There are dozens of ways to cope with Europe’s increasingly frequent heatwaves, without bringing air con into the picture.
Europe is heading into another heatwave this week, with southern France, Switzerland, southern Germany and northern Italy bracing for sweltering temperatures.
In case we were in any doubt that these blistering temperatures are a result of global warming, Earth saw its hottest July on record this year - and it's only expected to get hotter.
As the fastest warming continent in the world, according to a WMO and Copernicus report, Europe is far from shielded from the worsening weather extremes.
If we have any hope of stalling the punishing rise in degrees across the world, immediate climate action is needed.
There are so many ways to tackle the climate crisis, the best ones collectively. But in the very short term, ‘beating the heat’ looks a lot like keeping ourselves cool and collected - through measures that don’t exacerbate our consumption of fossil fuels.
Staying hydrated is critical - just in case no-one’s told you in the last hour. Here are some more cheap tips from the Euronews Green team for keeping cool at home.
13. Fans over air-con
Firstly, let’s address the elephant in the room: air-con. It’s an image that really does a disservice to elephants, as these boring hulks of plastic and metal are serious energy drains - using more electricity than any other mainstream appliance in our homes.
Stand-alone air conditioners also leak hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants (HFCs): toxic gases that further contribute to the loop of climate change.
Fans are a much better option, and can go a long way to warding off insufferable interior temperatures when positioned right.
Setting up your fan across the room from an open window is one way of creating a cooling airflow. Alternatively, point it out an open window on the north side of your home to create a ‘chimney effect’ that will pull in air from this shaded direction.
12. Take charge of air flows
There are even simpler ways to get the upper hand in heatwave conditions, however. Stay attuned to the way temperatures inside compare to outside; once it’s hotter out, close windows and doors to keep the warmer air out. It’s also best to close internal doors, to stop the house air becoming one soupy mix.
Reverse this advice when the relative temperatures switch in the mornings and evenings, so that a cooler air flow comes in.
11. Close curtains and blinds
Relatedly, close curtains and blinds on sunny windows to stop the sun breaking in too much. Southern European countries are typically better equipped for this, with shutters, but there are quick solutions if you’re suddenly finding certain rooms too hot.
In a helpful Twitter thread, CEO of Energy UK Emma Pinchbeck suggests that putting up newspaper or cardboard in windows can have the desired effect.
10. Do your meal prep earlier in the day
It’s common sense that anything that generates heat is going to bring up the overall heat of your home. Intuitively, you’re going to find a hairdryer less desirable (not least because wet hair is a balm on days like today).
But one place in which it helps to rethink your daily activities is in the kitchen. A nutritious salad is more likely to hit the spot on a hot day, but if you are still needing to use the oven, how about prepping food earlier in the day?
9. Stay cool as a cucumber (drink)
Drinking enough water really bears repeating - especially as frequency over volume is a key message from health bodies. But there are a whole range of other refreshing drinks to quench your thirst.
A cold or hot mint brew is great for cooling you down, as the natural menthol stimulates cool receptors in the body. It’s also a very low maintenance herb to grow on a windowsill or patch of back garden.
Euronews Green video producer Hannah swears by a slice of cucumber in your water, which makes the drink taste refreshing even when it warms up.
8. Stay cool at night
While there’s many things you can do to regulate your temperature during the day, restless nights are often the worst part of a heatwave.
If you’ve already dispensed with a duvet, another soothing tip is to roll a cold wet flannel around your neck at night.
7. Damp sheets inside
In fact, making things damp needn’t just be a nighttime resort. A damp cotton t-shirt can provide some relief during the day, and leaving wet sheets and clothes to dry inside will help lower the temperature of the room.
6. Wear loose clothes
Speaking of garments, loose clothes are highly recommended. Natural fibres like cotton and linen make the fabric extra breathable (as well as being less damaging to marine life than synthetics, which release microplastics in the wash).
The weave of biodegradable fibres better absorbs sweat, and aids air circulation around the body.
5. Wear an ‘aubergine’ hat
There will be plenty of companies marketing products to beat the heat, some more effective, cheap and sustainable than others.
But a quick look around your belongings might reveal some items ripe for repurposing, from hot water bottles to flasks that double up as cold drink retainers.
Last summer, Euronews Green's former deputy editor Maeve bought an ‘aubergine hat’ - a wraparound design with ice packs - to relieve her headaches. It’s now kept in the freezer, and the envy of all her housemates.
4. Start your day earlier
One of the struggles of heatwave conditions is that - with even more people working remotely than pre-pandemic - it’s hard to keep your energy and motivation levels up at home.
A way to ease this is starting your day earlier, thereby making the most of the cool hours, and getting an earlier night’s sleep. As exercise is key to fending off feeling sluggish, setting aside some active time between 7 and 9am is a great way to rise and shine.
3. Take a lion’s breath
Exercise not only gives our energy levels a boost, there’s a number of tips we can take from different sports and practices to stay cool..
Editor and yogi Ruth suggests taking a ‘lion’s breath’ at overwhelming times of the day. This is used to cool and calm you down: simply open your mouth wide and let your tongue hang out, take a deep inhale through your nose then a big exhale out of your mouth, making the sound of a sigh.
2. Take a nap
Northern Europeans looking at the coming heat might want to follow the lead of southern Europeans and take a nap during the hottest part of the day.
Granted, this won’t fit in with everyone’s schedules, but it’s best to save tasks that need the most concentration to cooler parts of the day anyway.
1. Enjoy a cool shower
If a siesta is off the cards, then a quick jump in the shower might be the change of scene you need mid-afternoon. Even putting your feet in a bowl of icy water could do the trick.
Come the weekend, it’s bigger bodies of cooling water that people will be after. Though limiting your time in the direct sun is of course advisable, it’s hard to think of a more refreshing way to make it through the day.