Urban residents are frequently caught up in a vicious circle when it comes to trying to stay cool in the hot months. The overwhelming presence of concrete buildings throughout the downtown area, the shortage of green areas in cities (especially notable in the Greek capital), the downgrading and destruction of nearby forests through uncontrolled construction and forest fires, the growing number of cars circulating on the roads and uncontrolled construction activity, all combine to make the atmosphere in the city center unbearable in summer. These factors can raise downtown temperatures by as much as 14 degrees Celsius (25 Farenheit) in comparison with the suburbs. According to data from the environmental organization Greenpeace, air-conditioning units in central Athens are up to 20 percent less effective than those in the northern suburbs. In order to cool a certain area effectively, they have to work harder. This means that they use more electricity and emit more heat into the surrounding area, which in turn raises outside temperatures still further. Electricity consumption rose to unprecedented levels during last year’s heat waves. Nowadays, more electricity is being consumed in summer than in winter, reversing a longstanding pattern. As the climate is predicted to become even warmer and drier in this part of the world, and energy-consuming air conditioners are not the only solution, Greenpeace has some suggestions for different ways of keeping houses cool. Use any kind of shading that will keep the sun off buildings. If you live in an apartment, use outside awnings on your balconies. – If you have an air conditioner, install an automatic system that will reduce electricity consumption by as much as 20 percent. – Utilize natural cooling systems as much as possible. Install ceiling fans, which lower the temperature without using much electricity. – Leave windows open at night to allow cool air inside. – Plant leafy trees in courtyards, gardens, along footpaths and other outdoor areas, and train climbing plants over pergolas and walls to help keep the house cool in summer. – Paint outside walls in light colors that reflect the heat.