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A Chilling Story of Waste: Air Conditioning and Open Doors

Posted by Kevin / August 6, 2007

A store in Bloor-Yorkville, wasting power
It baffles me, in this day and age, that certain commercial outlets choose to blatantly waste power right in the face of consumers. Having an open door with an air conditioner running is a complete waste of energy, and it also places unnecessary strain on our maxed-out power grid. It's like that blast of cold air as I walk past the door is a punch in the face, saying 'We don't give a damn about how our store policies affect the environment'.

As a friend and I were cooling off on our balcony (relying on the nightly wind, the old-fashioned way), we decided to perform a survey of two adjacent neighbourhoods: The Annex and Bloor-Yorkville. What follows may come as no surprise, and though the numbers are crude, awareness is the best leverage for the savvy consumer.

We began by visiting the Annex last Thursday, on a day where the Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator's projected peak power consumption was 26,632 MW (links to PDF)--perilously close to last year's record peak of 27,005 MW. The maximum temperature was 34C, and life had been pretty sweaty for a couple days. Around 5:00 PM, the projected peak, we did a quick walking tour with iced coffees from Aroma Espresso as our only cooling aid. I was hoping to spot some open doors, but we were hard-pressed to find any in the Annex. Between Bathurst and Brunswick on either side of Bloor, we found just one business with air conditioning and open doors.

Guess which store is wasting power?For the follow-up, I visited the Bloor-Yorkville shopping district earlier today. The conditions had changed somewhat for this half of the survey: the projected peak demand was only 20,967 MW (because of the civic holiday), but the temperature and humidity were similar. On the short stretch on Bloor between Avenue and Bay, I counted six stores generating a cold breeze out their front door. Meandering through Yorkville and then east past Bay on Bloor, I found another half-dozen stores recklessly bleeding cold air into the streets.

I only found a single store from each neighbourhood that had clear signs posted to indicate that their doors were closed to save energy (Roots in Bloor-Yorkville and Ten Thousand Villages in the Annex).

My findings, however limited in scope, lead me to the conclusion that certain big-name chains with lots of money (characterized by Bloor-Yorkville) only consider the energy waste as the cost of doing business by enticing customers to enter their stores. The smaller, independent stores (characterized by the Annex) are more conscious of their door policy, whether it's for the sake of keeping their electricity bill in check or for the environment.

What does this mean for consumers? If we all made a conscious choice to punish energy wasters by avoiding those specific stores, perhaps the message would get across. Until then, it looks like the retail corporations that can afford to waste energy and money will continue to do so without regard to its impact on our energy resources or the environment.



Jerrold / August 6, 2007 at 04:59 pm
Name names, please :)
Gloria / August 6, 2007 at 05:56 pm
I don't know how typical a BlogTO reader I am, but I don't already shop in the Bloor-Yorkville area, so my leverage with these businesses is nil.
soluta / August 6, 2007 at 06:10 pm
<p>It should be illegal to leave the doors open, just as it&#39;s illegal to water one&#39;s lawn during a drought. A municipal law would cover it. Fine the buggers and pay off our debt... </p>
Ryan C / August 6, 2007 at 06:41 pm
But hey, is it ever nice inside!
Ryan / August 6, 2007 at 07:12 pm
<p>&quot;Hey guys!&nbsp; Look at us!&nbsp; We&#39;re being environmentally friendly!&quot;&nbsp; Says the company that itself has a massive carbon footprint.&nbsp; Chains that announce they&#39;re being environmentally friendly by reducing their footprint by a fraction of a fraction of a percent isn&#39;t environmentalism.&nbsp; It&#39;s marketing.&nbsp; Just wait until the film festival.&nbsp; Their doors will be wide open regardless of the temperature.</p><p>On a related note:&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;I work in the area, and I&#39;m not completely impressed with the so called door to door environmentalists.&nbsp; They&#39;re a bunch of bullies.&nbsp; We close our doors when our AC is on (from an environmental standpoint, but also, it costs a lot of money).&nbsp; A couple months ago at the start of the warm weather we had been leaving our doors open for a couple weeks.</p><p>&nbsp;Sure enough, a pair of concerned environmentalists accused us of having our doors open with the AC on.&nbsp; We explained that the AC wasn&#39;t on and they accused us of lying (Quite rudely mind you)&nbsp; &quot;No AC huh?&nbsp; It feels pretty goddamn cold in here!!&quot;&nbsp; Loud enough for everyone in the store to hear.</p><p>What they didn&#39;t know was that our AC hadn&#39;t been working since the beginning of the season.&nbsp; It wasn&#39;t on, because it -couldn&#39;t be-.&nbsp; In fact, we had a technician working on it while these two &#39;environmentally conscious&#39; individuals automatically assumed that it was on, and two, that we were lying about it being off.</p><p>&nbsp;Clearly, they were unable to tell the difference (or didn&#39;t put enough thought into it) between the heat of a shaded and that of AC.&nbsp; I can understand&nbsp; the confusion.&nbsp; Entering into either out of the hot, direct sun feels cool regardless.&nbsp; What was clearly unecessary is them being dicks about it. </p><p>&nbsp;I work for an environmentally friendly company, despite it&#39;s size.&nbsp; They&#39;ve been known to be leaders in taking steps in reducing waste (but yet haven&#39;t used this as part of their marketing).&nbsp; I don&#39;t appreciate people assuming we don&#39;t give a shit about the environment because our store is located in a rich shopping area. </p>
Lindsay / August 6, 2007 at 09:54 pm
<p>I agree that the doors open/AC on thing is a problem, but how about using the reach &amp; reputation of this blog to suggest something practical, even (dare I suggest) pro-active?&nbsp; I&#39;m growing weary of the&nbsp;attitude evidenced by many of this blog&#39;s writers.&nbsp; Intelligent enough to notice a problem, but far too cool to do anything more than whine about it from behind their laptops and&nbsp;iced-coffees from Aroma Espresso.</p>
Kevin / August 7, 2007 at 10:39 am
<p>My intention with this post is not to single out any store in particular, even though some are shown in the attached pictures. Rather, my intent was to highlight the difference between two neighbourhoods of Toronto, and the present an assessment of their open/closed-door AC policy. In any such big-picture approach, I accepted from the onset that I would miss the exceptions as Ryan described. </p><p>@Lindsay: Thanks for the criticism, though I would liked to have heard your own pro-active ideas about the problem at hand instead of just criticizing my approach. For instance, there is a conservation program called Doors Closed ( However, it has not been updated since late 2006, so I did not link to it. Aside from that, consider writing to some business improvement areas (BIAs) that have enough sway with their businesses to enforce energy-saving measures. The only thing consumers can do is to be aware of who&#39;s wasting energy, and hopefully through civil discussion (unlike those enviro-nuts described by Ryan in the comment above yours) we can at least voice our concern to individual stores. </p>
Adam C-F / August 7, 2007 at 11:08 am
<p><em>Fine the buggers and pay off our debt...</em> </p><p>I have no problem with a municipal by-law that would fine people who leave their doors open when their AC is on but the fine wouldn&#39;t accomplish what you want it to. </p><p>Although I suppose the City could impose a gigantic fine in the order of tens of thousands of dollars, the more likely scenario is that almost all revenue is used to pay for the by-law enforcement officers required to enforce the new by-law and that there is a relatively insignificant surplus after all the costs of enforcement are covered. Before saying, &quot;I don&#39;t&nbsp;care, fine the buggers a million bucks!&quot; consider that the fine has to fit the crime, otherwise it can be struck down by the courts.</p>
Chris Winter / December 10, 2007 at 10:27 am
Nice to see everyone keeping the "heat" on retailers.

Let me add an update on the Doors Closed campaign and We Conserve. We (the Conservation Council of Ontario) didn't run an official Doors Closed campaign last year largely because we wanted to work on taking retailer conservation to the next level. Wasting A.C. is a highly visible and hot-button issue, which makes "Doors Closed" a great way for retailers to show their commitment to saving energy. But in the end, we want retailers to have a comprehensive commitment to conservation that covers in-store operations, the products and services they sell, and their support for conservation in the community. This is the broader "We Conserve" initiative we are working on. Watch for the roll-out of programs next year, including the Doors Closed campaign again next summer.

A special thanks to all the vocal consumers out there. Be polite, but keep up the pressure!
Harbles / July 8, 2010 at 02:36 pm
I just tweeted the Mayor.

@mayormiller there's a bylaw for idling why not one for open doors and A/C? #green
Samael / November 14, 2012 at 10:14 am
Seems like a waste of air conditioning to keep all your doors open.
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