When you share a central heating system with your miserly landlady downstairs (as I did last winter in Italy), you start to grow a thick skin and quickly learn how to argue about the temperature in Italian. Whatever the case may be, there are greener and cheaper methods than cranking up the heater. Follow these tips, and you may be able to spare your piggy bank until tax season:
1. You Are What You Eat … and Drink
Food supplies energy to the body, and energy equals warmth. You don’t need to resort to a pre-hibernation diet throughout the winter season, but good hearty meals can work wonders. Perhaps, for the sake of sustainability, Jenny Craig can wait until after February.
In addition to eating warm foods like soup, winter-specific nutrition can keep that heater down a few notches. Cold weather actually lowers blood pH, and low blood pH makes you feel cold. A diet rich in protein and fat (i.e. meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and dairy) can easily counter this phenomenon.
Likewise, niacin (vitamin B3) helps expand your capillaries, increasing circulation to the hands and feet. So, stock your fridge with some niacin-rich milk, eggs, all-wheat products and cheese. Spicy seasonings heighten this effect by further increasing your blood circulation. At the same time, iron-rich red meats and leafy vegetables can boost your body’s heat production.
As for liquids, coffee lovers may be a bit dismayed. While this magic caffeine booster may warm your soul, it actually lowers blood pH, which makes you feel colder. A short-term switch to herbal or green tea is the best way to keep your body warm during these cold months.
2. Layer Up and Keep It Classy
Big puffy jackets have never been in fashion, and let’s face it: Bill Cosby is the only one who can really “pull off” thick, knitted sweaters. Don’t expect either of these fashion trends on the cover of Vogue anytime soon.
Don’t ruin your groove: layer up instead! The truth is, several fitted layers are actually more effective than a thick single layer. Consider trying three basic layers:
First, there’s the underlayer. Two-ply long johns and undershirts (cotton inside, wool outside) are a nice start. Don’t underestimate the wonders of long pants and long sleeves. Moreover, two layers of socks (thin, cotton ones covered by heavier woolen ones) will keep your feet toasty warm.
Then, there’s the midlayer. Depending on how cold it is, you may think of wearing a nice set of woolen clothes: shirt, pants and hat. If you live on the California coastline like me, pretty much anything will do.
And finally, there’s the outer layer. This is the “weatherproofing layer” that will protect you from the elements. If you’re in the snow, a parka is excellent, and a nice windproof face mask will keep Jack Frost from nipping at your nose. Opt for a rugged mountaineering boot to protect your feet.
Then again, if you are hanging out in a milder, snow-free zone like me, a simple windbreaker and nice thick pair of shoes will do the job.
3. “Mind the Gap!”
If you’ve ever visited England, you may have noticed that the “Tube” in London courteously reminds its daily passengers to “mind the gap.” Who knew this industrial city could offer us such an important eco-friendly suggestion? Gaps make for drafty homes and provide heat with a speedy escape route.
Weather-stripping is the best way to seal all the gaps around your windows and doors, and caulking quickly seals all the gaps between permanent building materials. Check out all the joints between the foundation and siding, baseboards and floorboards, and areas where pipe and electrical wires enter your house. Don’t cheap out on this money-saving tool. Price and longevity are interconnected.
When caulking and weather-stripping aren’t enough, “draft stoppers”- insulating fabric tubes- do the trick. These “door snakes” are cheap and simple, and are perfect for your sealing your garage or basement. You can even make them at home.
If your damper isn’t performing its job, chimney balloons are the best way to seal your chimney. These convenient tools are much cheaper than a damper replacement, and fit snugly beneath the fireplace’s damper.
Don’t let the winter season drain your wallet or cramp your style this year. Whether you’re shoveling out snow or “bravely” enduring the drop of a couple degrees, stay warm and keep it classy. A more sustainable and affordable winter is within your reach.