Keeping cool without air conditioning, the buzz on chemical-free flowers, and the scoop on the better building standards coming to a contractor near you.


When it gets hot, air conditioning guzzles energy, says Stephanie Horowitz, managing director of Charlestown-based Independence Energy Homes ( “Implementing non-AC cooling strategies saves money and the planet,” she says. Below are her tips for keeping cool without touching the thermostat.

• Open windows and interior doors to allow air to flow freely throughout your house—if interior doors are closed, they reduce airflow.
• Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs), which give off 75 percent less heat.
• Install a whole-house fan to use at the end of the day, when it has begun to cool off outside but remains hot inside.
• Plant deciduous trees on the south, east, and west sides of your home. They’ll keep the sun out and the house cooler.
• Install window shades to prevent direct sunlight from entering the house, and keep them closed during the day.
• If you’re renovating or building, design with an open floor plan. This accommodates cooling air flow, since there are fewer barriers and partitions.


Your fresh flower habit may be hazardous to your health. Conventionally grown blossoms are coated with chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) that contaminate soil and groundwater. Instead, choose flowers that are either certified organic by Veriflora (a sustainability guarantee) or biodynamic (a growing method with even stricter standards)-. Both are pesticide-free. These blooms aren’t common at Boston flower shops—calls to dozens of stores prompted responses ranging from “bio-what?” to “Sometimes we get those in.” But organic flowers are available at area Whole Foods locations; you can also special order them for events from local floral pros Ilex and J. Wrobel, or browse the extensive online offerings from Organic Bouquet. Ilex, 617-422-0300,; J. Wrobel, 978-412-7710,; Organic Bouquet,




Building a new home? Consider participating in the U.S. Green Building Council’s recently unveiled LEED-h program. Based on the extremely successful LEED rating system for commercial buildings, the program quantifies the energy used before, during, and after construction. It’s designed as a checklist of eco-friendly alternatives to most design problems, awarding points for each good decision. Sign up early in the design process—LEED-h considers everything from where you build to the materials you use. “LEED certified” is now a major selling point—low operating costs and high quality of living (read: lots of natural light and fresh air) are the hallmarks of every project. Read more at, or pick up Green Building A to Z: Understanding the Language of Green Building by Jerry Yudelson (New Society Publishers), $17, Barnes & Noble.