As the climate gets hotter due to global warming, people are more likely to blast their air conditioning all summer long. But this response to the problem only ends up contributing to it: Electricity, which most AC units run on, is produced by burning fossil fuels, which releases CO2 into the atmosphere and traps heat on Earth, making summers even more unbearable. At the rate things are developing, air conditioners could use as much electricity by 2050 as all of China does today.

If electric AC is your only option, you should definitely take advantage of it: Living without air conditioning not only makes your brain work slower, but it can also be life-threatening in places where temperatures reach dangerous levels. For people who can afford to explore alternative ways to beat the heat, Columbia University's Earth Institute has some eco-friendly suggestions.

A good place to start is by switching up your lifestyle. Loose, light-colored clothing made from natural fabrics like cotton won't overheat your body the way heavy, synthetic garments will. The same goes for your bed clothes: Choose sheets made from cotton, linen, percale, or bamboo. And because heat rises, the lower to the ground your bed is, the cooler you'll be at night.

When it comes to mealtimes, stick to light, cold foods like salads and avoid using your kitchen's oven or stove when possible. Though it may seem unpleasant on a hot day, eating something spicy is a quick way to cool down because it kick-starts your sweat glands.

For a cooler house with a smaller carbon footprint, take advantage of what you already have at your disposal. Close your curtains during the day to keep out heat, and open the windows on cool nights and early mornings. Switch your ceiling fan to turn counterclockwise so it pushes cool air down instead of sucking it up, and if you have a box fan, place it so it points out the window so it draws heat out of the room. Other heat-beating features that require little to no energy include awnings, reflective window coverings, and deciduous trees.

For more ways to be gentle on the environment year-round, check out these tips.

[h/t Earth Institute]