From New York to Nebraska and all points north, south, east, and west, the United States is in the midst of another year of record heat. Yes, another: 15 of the warmest years on record globally have occurred since 2001, and we wouldn’t bet on that trend breaking any time soon. Unfortunately for us — and the planet — one of our primary means of beating the heat is also terrible for climate change. We’re talking about AC.

Air-conditioning in the United States currently accounts for an estimated 5 percent of our annual energy consumption and releases around 100 million tons of atmospheric-warming carbon dioxide into the air each year. In short, the more we use air-conditioning inside, the hotter the planet gets outside. You can see the problem.

[grist-related tag=”air-conditioning” limit=”1″ label=” Chill. Here’s more on AC.”]

Fortunately, there are ways to stay cool without AC — like a low-carbon, low-cost, DIY swamp cooler. Watch the video above to learn how to make your own.

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Instructions on how to make your own DIY swamp bucket — we mean, cooler — are below. Thanks to YouTube user desertsun02 for the tutorial.


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  • 5-gallon bucket with a lid
  • Knife
  • 2 gallons of water
  • Cooling pad
  • Several feet of garden cloth or screen
  • Drill
  • 6-inch fan
  • Fountain pump
  • 4 feet of tubing
  • Clamp
  • Thumbtack


  1. Fill the bucket with 2 gallons of water. Then drill holes 2 inches in diameter around the side of the bucket above the water line. This is where the cool air will flow through.
  2. Cut the cooling pad to a 14 x 31 inch rectangle, and place around the inside of the bucket.
  3. Tuck the garden cloth or screen between the pad and bucket.
  4. Cut a 6-inch hole in the lid of the bucket. Place the fan in the hole, face down.
  5. Place the pump — with the tubing attached — in the bottom of the bucket and thread the tubing up so it rests on the top edge of the cooling pad at the top of the bucket. Clamp the end of the tube shut.
  6. Take a thumbtack and poke holes about an inch apart along the tubing. This is where the water is going to drop through onto the cooling pad.
  7. Stick the lid on, turn on the fan, and voilá! Air-conditioning! Or at least something sort of like it.