Author – Deepak VR Malyala
The great Indian midsummer nightmare is here! Like food, clothing and shelter, it becomes essential for us to keep cool during the hot summers. The rapid rise in temperatures and the radical change in climate have posed a serious threat to our environment. The so called ‘modern contraptions’ that we use to keep our rooms cool during summers have led to the phenomenon of global warming. This ironical situation where a gadget that is used to cool us heats up the environment is a harsh reality for us humans to comprehend. Global warming will continue unabated if drastic measures are not taken to curb it.
Although bringing down the indoor temperature without an air conditioner seems to be a herculean task, generations of Indians have used very simple methods to stay cool in the summer. It must also be acknowledged that most of these non-polluting methods are cost effective as well. The expenditure involved in implementing at least five such ideas are less than the price of a small AC.
Some of the common eco-friendly ways of keeping ourselves cool during summer are as follows:
Earthen Pot Fridges
During summers, many households use earthen pots rather than refrigerators for storing water. The water stored in a mud pot is cooled down rapidly as the pores of the terracotta pot allow water to reach the surface and evaporate. As the surface water evaporates, the latent heat difference causes the water inside the pot to cool down. Further, traditional methods such as Zeer pots can act as natural coolers and cool vegetables and fruits as well. Some Indian innovators have created mud-based refrigerators named ‘Mitticool’ that can cool both water and food items.
Cost: INR200-300 per pot
While, this may sound funny and strange, but whitewashing the roof of a house brings down the indoor temperature by 5-10 degrees! Not only can they keep homes cooler, if all surfaces in the city are painted white, they will bring down the temperature of the area considerably. This simple yet innovative technique of painting roofs white as a method to keep buildings cool is an ancient one, which is still used in arid regions like Rajasthan. You need to apply a single coat of good quality exterior water-proof paint on your building roof. This can be done once in two-three years depending on the amount of rain received in your region.
Cost: INR20-25 per square feet
Khus Khus Carpet
Khus Khus is something that we see commonly in small and medium-sized towns. A carpet of khus khus soaked in water is hung from the ceiling, spreading across the terraces. The carpet doesn’t allow the heat in the air to pass through, and the water vapour evaporates, thus providing cool breeze for people living behind the layer. Similarly, installing shades or blinds on windows facing the western side of the building will help cut out the sunlight.
Cost: INR500-1,000 (depending on thickness)
Green shade of trees and indoor plants
A hint of greenery can surely enliven our homes as well as offices. Most of us cannot afford to have spacious landscaped garden around our house. At most we can have a few pots of flowering and vegetable plants in our kitchen garden. These indoor plants require minimum amount of sunlight, water and fresh air. In fact they purify the air by sucking out CO2 and other indoor pollutants For those who feel a hint of greenery can be added to our interiors, there are some sensible options. Indoor plants or house plants can be kept in confined interiors with little sunlight and minimal maintenance. Further, plant trees around our building not just for their aesthetic beauty, but also because of the cool shades that they provide us.
Sprinkled water and water pool in houses
It is a common traditional practice for Indians to sprinkle water in front of their house early morning and on the roof top. This water evaporates and in a similar manner to that of the earthen pots. Due to this evaporation, the ambient temperature inside the house cools down, thus reducing the need for a 24-hour functioning of AC. This method has been used for centuries in rural areas and is now being observed in the urban areas. Similarly have a fountain or a just a large tank of water with aquatic plants can also help bring down the ambient temperature.
Cotton clothes in India have a history that dates back to centuries. Later in modern India, Khadi cloth made of hand-spun cotton fabric was made popular during the independence struggle. Cotton clothing, especially in lighter shades, gives relief from the scorching summer heat. Further, you can purchase cooler and more eco-friendly garments such as linen, hemp, banana fibre, etc.
Cost: INR500-1,000 (depends on the type and brand)
Fresh lime soda is a popular indigenous drink sold all over the country and with different names like Nimbu paani, banta, soda lemon, etc. In addition to being a native to our country, the beverage comes in a reusable glass bottle, saving a spot on the landfill site for waste plastic or PET bottle. It is always better to consider our choice of drink when buying a can/bottle of fizzy drinks by foreign brands.
Cost: INR10-20 per glass.
This interesting idea was suggested by Diptanu Chaudhuri, who says we can fight climate change and global warming by a simple solution of introducing rooftop plantations all over the world. Rooftop gardens can installed on large government buildings, private residences and even on vehicles having a roof. This will help us to create a refreshing pollution-free environment especially in congested cites since plants act as indoor air purifiers. Further, the thick layer of soil will automatically cool down the air below the roof. Laws can be implemented to make rooftop plantation mandatory for each and every building in cities. Rooftop gardens can bring back the beautiful birds, bees, butterflies etc. that are no longer seen amidst our polluted cities.