Friday, January 08, 2010

Shut it and save

The other day I heard a BBC West Midlands 'report' that a town in my 'hood, Herefordshire, was launching a 'ban the bag' campaign.

So far, so, um, what words can I think of? Behind the curve? Bandwagon jumping? Potentially misguided? No longer news?

It had all the usual components. A Yummie earth mother and her moppet who walk from their Georgian townhouse in this market town with their one bag to buy their organic tofu. A jovial local butcher who thought it was great because as soon as he had worked through the evil plastic jobbies he was getting the non-evil, biodegradable... plastic jobbies. And the gushing local news bouffant who was tasked to make this a big deal.

Thing is, as my recent attempted effort at understanding the issues showed, there is certainly nothing wrong with reduction in any form, so long as it is in the right way for the right reasons. But I'm afraid this still seems to fail on waaaay too many counts, not that it matters to those in government, commerce and media who see virtue in distracting away from the real failings at system level.

So I have decided to pose a question that has struck me before, but more so after this, as I walked around a very similar Herefordshire market town: Why are all the shop doors open?

Which, in turn, I think could lead to a campaign, whose slogan I would suggest could/would be 'Shut it and save!'. That's save money (retailers, which can be passed on to clientele in energy costs saved)... plus planet.

Of course I know why the doors are open. They represent a barrier to entry, and hence sales. This was confirmed by the poor check out girl at the local organic shop, who approved (along with management) of my rejecting the proffered bag, but who was more onside with my notions on the open door policy (not shared with us by management, apparently).

Now, unlike carrier bags, I don't see jobs being lost, but of course there is the real chance of reduced sales, which will not make my idea popular with the local chamber. Unless of course it is made mandatory for all, as is proposed with plastic carriers. Then the comparative 'hassle' of opening a door is equal amongst all options and hence removed. With a ton of hot air being spared the eventing to the open sky.

And that seems to me to have a pretty clear enviROI.

Before I charge aherad thoughlessly... any comments, suggestions?

This isn't a ban. It's just a sensible alternative course of action with an enviROI+ result.


I have now found a piece on this topic: Hay aims to bag plastic problem

First up, I wasn't aware that Hay was in Wales. My bad.

I will also need to try and figure what exactly the enviROI is on 'specially ordered Hay cotton bags and cornstarch Biobags'.

While this - Support has also been forthcoming through a £1,000 grant from the Sustainable Development Fund and the introduction by the council of extra plastic bag recycling points - at first seems positive, I still wonder if this is a) the best use of money and b) how the recycling point will address mixed medium recyclables.

More information on this scheme is available at

Couldn't resist. I had to write in:

While reduction in any form has to be applauded, I have often wondered if plastic bags represent the greatest threat to our planet’s future, and indeed that some alternatives mooted have been sufficiently challenged to represent any better enviROI. So I'm just hoping recyclables are to be appropriately separated to avoid cross-contamination, and the compostables provided in a form that can either be processed at home or directed to a facility that can deal with them.

Anyhoo, now the cat is out of the bag (or the bag is no longer a cat...egory), and the banwagon is up to steam, as we are on planetary saving roll may I suggest the next target for consideration.

In our fair market towns I cannot not help but notice the number of shops and stores with gaping entrances pumping hot air out into the atmosphere.

Without seeking to put too many honest folk out of business or even inconvenience the understandable (indeed essential) consumerist advocacy of some retailers, and the simple preferences of the rest of us who patronise their establishments, might I suggest they be encouraged to keep doors closed when the temperature inside is greater than that outside?

I'd go for 'Shut it and save', which can of course can apply to money (in energy cost to both retailer and, if passed on, their customers) as well as the planet.

I'd also hazard that this could be quite easily done, might actually help and not require a ton more stuff that may or may not actually work to have a positive impact.

Green can be and often is great. But it also still needs thinking about carefully.


Two years hence and the banner has been taken up as I, to my shame, could and should have done (so many eco-ideas; so little time. Like JunkkYard vs. FreeCycle, maybe another I should have pursued over others): Close the Door


teddymac said...

I live in Canada, and the thought of shops leaving their doors open to the weather is just ridiculous.

And the idea of 'barrier to entry, and hence sales' is surprising. If a person makes an effort to leave their house, or business, and travels to a shop, will they suddenly give up outside if they then have to push open a door? Considering that opening doors is a pretty mundane event, I don't understand why shops suddenly believe all people turn into invalids the moment they get near their business.

I had no idea people in England could consider this as normal! LOL

Peter said...

Totally agree.

I do hope you accept I was not condoning the practice, but one thing we try and do on this blog is at least make anattmpt to at least understand, 'all sides'. Such knowledge leads to a better-framed and more persuasive argument.

The 'sales barrier' was/is the main justification being trotted out by those 'in retail', which gets one into very polarised 'Enviro' vs. 'Economics' debates.

In this case I just think it is plain daft, and simple (re)education, if necessary via consumer pressure, will swing it. But it seems every trick, no matter how minor, counts in trying to seduce a sale. And the traffic gained vs. extra costs must be worth it (if not in emissions) for them to opt this way.

It applies equally to aircon in hotter climes too. I have walked through cool air curtains that extend the full width of shop fronts in Asia.

I suspect most here would consider it daft if they actually thought about (as the likes of the Guardian piece and mine earlier were/are raising) it, but frankly most have/do not. Perhaps because of the profile given to other, perhaps less enviROI-significant campaigns of late.

Hence, you are right... and such silly 'normality' still pervades.

But not for much longer... with luck.

rlankester said...

How about going back to revolving doors? They used to do the trick pretty well before we thought we had energy to burn. Door remains technically open but heat stays mainly inside. Certainly better than the current open door situation. FYI, in NY it's illegal for certain shops to have their doors open when running heaters or aircon.

Peter said...

Revolvers are an option, for sure.

I guess a lot is down to the capacity of the opening to accommodate them, cost, and various rules, from H&S to disability access.

Below a certain size and there may only be one (often small opening).

Then there is customer resistance from those with kids to a bunch of bags.

Ignoring cost and the already mentioned 'barrier to purchase arguments', I can't honestly fault a good sensor-tripped (with button assist/override) swing or slide.

Our local Nationwide had one recently, in keeping with wheelchair access requirements.

But this is beyond the budget of many local retailers. Less excuse in Oxford St, and/or with big chains.

I think the main push could come from trying to get consumers to not punish those who are trying to avoid heat waste, but that will be like nailing jelly to a wall.

I admire your site and efforts, and wish I had done more with as I had intended... but we know what they pave:(

Least I can do is help promote your efforts:

Close the Door