This Green Life
A monthly journal of sorts by Sheryl Eisenberg

JULY 2011: If you can't succeed at living sustainably in January, try, try again in July.

Summertime and Green Living is Easy
Simple ways to reduce your footprint in summer

If you can't manage to live as sustainably as you'd like in the cold months of the year, try doing it now. Summer, in a temperate climate, lends itself to a more natural, less energy-intensive way of living. (In hotter regions, make that "spring and fall.")

Let me begin with the obvious: things dry faster in summer. So, air-drying clothes is truly practical this time of year. Hang clothes out in the morning on a sunny day and they'll be ready to wear by late afternoon.

In neighborhoods or developments where outdoor drying is banned or frowned upon, you can set up drying racks inside. Drying will take a little longer indoors—but rarely more than a day for most clothes except when it's raining. For the briefest drying times, plan your washing around the weather, just as you would your recreational pursuits.

What's true for clothes applies to dishes, so turn off your dishwasher's dry cycle. When the washing is done, open the dishwasher, pull out the racks, and tip the cups and other things that collect water at the top to allow the water to drip off. Then let everything air dry. It won't take long.

Take cool showers. They feel great in summer and colder water uses less energy.

Work with the natural cycles of the day to keep your home comfortable without air conditioning. (In a heat wave, this may not be possible. Always think of your health first.) On days when it promises to be very hot, shut the windows in the morning before the air heats up. Also close the blinds, shades or curtains in rooms that get direct sunlight. If you have working shutters, close them instead. Then at night, when the temperature drops, open the windows to cool your home down.

The sun is brighter and stays out longer in summer than in other seasons. Make use of that lovely daylight, instead of artificial light, to read and work by. If you're not performing a task such as meal preparation that requires you to be in a particular room, hang out on the side of the home that's getting the most light at that time of day (provided you don't need to block the light because of the heat). And move your furniture to the brightest position in the room.

Even better, sit outdoors and get the full benefit of the sunlight even in the shade.

Eat locally. Far from a sacrifice, in summer, it's the best way for a food-lover to eat. If you have any doubts, truck on down to your farmer's market this week to see the variety of fruits and vegetables available. In the Northeast where I live, we have corn, tomatoes, peppers, beans, beets, broccoli, squash, peas, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, peaches, plums and apples, among other things.

OK, there's no asparagus right now, and that's one of my favorite vegetables, but I don't mind because I had my fill in May and June when it was in season. Eggplant is coming in August and will only be more pleasurable for the wait. There will never be a mango, alas, but the peaches are heavenly, and a near match for taste. The only thing I won't find that I feel I can't do without is lemon, though our local lemon thyme works beautifully for many dishes.

Not only is eating local food easier in summer, so is eating raw and minimally cooked food—salads and sautés rather than stews and roasts. Why is that more sustainable? Cooking uses energy—so the less you cook, the smaller your energy footprint will be. Also, by cooking less, you keep your home cooler, which reduces your need for artificial cooling. Cooking outdoors on a grill is another way to avoid heating up the home, though grilling has environmental impacts of its own, so follow green grilling practices.

Also consider eating less meat to reduce your contribution to global warming and a range of other environmental problems. With all that fresh, flavorful produce around, combined with the appetite-suppressing effect of the heat, you won't miss meat as much as you might in winter.

Lastly, ditch the car for short trips, provided temperatures aren't too high, and walk or bike to your destination instead. There's no need for protection from the elements except in a thunderstorm. Indeed, a light summer rain can be a treat. The scent is so delicious, perfumers have been known to bottle the smell.

A quarter (or a half!) a year of this kind of living and you can really feel you've done your part.

—Sheryl Eisenberg

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Summertime and Green Living is Easy


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Related TGLs

Eating in the Neighborhood Eating in the Neighborhood
The benefits—and joys—of local food

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How to keep cool without the A/C

Light and Bright Light and Bright
Illuminating your home with daylight

On This Topic

Closed window with curtains drawn in daytime
USE WHAT NATURE OFFERS. With all that bright summer sunshine streaming in during the day, artificial lights are often unnecessary...even when curtains are closed.

For times when you do need artificial light, equip your lamps with LED or compact fluorescent bulbs. Not only do they use less energy than incandescent bulbs, they generate less heat.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SUMMER'S BOUNTY. There is an amazing variety of just-picked, naturally ripened produce at most farmer's markets this time of year. The flavors are so bright and zingy, you can build a meal around them without the use of heat or meat.

For instance, the panzanella (Tuscan bread salad) pictured above was made with local tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and basil plus country bread, olive oil, red vinegar, capers and salt. Adding feta cheese, black olives and anchovies makes it more robust. See my panzanella recipes on This Green Blog.

PITFALLS OF SUMMER. (1)Lawns. Water early in the day (not midday when you'll lose water to evaporation) and learn other ways to water efficiently. (2)Bottled Water. Fill a wide-mouthed reusable water bottle with ice and water for long days on the go. (3)Clothes. Dress for the heat, not the air conditioning, and bring a jacket or sweater along.


How to Green Your Summer

Consumer Energy Center
Summertime Energy-saving Tips
How to Line Dry Laundry

Sustainable Table
What is Local Food?

More to Do

This Green Blog NRDC Switchboard Save Biogems
Sheryl Eisenberg is a writer, web developer and long-time advisor to NRDC. With her firm, Mixit Productions (, she brought NRDC online in 1996, designed NRDC's first websites, and continues to develop special web features for NRDC. She created and, for several years, wrote the Union of Concerned Scientists' green living column, Greentips, and has designed and contributed content to many nonprofit sites. Sheryl makes her home in Tribeca (NYC), where—along with her children, Sophie and Gabe, and husband, Peter—she tries to put her environmental principles into practice. No fooling.
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