This morning, on the day we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his leadership in the Civil Rights movement my wife woke me up to the song Glory by Common and John Legend. Hearing this song fills me with a sense of pride of being an African-American. I also feel a bit of sadness that there still seems so much further to go. That the impact of the Jim Crow era on African-Americans which produced laws and policies such as redlining districts is still being felt today.
The heat island effect is when an area is considerably hotter than the actual temperature. The heat island effect is a phenomenon that comes from a concentration of dark material e.g., asphalt and roofs, combined with a lack of trees for covering. The asphalt absorbs the heat of the day and permeates throughout the night. So while other areas cool down once the sun goes down, heat islands do not. To maintain a comfortable temperature the air conditioner stays on, which also pushes more heat into the surrounding area. A direct impact of hotter neighborhoods is higher energy usage and thus higher energy costs. This is compounded with the fact that buildings in America typically do not have enough insulation. Insulation is what minimizes the impact of ambient temperature on the temperature inside a building.
Reducing heat islands would reduce our carbon emissions as well as reduce the financial burden on those living in areas designated as heat islands. There are three ways to prevent the heat island effect in your neighborhood.
1) Plant trees in the neighborhood. Trees provide shading from the suns rays reducing the amount of heat that can be absorb. Trees also consumer carbon dioxide from the area making the air cleaner, which can reduce the severity of breathing conditions such as asthma. Trees (nature in general) also has positive effect on you mentally and physically. I would suggest planting fruit trees, that way you get fresh fruit throughout your neighborhood in addition to shading.
2) White roofs / Green roofs. The links give great descriptions of what white roofs and green roofs are and the benefits. White roof is the cheaper option and the paint can be found at Home Depot or Loews. Green roofs are more effective but require expert consultation prior to implementing.
3) Improving the buildings efficiency. Whether through more insulation, more efficient air conditioning units, or both. Reducing the energy consumption necessary to stay comfortable will reduce the amount of heat pumped into the area by the air conditioning unit.