Sustainable Living: 5 Best Ways To Beat The Heat And Spare Your Wallet

Heat like the sort the East Coast has been experiencing has many different effects but perhaps the most ubiquitous is just how lazy it makes us.  No one wants to tackle insulating the attic when its 100 degrees outside, even if it would make your home significantly cooler.  So let’s take it slow.  Here are our top five small, simple steps you can take to beat the heat: guaranteed to make a difference you can fell but the environment and your bank account won’t even notice!

1. Got AC?  Let it sit around 78 degrees.  While you might be tempted to set it to “arctic”- running your unit at temperatures lower than 78 will not cool things down any faster or more effectively.  What it will do however, is force the system to work harder, use more energy and force you to pay up more at the end of the month.  Think of your AC as a baseline tool to be used in conjunction with other tricks.
2. Fan of a good fan?  Try placing one or two frozen water bottles in front of your fan, it is effective, low-cost and low impact.  But the best part?  You’ll never have that panic-stricken moment of “did I leave the AC blasting at home?”  Frozen water bottles aren’t just low maintenance, they’re no maintenance.
3. Sheets to the wind. This is one old wives’ tale that you can trust.  Plus, we love it because its so simple; just hang a damp sheet in front of your window and the sheet will cool air entering your home.  It is also a great way to dry your sheets when they come out of the wash as using the dryer heats up small homes quickly. Which leads us to…
4. Unplug your life.  Turn off any heat-generating devices: the dryer, the iron, the hairdryer, the toaster and oven.  Even small electronics, like laptops, when used frequently can generate heat that you may not notice to the touch but contribute to rising indoor temperatures.  A great excuse to put down the tablets and phones and head out to a barbeque!
5.  Spice. Hydrate. Repeat.  We all know that body temperature can also be changed from the inside out.  Heatwaves are a great excuse to order delivery (you can’t use the oven after all) from your favorite Thai, Indian or Ethiopian place.  It is no coincidence that cultures originating from sizzling parts of the globe typically have equally sizzling native cuisines.  The wisdom in spicing up your insides is that it generates sweat – activating the body’s natural cooling system. In terms of your liquids it is also important to keep very well hydrated and drink much more water than you normally would.  A simple glass of ice water might be the most effective coolant of all, though a cold beer with your spicy Mexican food is also advisable!

Cheers to staying cool this summer.

Green Tech: Unlocking the Power of Play

Jessica O. Matthews and Julia Silverman are on a mission to show the world that the value of play can not only be measured in smiles but in very real economic and social terms.  Both Harvard students had volunteered traveled extensively in Africa and also shared a passion for soccer: the continent’s (and the world’s) most popular game.  In an engineering class they got the chance to marry these two passions, capitalizing on an opportunity to improve living conditions in African through the continent’s love of soccer.
What does such an ambitious project look like?  A sOccket, a small generator cleverly disguised as a soccer ball that charges as you play with it!  Three hours of LED illumination is stored in the sOccket per every half hour of playtime.  It can also charge small electronic devices like a cell phone.

This ingenious solution isn’t just making an economic impact by delivering renewable light energy to many rural areas.  There are important health benefits as well because most of the developing world still relies on on kerosene lamps that pose huge safety hazards: the fumes inhaled by children in kerosene-light homes is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

The sOccett vs. huge public health threats is been a game that’s garnered the attention of an international audience.
Today there are more than 6,000 sOcckets “kicking around”, literally, from Africa to Mexico to Brazil.  Uncharted Play, the organization founded by Matthews and Silverman to distribute their product received overwhelming support from corporate sponsors principally because of how easily and effectively the tool integrates into daily life.  As Matthews explained, “Why don’t we give you something that you already like to do and get what you need.”

And sOccket has yet another a new fan, President Obama.  During his recent trip to Africa his team set to work distributing the item to many African nations and on a tour of a facility that manufacturers the ball he even showed off some of his soccer skills! A huge goal for the two Harvard girls who knew just how powerful play could be.

The Giants of Iowa: Reuse, Re-rigged

The world of reuse is sometimes relegated to all things tiny: tiny homes, tiny devices, tiny art.  But in Iowa reuse is going not just big, its going gigantic, 8 stories to be exact!  That’s because in the middle of Iowa’s rolling farmlands there is, surprisingly, a mountain climber’s paradise where a number of unused grain silos have been converted into ice climbing walls.

In the fall of 2001 Don Briggs, a professor and climbing enthusiast, was helping a friend till his farmland in the municipality of Ceder Falls when he made a bet that he could scale one of the silos looming in the distance.  In the end, he won the bet and discovered that the most workable way to reach the peak was to ice climb it.

Briggs has now developed an intricate icing process by rigging hoses at the top of the structure which slow-drip downwards creating a semi-malleable wall of ice that changes depending on wind and weather conditions.

Since the silo opened for business it has attracted both beginners and experts alike and exposed a community famous for their flat farmlands to a taste of mountain life, close to home.  To learn more check out Silo Ice Climbing.

Sustainable living: Superheroes on Wheels

Do you have what it takes to go by bike from the the southern tip of Argentina to the northern tip of Alaska? Do you have what it takes to do it blindfolded? Christi and Tauru do.  This legally blind pair have put the rest of our sustainable living adventures to shame, they have been making the epic journey over the past 11 months, peddling their way across America, in its entirety, on a tandem bicycle.

I caught up with Christi and Tauru after the lunch rush in the rural Bolivian equivalent of a food court.  They immediately stuck out to me as an American, all smiles and about foot taller than everyone else.  As we shared a meal of spicy milanesa their story unfolded.  The two had met in the corporate world, Tauru was an established career man and Christi, a motivated intern but neither felt deep down that they were cut out for the corporate world.  When Christi hosted a brown-bag lunch/info session about her own vision condition (she was born blind in her right eye and 20/200 vision in her left eye) and how to work with low-vision colleagues, Tauru was eager to connect with someone with whom he could share his own experience: he had recently been diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease and was facing eventual blindness.

The two hit it off.  It didn’t take long before Tauru, an avid traveler, proposed the idea of the bike trip to Christi, “He said hey, want to quit your job and travel the world?” She couldn’t resist.  So, in the midst of a financial crisis they traded their secure jobs, homes and lives for the open road, and embarked on their first epic journey from California to the east coast of the United States, after Christi learned to ride a bike for the first time! “We met great people doing that and we thought what a great way to travel the world, let’s take the Americas in the other direction.”

And so, in January the two arrived, tandem-in-tow, in Argentina. But the motivation behind this trip is not just bragging rights; their main priority is the work they do off the bike, in hospitals, community centers and schools for the blind where they raise awareness about vision impairment, educate, mobilize and inspire those with impaired vision.  Tauru says they hope to convey that, “the dangers are definitely there, the challenges are definitely there, but hopefully we can inspire others to go out and do things too because life is short… and nothing is impossible.”

If you want to know how Christi and Tauru keep the bike wheels rolling, economize, and their best survival tips (spoiler alter: a lot of ham and cheese sandwiches) listen to my full interview here. You can also keep tabs on them through their website and via Facebook. ExchangeMyPhone is happy to report that the pair has just recently crossed into Panama and are still going strong. We are always happy to continue to feature people changing the world in amazing, sustainable and meaningful ways.  Hats off to Christi and Tauru!