Imagine the temperature inside your house is 30 degrees. It’s so cold that the sponge you use to wash the dishes and your toothpaste are frozen solid. This is how Manhattanite Justen Ladda prefers it. And he’s not alone. A fascinating New York Times  article today looks at people across the country who choose not to heat their homes.
Some, like engineer and landscape designer Janet Smith, are diehards. Smith lives at 7,000 feet in Ridgway, Colorado, in a one-room house built in 1894 that she doesn’t heat. She has embraced “throwing open windows and doors year-round, and using her own body as a solar panel when the sun shines.” Winifred Gallagher relies on a wood-burning stove to heat her former one-room schoolhouse in Long Eddy, New York. Then there’s green living blogger Crunchy Chicken, who in 2007 challenged her readers to drop the thermostat to about 55 from November 1 until April 1. The third annual Freeze Yer Buns  is currently underway, if you want to see how low you can go. Some do it for environmental reasons, some do it for financial reasons, some just love the challenge.
Wondering if chilling your bones is bad for you? Here’s what Penelope Green reports :
With the right equipment, humans can endure enormous temperature dips. Dr. Peter Hackett, director of the Institute for Altitude Medicine in Telluride, Colo., and a veteran expeditioner to Mount Everest and other frigid peaks, has recorded minus 50 degree temperatures outside his tent on a climb of Mount McKinley in Alaska. “It’s extremely unpleasant,” he said, but certainly survivable, albeit with the right gear: long underwear, layers of fleece, and down or synthetic puff jackets.
“Our best responses are behavioral — building a fire, putting on more clothes. But for those who choose not to heat their homes or who live in extremely cold environments, there are some physiological changes that occur,” he said, ticking them off. “Thyroid function goes up, creating more body heat, and metabolism changes, too, causing you to burn more fuel, fat especially, which generates a bit more heat.”
Sounds like a great excuse to drink hot chocolate with butter (hey, don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it—nothing tastes so good while winter camping, which is kind of what these folks are doing).
All of this has me thinking that I could do with a little more discomfort in the winter to use fewer resources. Sure, I’ve grumbled a bit when working from home in the winter because my landlords shut off the heat during the day. But with fingerless gloves, a warm fleece, and several cups of tea, I’m just fine. And when I get really cold, I pop over to the café for an hour or so. I equate that to going to the movies on the hottest summer days to take advantage of the theater’s air conditioning so I don’t have to turn on my own AC (cutting down on my electricity bill and not adding extra stress to the taxed electric grid). That’s the only reason I saw The Dukes of Hazzard  in 2005. I swear.!--/end tags-->