Carbonless Cooling

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Other cultures have perfected many ways of dealing with the summer’s heat. Here are a few low-tech ways from around the world to keep cool this summer without adding more carbon to the problem of climate change:

South America: Dampen a sheet, and hang it in the window. The water evaporates in the breeze, cooling the room in the process. Another method is to place frozen 2-liter bottles of water in front of fans for instant AC.

India: Yogis practice shitali pranayama, in which they sit cross-legged and breathe deeply. Shape your tongue into a tube like a snorkel, and put the tip outside your mouth. Breathe through your “snorkel” with your chin on your chest. The air moving over your tongue cools you from the inside out.

Egypt: Egyptian nights stay in the 90s. Dampen a bedsheet, and use it as your “blanket.” Evaporation does the trick.

China: Keep bamboo mats between your skin and hot or hard surfaces, such as car seats and chairs. The bamboo allows air to circulate and keeps bare skin from sticking to hot plastic.

Tropics: In humid climates, people often dress down and get wet. Getting wet reduces your core body temperature by 3 degrees and lasts up to an hour. If you wear clothes that can get wet, as well, the cooling effect lasts longer. You don’t have to have a pool. A water hose, faucet or misting bottle will work.

Middle East: You can stay cooler in arid climates by covering up your skin. Picture desert dwellers in their turbans and flowing white garments; the white reflects the sun, and the natural, loose fabrics shade the skin where there is no shade. Bedouins often wear two layers in the heat of the day. Skin exposed to direct sun is hotter than skin insulated by clothing. Turbans and bandanas shade the eyes and soak up sweat from the head, which evaporates and helps cool you off.

Cities: Apartment dwellers in cities often move bedding onto fire escapes to sleep in the cooler night air.
Their rural counterparts can sleep on screened-in porches or outdoors. Another trick is to fill your bathtub with cold water and take periodic dips to keep cool. If you live on the top floor, turn on the ceiling fan (or attic fan) and open the windows to draw out the hot air. If possible, go downstairs to the basement in the heat of the day. Turn off incandescent lights, as they generate 90 percent heat and 10 percent light. Use compact fluorescents or LEDs instead.

West Indies: Spicy foods make you perspire more, which cools the body. Spices also help stop foods from spoiling as quickly and give you an endorphin rush, which feels good in any temperature.

Italy: Train grapevines over window trellises to provide shade in the summer and let in light in the winter. Slightly opening windows on the bottom floor and fully opening upstairs windows maximizes Mediterranean breezes through your villa.

Southern comfort: Front porches are part of the cooling system of a Southern home. Sitting in a lawn chair or rocker that has slats or openings (for airflow) on a shady porch with iced tea is a Southern tradition. You hold the iced tea against your neck to cool the blood going to your brain. Also, hold it on your pulse points on your wrists. Blow into the iced tea and cool air will rush around your face and neck. In temperatures higher than 105 degrees, soak your clothes, and then sit in the lawn chair with iced tea.

Women’s wisdom: Women in hot climates always carry folding fans in their purses. Another secret is to dampen a handkerchief and tuck it into your cleavage. It is very cooling and keeps sweat from running down your chest. Southern women often spritz themselves with rubbing alcohol and then stand in front of fans. Follow that with a sprinkling of baby powder at your pulse points and you’re as cool as a cucumber.

Shawn can be reached at


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