Thursday, July 31, 2014

Guest Post: Tips for Dealing With the World Post-Climate Change

I'm a member of the excellent Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group, and one member shared a very thought-provoking post today. I asked if I could share it here because this  information is so important. So...Take it away, Theresa Smith!

So, the other day, I went looking to see what I could do, just me, myself, and I, and a not too amazing budget, to help slow down the effects of the climate change disasters so many of us are already seeing evidence of. I found the usual stuff, switch to CFL or LED bulbs, drive less, eat local, don’t water your lawn, etc. That’s all well and good, BUT um what next? Part of the issue is that many of us, far more than you’d think, have already done most of that stuff. Yay US!

That’s great, but it does nothing to help ME or my household deal with higher summer temperatures, intermittent flooding, power outages, water shortages, colder winter temps or wild wind storms. Just so we’re clear I’m not talking about the ever famous apocalypse scenario. I’m talking about 2 inches of rain in one day in July which just happened a week ago where I live! I’m also not talking about brownish lawns; my lawn gets a tan every year. I’m talking about a town in Texas where the local park’s kid’s toys MELTED in the heat, and it didn’t rain for 9 months. I’m talking about the kind of “something I should do” because scientists think that the Colorado River’s aquifers may just be giant dry voids at this point, and it would take about four decades for them to refill, even with no one using any of the water.

So, whether you think the weird weather is human related, not human related, or because cows are farting too much, is really pretty immaterial when it comes to practical actions that we as individuals, families, and maybe even communities can take to mitigate the problems the freaky weather is causing. And apparently there is not a lot of material written about this, anywhere.. So here goes! I’m going to put out this article with a few practical, some tested and some not tested ideas that don’t cost an arm and a leg, can be accomplished fairly easily, and will make an appreciable difference in how the freaky weather is affecting you, your family, and your house.

Paint your roof white, especially the south face of it. Sea ice reflects light into space. Sea ice is melting and there is less of it now, so less heat is reflected back into space and more of it stays here. And it gets hotter. The hotter it gets the more ice will melt and the cycle continues. BTW the extra heat in places where it’s not usually that hot is one of the things pushing the odd weather patterns. Also, we all know that wearing a black shirt is hotter than wearing a white shirt in direct sunlight. Your roof gets a lot of direct sunlight. Paint it white and it will absorb less of that heat and reflect more of it back out of your house. In an awesome ideal world, we could paint most of the roofs white and replace the sea ice etc. I did this, and it lowers the summer temp in my house by about 5 degrees, easy. I don’t live in a particularly hot place so this should work even better for people in places like Arizona, Mississippi, and Florida where it’s really hot. I live in the northern hemisphere so if you live in the southern hemisphere prioritize the North face of your roof rather than the south etc. Ok, here’s how. Buy good quality white exterior grade, acrylic paint and then thin it down by ½ with water making it really liquid. It adheres to the textured roof tiles better, and dries faster when it’s thinned down, and it also covers nearly twice as much area for the same expenditure. Did I mention that my budget is a bit, Use a paint sprayer and just spray it on your regular roof tiles on a hot windless day. The windless part matters if there’s another house close to you. Don’t EVEN park the car near the house or hang your laundry that day. The thin paint adheres well to the roof tiles, dries nearly instantly on a hot day, and lasts for years. Needless to say, if you’re re-roofing anyway, just get the lightest possible tiles (they come in arctic white).

Create a “water garden” in the portion of your lawn that gets the most water and has the worst drainage. Information on how to plant a water garden is available on the internet and your county extension or gardening organization should also be able to help. I’m not going to go into too many specifics since plants and annual rainfall, and city ordinances vary so much from area to area. The purpose of a water garden is to catch excessive runoff from major storms and filter it slowly through plants that need the water rather than having it flow into a storm drain. This helps reduce street pollution in runoff, and helps prevent urban flooding from sudden drenching storms. It also filter more water into your lawn without you paying for the water. These can be sited either where a local street or sidewalk dumps water into your lawn, or near buildings whose roofs catch and drain vast amounts of water during a storm.

Get a water barrel, or make one for yourself. They have some very pretty ones for sale on the internet and probably at your local garden outlet or farm store, but they are so easy to make that I can’t see why. Silicone epoxy and the appropriate hole saw bit are the secret to making them quickly and easily. It does generally take either two people or some way to steady the barrel. Again, free water.

Plant a tree! Shade that hot side of your house with a deciduous tree. In the summer when the sun is hot the leaves keep the sun off the house, and in the winter the leaves fall off and allow the lower angled winter sun to warm the walls of your dwelling. It’s the best of both worlds. Not to mention that trees generally clean a ton of dirt and pollution from the air and produce oxygen, this is always good. Alternately, and I’ve seen this work pretty well, put up trellis on posts and grow a climbing vine (honeysuckle is wonderful) about 4 feet away from the wall you’d like to shade. It looks pretty, smells great, and shades the house in summer while breaking the worst of the wind in winter.
Get really good window coverings. A thick insulated pair of curtains will do almost as much for your heating and cooling bills as new windows (which I also recommend) will.

Keep the shades or curtains drawn on the east side of your house until noon, and then switch and close the ones on the west side in the afternoon. Keeping all that heat from getting into your house in the first place is one of the best ways to ensure it stays temperate without the AC running nonstop, and closing those heavy curtains at night in the winter will really make a difference in how cold it gets overnight. You can make insulated curtains yourself from any heavy curtain fabric backed by cheap flannel sheets that have been washed and dried on hot. Or if your inner seamstress is anything like mine, you can also buy curtains with excellent insulating materials already included.

Get a water filtration system. I’m not talking about one of those super spendy in ground systems, although those are certainly nice! I mean something as simple as a large fridge water pitcher with the filter. Now keep it filled up every day. I have a 3 gallon standalone system I was given as a gift, and it’s come in handy more than once if a city main breaks and there is a boil order for the water due to possible contamination. Also house plants love the filtered water. It makes much better tea and coffee too.

Get heavy area rugs. They are easier to keep clean than wall to wall carpet and are much less expensive to replace if something does happen to them. They can be rolled up and put away in the summer so you can enjoy the nice cool floors, and put down as extra insulation and comfy warmth in the winter. Incidentally, this creates one less season of vacuuming!

Keep chanting, “Heat the person, not the room!” Invest in a gorgeous heavy weight sweater or polar fleece to wear in the winter, and suddenly keeping the heat a bit lower doesn’t suck so much. But sometimes even with the heat blasting in our houses it seems hard to get warm. Smartwool socks and heavy sweaters will make for a happier winter. Buy winter shoes ½ size bigger to accommodate heavy boot socks, you’ll be glad you did. This is the time to bake and make soup, it’ll help warm the house and keep you warmed up inside too.

In the summer afternoons, if you can, spray water, not a lot but some, on the roof of your house. Evaporative cooling will help cool the house down a bit, but will especially keep it from “heat gain” in the evening. And yes, you’re using water, but it need not be drinkable, and it does actually evaporate and get returned directly to the earth’s hydro-cycle so it’s not really “wasted” anyway. Use the same theory to help yourself stay cool too by placing a shallow pan of cool water in front of fans in the summer, or even just wetting your hair, or shirt, or placing your feet in cool water. “Cool the person, not the house!” makes just as much sense. Also eat cold foods like salad, and jello, or ice cream, or iced tea etc. rather than cooking dinner and eating hot food.

This is a little more expensive, or crafty depending on your skill set, but it makes such a huge difference that I’m going to include it anyway. Put awnings over your windows. It saves the window frames from water damage and storm damage from things flying in the wind. An awning shades the windows from the higher angle summer sun but allows the lower angled winter sun to come in which is perfect. Also, it generally ups the value or at least the “curb appeal” of your home. Plus it makes it really easy to decorate for various holidays!

Again, this is a “buy it” solution, but I have found it to be of practical value. Buy a few solar charged LED lights. Not the “stick in your lawn” kind, but ones that are meant for indoor use. They just sit in a window sill until a power outage, or backyard party requires their presence.

These are a few of the practical DIY ideas I’ve come up with. I hope you’ll share those you can think of too! I just try to put the emphasis on DIY, not too expensive, low tech or no tech, set it and forget it type of things which address a specific problem and do no harm anyway even if it doesn’t work as well as hoped for.

These are great!  Do you have anything to add? Share in the comments! 

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