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Be a better steward this summer: Here’s how

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Cecilia Pigg - published on 06/13/23

I even managed to get my husband on board with this (crazy) idea!

I handed him the chapter I had bookmarked, and said, “Please read it all the way through before you respond.” His eyes opened wide as he read the title and introductory sentences, and he started to protest, “You want to give up AIR CONDITIONING?!” I interrupted him quickly, “You have to read it through first! Please!” He took a deep breath and said OK.

I have a tendency to ask my husband that we change our lives radically in an effort to live more simply. This comes up regularly, and it has prompted us to try living without internet at our house for months, eating dinners of rice and beans multiple times a week, and giving up sugar and alcohol completely for an extended period. Suffice it to say that when I have a new, brilliant idea along these lines, my husband is wary. 

As I came back into the room from doing the dishes, he finished reading and said, “Okay, let’s try it.”

“Really?! Great!” My heart sang, and we embarked on our no air conditioning experiment. 

We tried it out for a summer, and it was — very challenging, especially at first. It turned out that we needed to make some pretty significant lifestyle changes for it to work for our family. But as we started forming new habits, it became more doable.

Now, we didn’t live completely AC-free at home the whole summer. Much to my surprise (served with a nice slice of humble pie), I was the first one to cave. In the afternoons when it got above 84 degrees in the house, I would turn it on for a few hours. And, we would always turn it on for guests. But, as we tried to continue on our quest, we figured out ways to rely less and less on our central air, even on sweltering afternoons. So, to this day, we use less energy because we’ve changed our standards and figured out practical ways that work for us and our house.

Here are some things we have found:

Ceiling fans are lifesavers. The movement of air instantly cools you, and having a fan on your ceiling gets more area than a standing fan on the floor in the corner of the room. 

We keep our lights off for most of the day, and our blinds closed. Yes, it is a little cave-like at times. But, again, it all adds to a cooler-feeling-less-central-air-needed existence. 

We run our appliances at night, and I do as much cooking and dinner prep as possible at night. I also change our dinner menus in July and August to more finger foods and picnic fare so that turning on the stove is less necessary. Vacuuming, laundry, and dishes are all accomplished in the early morning or late evening. 

Before bed, we take cold showers or just cold quick rinses for the kids. Also, we’ve learned to enjoy a big glass of ice water and a popsicle after dinner. It helps with digestion, feeling full for longer, and a cooler body temperature. 

We set a different temperature for the evening, so that we are using even less energy while we are sleeping. I’ve learned from our first summer that it uses more energy to turn on the air conditioning for a few hours and then turn it off again. So now we keep it on, but at a higher — yet still manageable — temperature all the time. 

During our hot and humid summer afternoons, we either hit up a splash pad as a family or run the sprinkler in the backyard for a bit so we can get some outside time in. 

Our house has an attic fan that we use in the morning and evenings, when we open up many doors and windows to get the cooler air circulating. As the day heats up, we close up the house. 

Ready to try?

If you’re game, try using a little less energy this summer. Start by keeping your thermostat set a few degrees higher than you normally would, and see how it goes. True, you might be a little sweatier, and a little less comfortable. But there is an important reason to keep going that is hard to quantify or see.

Pope Francis puts it beautifully: “If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs” (Laudato Si, 11). 

Instead of thoughtlessly using whatever energy is needed to make us comfortable at this moment, right now, a little forethought and practice can prepare us to manage through our current discomfort without pressing an extra button or plugging another something in.

We are stewards of the resources we have, and are responsible for maintaining the beauty of His creation. Plus, a little discomfort can help increase our awe and gratitude for the resources we do have. What an amazing world we inhabit, truly. Happy fruitful sweating! 

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