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As has often been the case during this Year of Austere saga, the month of environmental austerity has presented us with the opportunity to weed out areas of blatant excess in our lives.  In some cases, our behaviors have definitely changed for the good.  In others, while we may not have yet enacted change, at least the potential to do so is now lodged in our consciousness.   It has also provided us some reassurance that, while improvement is needed, we are doing many things well (like a vegetarian dog 🙂 – yes, he’s healthy).

We humans are creatures of habit, and it is this habit that is often a potent spoiler for behavior change.  Take our cars for instance.  We have many habits tied up in the very act of driving, one of these the immediate finger on the AC button on a hot day.   In the US, an average of 43-49% of time spent in cars is with the air conditioner turned on.   Canada is somewhat less than this no doubt, but only because we live just below the Arctic Circle and have natural AC on our Ski Doos.  But we do get some hot temperatures this time of year, and this past week has been a relatively warm one.   I also drive a black vehicle and wear a suit and tie to work, which really ratchets up the discomfort level markedly.

Yet this week, with great gnashing of teeth, I have forgone the AC and have opened the windows instead.   I was reminded that I actually have a sun-roof, which I opened with good effect on the highway but was quickly and savagely reminded why it’s called a “sun” roof sitting at a stop light.   I was also unkindly reminded of my thinning hair when I realized my head started to feel like someone was doing acupuncture on it as I sat there and roasted. 

Yet, I persevered.   It took the full week, but by Thursday I was getting the airflow and sunroof positioning thing down to a fine art and was feeling relatively comfortable.   Now, I know the temperatures will only increase further as we move into the summer, and I’m sure there will be times when the AC will be a necessity.  But each day that I can live without it is a win for the environment.   Consider the following as you jump into your own vehicles in the coming weeks…

  • Air conditioners increase the fuel consumption of a typical mid-sized vehicle by >20%, while increasing CO emissions by 70% (US Dept. of Energy), causing direct and indirect impact on the environment.
  • ACs pump out heat which contributes to global warming directly.
  • The chemical refrigerant used in air conditioners (R134a) is 1400 times more harmful than carbon dioxide to the environment.   There is a new refrigerant planned for the future, but this will not become law until the 2017 car model year.

We may not be as environmentally unfriendly as the guy above, but most of us can still improve on our current behaviors.  Something to consider!

I wish you a sunny, naturally air-conditioned few days to come!