Fresh n’ green

Melissa Morozzo
July 16, 2009

You know summer's here when travelling on the bus is like stepping into Dante's steaming Inferno

and you get the urge to lie naked on your floor tiles at night with a couple of ice cubes tucked under your armpits. Fortunately, there are many environmentally friendly ways to stay cool and still get the most out of the sticky summer months. 

 

 

SEVEN WAYS TO STAY AS COOL (AND GREEN) AS A CUCUMBER (OR, THERMODYNAMICS 101):

 

1. You know what I'm going to say: turn that air conditioning down! Consider the fact that to cool your space, the air conditioner spews hot air into the already hot space immediately outside your home or apartment. If you truly need AC, then make sure that it is running as efficiently a possible (have filters cleaned, for example) and that it is the right size for the space it has to cool. The AC unit should be positioned on a cooler side of your building to avoid over-working. Don't cook a four-course meal while the AC is running: the heat you produce means it has to work a lot harder. This is not just about the environment, it's also about avoiding nasty surprises in your electricity bill.

 

 

2. Install a ceiling fan. Fans use very little power and do not pump hot air into your surroundings (and the air you breathe is natural). Dehumidifiers also use little power and teamed with ceiling fans can make a huge difference. Remember to turn off the fan when you leave the room: the fan cools you, not the air.

 

 

3. Hot, sunny Italy has those shutter systems for a reason. They work. Close your windows and shutters during the day to keep the heat (and warming sunlight) outside. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is the simplest way to deal with the hottest months.

 

 

4. Identify what produces heat in your home. Studies show that 90 percent of electricity used by incandescent light bulbs is lost in heat. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) give off 75 percent less heat and use 75 percent less energy. Turn off all appliances when you're not using them and don't leave your fridge door open any longer than necessary: the harder it has to work to stay cool, the more heat it pumps out. Also, bright lights make you feel hotter, so keep the lighting low when possible.

 

 

5. Use the power of evaporation. Take a quick cool shower before bed and spritz yourself with water during the day. You can drastically cool yourself by splashing your wrists, face and nape of your neck with water. There are water fountains all over Florence (in Piazza della Repubblica, for example) that are perfect for this.

 

 

6. Stop cooking. Sweating over the stove is not an attractive idea in the summer anyway. Cooking heats up you and your home, so stay away from the oven, especially during the hottest hours of the day. Fresh, raw produce is full of thirst-quenching water, too, which is just what your body needs. 

 

 

7. Drink tap water. The water in Florence is perfectly drinkable, so refill your bottles rather than bankrupting yourself buying bottled water (and opening the fridge). It's a waste of money and discarded plastic bottles are a true eco-nightmare.

 

 

Green spots in Florence:

Stone, asphalt, and concrete absorb heat and then belt it back out all day, making the centre of town hotter than ever. Luckily, Florence has many parks where you can relax in the shade. For an interactive map of all the city's parks, go to http://verdeonweb.comune.fi.it.

 

The Cascine is the largest park in the city and is also home to Le Pavoniere, an open air pool, restaurant and bar that is open all day and until 1.30am Thursday through Sunday. Entrance is 7,50 during the day and 8,50 on the days it's open late. You can also rent rollerblades in the Cascine (behind Le Pavoniere) if you're feeling energetic.

 

A great way to enjoy the Cascine is by bike. A cycle path leads out of the park and all the way to the Parco dei Renai in Signa (8km from Florence), meandering along the Arno. Parco dei Renai has four lakes and offers water sports. Relax under an umbrella, take a dip in the water or just have a picnic in the shade. Along with a bar and open-air pool, there is a huge play area for kids, crazy golf, a climbing wall and a beach volleyball court. For more information: www.parcorenai.it.

               

Green vacation ideas:

Use your summer holiday to live the green' right here in Italy. The Italian countryside is riddled with well-signed hiking and mountain biking paths. Experienced walkers should check out the Italian trekking association (www.cai.it) for information on footpaths and mountain refuges. The best place in Florence to buy hiking maps and guides is Stella Alpina in via Filippo Corridoni 14/B rosso. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and the website (www.stella-alpina.com) is well organised. Take number 2, 8, 14, 20 or 28 bus.

 

The Associazione Italiana Turismo Responsabile (the Italian Association for Responsible Tourism, www.aitr.org) is the oldest and largest of its kind internationally. It lists 91 recognised eco-sostenibile tour operators that work both in Italy and abroad. See also www.legambienteturismo.it for hotels and other accomodations that meet specific eco-criteria, such as serving locally sourced organic food.

 

Kids might like the Green Energy Camp in the Apennines between Florence and Bologna (www.gecamp.com), which teaches children about outdoor living and appreciating our natural surroundings.

 

Slow down:

Finally, and this has nothing to do with the environment, follow the Italian example and go slow. No need to march around as if on some crucial top-secret mission: you'll just get hot and bothered. Stop striding and learn the art of strolling. You'll still get a bit hot and you might be late, but you won't feel such a flustered, sweaty mess when you arrive. Happy summer!

 

 

DO YOU TAV?

Florence's environmental hot potato this summer is undoubtedly the planned TAV (high-velocity train). The project is proving extremely controversial for its long underground tunnels and huge subterranean station that opponents claim will cause untold environmental damage. Signatures are currently being collected by ex-mayoral candidate Mario Razzanelli as a first step in the complicated process towards calling for a citywide referendum on the TAV. To find out more about the TAV go to www.ferroviedellostato.it; to see what its opponents say go to www.notavfirenze.blogspot.com. (What do you think about the TAV? Let us know at inbox@theflorentine.net!)  

 

 

Melissa Morozzo has been living in Tuscany for eight years and can just about use the Italian subjunctive. Se io fossi in te, andrei a leggere il suo blog: http://melsdaily.blogspot.com

 

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