Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Retroblog #2: Feedback

One of the major "tools" in communications is its ability to form feedback loops within any eco-system or culture. This is a vital part of embedding and establishing a new enterprise, as it gives value and meaning to everything and everyone involved.  Not only does feedback on meetings and projects keep people in the loop with what is going on, it creates a buzz and enables everyone to see how the initiative is developing, by recording and reflecting on our activities in time.

We live in a 24 hour get-this-done-and-over-with culture, so to establish what we do in Transition in time requires a steady and deliberate process. On the blog we do this by heralding events and then covering them (with text and images), and threading them back into our more reflective pieces.

At the recent Transition Conference a team of bloggers wrote 24 previews, on-site reports and reflections during a fortnight to give a rounded picture of the event. From November 2010 to May 2012 on This Low Carbon Life we ran fourteen Transition Themes Weeks which were specifically designed to report on the different projects initiated by Transition Norwich: these included Communications, Norwich FarmShare, Low Carbon Cookbook, Economics and Livelihoods, Transition Circles (Hethersett, West Norwich and Strangers') and Abundance. We also included the work of related groups.

Here is a piece from our Transition Themes Week #11 from a seasonal and investigative scheme, Norwich Energy Lookouts!

Images: spiderwebs amid wild carrot and plantain, September 2012 (Mark Watson); on a deadline at the Transition Conference (Laura Whitehead)
An Open and Shut Case by Chris Hull
11 January 2012 

Opening doors seem to emerge as metaphors for so many things, and in so many different fields and disciplines. From the football commentator's description of a team's defence being "like an open door", to doorways ( and stairways) to heaven, to many an artist's depiction of light and dark either side of a doorway. This seems to be a very long way from the pure functionality of a door!

When we launched the Energy Look Out initiative a couple of months ago, inviting people to tell us examples of everyday energy wastage in Norwich, we had several comments about the practice of shops and stores wedging doors open, with the consequent huge and rapid loss of heat from inside to out. Years ago, as a Councillor, I had occasion to take up this very issue with particular shops in Norwich following complaints.

The reason that shops do this is based on the belief that the door's position influences their footfall - that rather irritating commercial term used to describe how many customers actually go into the shop. To customers, of course, the feeling of warmth once inside is more important. This also applies often to the shop workers! So here we have a nice little microcosm of what is at the heart of promoting carbon reduction generally:
  • the differences in perception from one group of people to another over the same issue
  • a firmly held belief that is not actually supported by evidence (see below)
  • a linkage between commercial practice and public behaviour
  • a widespread practice that is actually responsible for high carbon emissions and financial cost, and which does not involve any cost or investment to change
Back to the doors. There is actually a national campaign to encourage the shutting of shop doors in the winter months - see here. To their credit, some shops in Norwich have signed up to this and display the sticker on their door to say so. The one here is at Oxfam in Bedford Street.

The campaign - started by 3 women in Cambridge - has now been endorsed by a number of well known politicians across the political spectrum, and has been signed up to by a range of the larger chains.

The practice of propping doors open persists, however....all the more surprising when the research carried out by Cambridge University on the energy and carbon wastage involved says shutting the door will:
  • Reduce energy usage by up to 50%
  • Cut a shop’s annual CO2 emissions by up to 10 tonnes of CO2
  • Maintain energy use at a standard low level
  • Enable heating to be shut off long before the end of the day without affecting internal temperatures

  • Stop need for so-called “air curtains” over the door – among the greatest wasters of energy: a single one consumes 24 kWh per day. This is equivalent to emitting 91 kg CO2 per week. The research found no conclusive evidence that footfall or transactions were affected by closing the shop door.(2)
This last point - "air curtains" are the commercial description for those fan heaters placed over open doors - is particularly poignant. Consider that the average household electricity consumption, for a whole house, is calculated as about 9 kWh per day, and you can see just how wasteful these contraptions are. My own household consumption now runs at an average of less than 1 kWh per day - more about that later when we talk about the whole subject of Energy in our theme week next week.

I never thought I would get so excited about doors.

Pictures Top: Waterstones in Back of The Inns, who keep 2 separate doors wedged open; Middle: Jarrolds Stores, Exchange Street, who keep all their doors shut; Bottom: Oxfam in Bedford Street, who keep their door shut and display the sticker. Further info on the scheme read intro news piece here

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