Have you ever wandered off a cold and rainy street, through the open doors of a shop into somewhere warm, dry and seemingly a world away from whence you came? Have you ever wondered how much energy that shop would have saved if they’d only closed their doors. Have you wondered why on Earth they leave the doors open, despite burning a good 20 percent of their power use heating about ten centimetres of footpath? What about the converse situation where you step off a blazing hot footpath, through an open door and into a shop that’s been chilled down for your pleasure. Do these retailers simply have too much money, or is there a reason they leave the doors open?
It’s different in Europe… but wait, I digress. Down here in Australia we seem to have a mental block about closed doors. When we see a cafe door closed we assume the cafe itself is closed. When we wander past a bookshop that has closed its front door to keep the weather out, we ignore the “Yes we are open” sign and just assume the shop is shut. I didn’t actually believe this and so went and had a chat to a handful of local retailers in Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne and sure enough, to the man they explained patiently, as if to an idiot, that of course closing the door is the single worst thing they could do for their business. Sure it may use up around 20 percent of their power, but to shut that door would lose them 100 percent of their business.
In Europe it’s a much different story. In the parts of Europe where it really gets cold, most shops have two sets of doors, a bit like an airlock. No one assumes the shop is closed, just because the doors are closed. People in Europe look at the sign on the door to work that out, even if the sign is not in their native language. Indeed, when I moved to Amsterdam in 2000 the very first word I learned was ‘gesloten’. It means ‘closed’.
So what is to be done? We Australians will continue to presume that shops are closed, when in fact it’s just the shop owner trying to conserve energy, reduce carbon emissions and save money. Can we mend our ways? Yes I believe we can but it’s going to take a good old-fashioned campaign to make us all see sense. The sort of campaign that the Government would run if it really cared about climate change. Imagine a stream of ads on TV and radio that simply explained that a closed door does not equal a closed shop. Closed can be open is the sort of classic doublespeak that marketers, especially those on the government payroll, simply adore.
But what has this got to do with you, dear reader? Well innovating is in our blood, isn’t it? And who better to challenge old, wasteful ideas like a closed door being synonymous with a closed shop than Australian entrepreneurs? Here we have a way to save around 20 percent of a retailer’s power bill, and all it takes is massaging public perceptions and shutting some doors. We all benefit from this. The shop owner saves money and cuts her emissions, the general public gets a better chance of a liveable future. All the shop owner asks is that you the public come into their shop when the door is shut. How easy is that?
Slowing and ideally stopping the emission of greenhouse gasses is vital for our future. One of the joys of my job is that every day I see how many cherries there are to be picked in this field. Saving a few percent here and there adds up to a whole lot.
Business as usual is killing us, so we have to make some changes. Let’s start with changes that are easy and have maximum impact, shall we? Put off the hard things until we have better tools to deal with them. Convincing people that a closed door can mean an open shop is one low-hanging cherry ripe for plucking.
Dave Sagis the CEO of Carbon Planet, a global carbon emissions company that builds emissions calculators and retails carbon credits to the general public and business alike. www.carbonplanet.com