Summer In The City: Urban Strategies for Keeping Cool


Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn't it a pity
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head

Really, when you look at most of the lists of ways to keep cool, you would think that everyone in America lived in a detached house in the 'burbs. But lots of people live in cities and apartments where suggestions like "don't use the dryer" or "plant a tree" are not relevant. How do you keep cool in the city?


Go to the pool or the park.
Most cities have public amenities designed to help citizens beat the heat. People used to go places to get cool, rather than our modern way of disappearing into our private air conditioned world. In New York, the Public Works Administration built eleven new pools in the Great Depression as stimulus projects.


Visit a Museum. Most are climate controlled to protect the contents; You will never find a better balance of temperature and humidity.


Find a Fire Hydrant

This classic is still going strong. Time Out New York gives instructions on how to open them, noting that "Of course, it's illegal, wastes 1,000 gallons of water per minute and causes a serious lack of water pressure for you and your neighbors. TreeHugger Matt tells us that, where he lives in New York, "A good number of fire hydrants are opened around me right now. I have to say, after tut-tutting for a second about wasting water, I had to stick my head in."

The Village Voice had some other good urban strategies for getting cool, such as hitting the bookstores "Head to the mag section for things like Swim World Magazine or Mountain Living Magazine for extra-temperate reading material. "

Grocery Store Freezers
"There's nothing like opening a clear glass doorway into a bounty of frozen veggie burgers."

Though they tip into the bizarre with suggestions like Open Houses: "Your apartment might not have AC, but the potential townhouses of rich people do. Many real estate companies list open house dates on their websites."

Over at Planet Green, Matt made some very good points about how we now try to adapt the environment to us instead of us to it:

People have lived without air conditioning in hot places for thousands of years by adapting themselves to the heat--remember that the widespread air conditioning use has only become the norm in the past 15 years or so, Stan Cox rightly points out. This was (and is, in many places in the developing world) done by adjusting the time of day when work is done, avoiding the middle of the day, and by creating buildings that stay cooler without using external energy inputs

Take a siesta in the hottest part of the day. If you've got a body of water nearby, take a dip. Avoid strenuous activity and stay hydrated. When it's this hot sweating is perfectly natural and not dangerous--you should probably be more concerned if you aren't sweating a bit when it's 100°+.

Now that's a good urban strategy.

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