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Top 5 signs your ancestors were geniuses at beating the heat

We're dealing with the climate now. But it's not the first time...

Before air conditioning in the latter half of the 20th century, humankind didn't just suffer in the heat. We met the heat with creativity and a whole lot of cool.

Let me just say it: I love AC.I even own a T-shirt with an AC unit on it. I love my AC that much. Yes, AC feels good, but the fact is, it isn't all that great for the environment.

That's why I was so impressed to discover that the generation before AC was implementing lifestyle climate hacks and wide-scale architectural and infrastructure changes that truly give me and all of us AC addicts a run for my air-conditioning-loving money.


Our ancestors were smart! Here are my favorite five tricks from the past for dealing with climate, aka...

The top five signs your hot weather ancestors were complete geniuses at beating the heat.

#1: They planted trees!

Image via Ken Lund/Flickr.

There's a strategic way to do it. A 1984 paper from the University of South Florida discusses the Southern tradition of intentional planting when it comes to keeping cool:

"Southerners would always try to plant theirs on the east and west sides of their homes, to protect from the rays of the rising and setting sun."

#2: They built things in special ways.

We're not talking small-scale here — these are huge changes. These are engineering feats to create ventilation, to avoid interior heat buildup, and more.

William Cooper, a professor at Louisiana State University, told the Boston Globe about some architecture techniques, such as building houses specifically for air circulation:

"People with the means to do so used to construct homes that stood several feet above the ground, in order to get air circulating under the floor. ... They had long halls through the middle of the house, so if you opened a door at each end, you got a breeze coming through, and you'd have windows on the sides so you'd get cross-ventilation.'"

Image of the Marcella Plantation in Mileston, Mississippi, via the Library of Congress/Flickr.

And here's a nice equality moment. Fancy folks and non-fancy folks alike benefitted from these feats of engineering. Note how this more humble abode above has both a porch and ventilation underneath!

More architectural feats include huge, wide eaves and awnings for shade, high ceilings for the heat to rise, and huge porches to block out sun and heat. Even in the North, folks would open the basement and top-floor windows of the home to create a vertical airflow that acted like a chimney, but for heat. Hot air comes in the basement and escapes out of the top floor!

These lifestyle climate hacks from past generations weren't just green before it was cool — they were beautiful.

Check out this turret, designed to give airflow to the hotter top floors of this old home (remember, heat rises!)...

Kinda gorgeous, right? But you know there's a nice breeze up there for those hot Kansas summers. Image via the U.S. National Archives/Flickr.

...and this two-story porch!

Beautiful AND functional. Image via the Library of Congress/Flickr.

This generation was creating BEAUTIFUL, reusable things out of necessity. While we walk around complaining about rising temperatures (but not really doing anything to stop it — cough, cough, climate deniers!), a look at our grandparents shows us how smart and environmentally friendly we can be when we put our minds to it. At least, that's what they did.

#3: Windows weren't just for gazing.

They're for airflow — and a scientific understanding of hot vs. cool air.

Have you heard of a transom?

Image via the U.S. National Archives/Flickr.

I hadn't, but I had seen them. They're those windows above your door that allow hot air to circulate to higher floors in the house. On exterior doors, transoms even had special hardware. This wasn't just a life-hack — it was a full-on craftsman tradition, complete with special engineering.

In addition to transoms, double-hung windows are another innovation.

Image via JustyCinMD/Flickr.

These are a huge staple for warmer/scorching climates. They open from the top to let heat out during the day and from the bottom to let in cool night air when the sun sets.

#4: Reflective roofs.

These guys were doing fancy roofs waaay before it was cool. Their roofs were made of reflective materials and were lighter in color.

Tin roofs! Image via Florida Memory/Flickr.

Imagine that in contrast to the darker asphalt roofs that are so common now.

#5: They adapted their habits (and had fun).

Older generations didn't lean against the winds of climate — they walked with it, adapting in myriad ways.

From the huge, thick drapes to cover their big windows during the day, to the way they changed the way they opened those windows, to even just carrying a fan everywhere ... they were adapting and making newer things the norm as they found creative solutions to dealing with climate.

And let's not forget the best adaptation: hanging out on the porch. Some folks would even sleep on screened-in porches in the summer.

You could also knit and flirt, like these folks from the early 1900s. Gotta prepare for winter in similar creative ways! Image via State Library of New South /Flickr.

My family's hot weather tradition involves a HUGE iced tea on the porch.

To me, this is heaven. Image via Melissa Doroquez/Flickr.

Not a bad adaptation. Very fun, and so chill.

These old traditions got me thinking: If they managed to find ingenious ways to cope with climate, we could all get together again to deal with it, right?

The fact is, we can't all run out and build a second story on our porch or cut a hole in the wall above our door. But individually, we can make small changes and adaptations to our habits. And generationally, we can work together and innovate to find new ways to deal with our climate that are just as beautiful and fun as our grandparents did.

Not sure if anyone will ever invent anything better than a shady porch and cold iced tea on a hot day, but I'd like to see us try.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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