Today, Ontario and parts of the USA brace for the hottest day of 2019 so far. The “so far” part makes it even more frightening, like the twist ending of a horror movie just gunning for a sequel. We know that climate change, or the climate crisis (climate change’s newer name, now with added urgency), is behind these crazy heat domes.

image credit: CBC and NOAA

The irony here is that heat domes and heat waves are worsened by the climate crisis, while people burning fossil fuels cause the climate crisis, and people will burn more fossil fuels to keep air conditioners running full tilt because of the heat, which makes the climate crisis worse and intolerable heat more frequent. “Yikes!” doesn’t quite cover it.

So how do we keep cool without making the climate crisis worse?

How we power our air conditioners makes a difference. Here in Ontario, we phased out coal plants way back in 2013.

Nov 2013: Al Gore talks climate after Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Ontario closing all coal plants. Almost no smog days since they closed.

Since kicking coal to the can, Ontario has seen almost no smog days! We still have natural gas but most of our electricity does not give off unfriendly emissions. More good news … “in 2018, the Government of Canada announced final regulations to phase-out traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030″. These are reasons to be cheerful.

Our recent Deep Lake Cooling project at Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Rehab Institute, and coming soon to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, shows an even lower carbon way of cooling, and one that also saves a ton of water too! For a liveable future, the answer is transitioning to sustainable energy like wind, solar, hydroelectric, tidal, geothermal, or something not yet invented.

How much we power our air conditioners also makes a difference. Have you ever wandered into a building in summertime, maybe your own office, only to find the AC cranked so high you need a sweater? Does your spouse or someone in your house create an arctic habitat in your living room so you need to throw on a blanket and fuzzy socks?

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Fun fact: many commercial buildings still use a formula from the 1960’s designed to keep 40 year old men in suits and ties comfortable, though times, office gender makeup, and fashions have changed.

This one is easy … change the setpoint on the AC 2, 3 or even 4 degrees higher (find the sweet spot), or talk to building management to complain. The squeaky wheel gets the AC changed. Get comfortable doing it by dressing accordingly for the warmer temps and maybe save the jacket and tie for fall fashions.

Those programmable thermostats are also fantastic for letting our houses warm up while we’re away, then cool again when we need it. The smart ones even let you change it up from your phone. We were lucky enough to get one for free from the former GreenON rebate program, and enjoy setting the AC back to occupancy levels when we’re 15 minutes from home.

Another way to keep cool while easing the pressure on the AC is right in your window. This may seem too simple, but it works … keep blinds and curtains closed during the day so the sun doesn’t heat up your space (the opposite is true in winter).

image credit: zebra blinds

This and 24 other climate friendly ideas can help you and the planet stay cool and be well.