Tuesday, 4th October 2016

Temple Brown Bag Breakfast (BBB) recap: Jeannie Dawkins from the ‘Close the Door’ campaign

September’s first Brown Bag Breakfast saw Jeannie Dawkins, Director of the ‘Close the Door’ campaign, discuss the importance of discouraging UK shops and restaurants from wasting energy and polluting their environments by keeping their doors open when using heating and air conditioning. Jeannie has run the campaign since 2007 and during this time she has worked with thousands of shops and restaurants, including Asda, Tesco and Costa.

Jeannie started off the session by discussing the principles and aims of the campaign. She advised that the simple act of high street stores shutting their doors can ultimately protect customers and staff from the worst highly hazardous effects of air pollution. It’s estimated there’s 40,000 deaths per year across the UK on account of air pollution and nearly five times as many hospital admissions conditions. With support from Kings College and Imperial College research, Jeannie has found that closing the door of stores can reduce airborne pollution from outside by one third. She explained that when businesses do this, backed up by independent research from The University of Cambridge, there is a reduction of energy use and costs by up to 50%. Jeannie pointed out this reduction cuts a shop’s annual CO2 emissions from heating alone by up to 10 tonnes, equivalent to three return flights to Hong Kong.

“Businesses can’t run an ethical supply chain, if they have their shop doors open”

The campaign links to the inequalities of the fast fashion industry and unethical processes conducted in shops. Jeannie has previously approached fashion brands that are known to promote ethical fashion; however some were not open to implementing this measure citing lack of ‘customer pressure’. She reminded the audience: “businesses can’t run an ethical supply chain, if they have their shop doors open”. With constant significant energy being wasted, there is a knock on effect for people on low incomes. The costs of wasted energy are frequently a component of high street prices. Interestingly, Jeannie mentioned that poorly made clothing sold in stores next to busy roads actually act as filters for diesel emissions, making the effects of the pollution all the more real. To prevent the rise of wasted energy costs, Jeannie discussed how her campaign can help to combat this needless waste and in turn this pricing model.

The audience were incredibly engaged with her presentation and asked some interesting and thought-provoking questions. The role that high streets will play in the future, given the soaring rise of internet shopping, was raised as a consideration. It was discussed that more work needs to be done to make high street stores more inviting places for customers. Another question posed was how to increase the awareness of air pollution levels to businesses and customers. An idea from the audience was to implement screens to show pollution levels in shops. Jeannie reiterated that educating the public is key to instigating change. She concluded the presentation by encouraging everyone to pass the message on to staff in stores on the benefits of closing their doors, as a customer request, in order to see a healthier environment for the public all round.