner.

4. Try cooling beauty products

Certain beauty products are available that promise to cool you down, like Milk Makeup’s Cooling Water or Skyn Iceland’s Hydro Cool Firming Face Gels. Yes, that means you can look great and bask in a refreshing sensation at once.

5. Spritz yourself with water

If you’re not in the mood for 20 cold showers a day, just keep a spray bottle on hand. When you’re feeling extra hot, a nice full-body spritz can do wonders. Or, amp things up even more by combining the powers of fans and water with an old-school Squeeze Breeze.

6. Cuddle up with a chilled bottle of Pellegrino

Pellegrino isn’t just a great way to get your mineral-water fix. Chilling a big bottle and giving it a nice, cold cuddle before sipping is a great way to bring down your body temp.

7. Eat some vegan ice cream

As if you needed an excuse, right? (Hey, it’s for the environment.) So, when things are really too hot to handle, grab some dairy-free Chunky Monkey or make your own nice cream and settle in for the night to literally Netflix and chill.

Air conditioners aren’t the only things causing environmental damage. Here’s what to know about the impact of glitter and certain chemical sunscreens.

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