Close that door!
Blasting cool air out into the street, Old Pas businesses ignore calls to go green
By now most people should have seen the ads from city officials about conserving water and electricity, or at least have a basic consciousness about the trouble our planet is in — we’ve all seen or at least heard about “An Inconvenient Truth,” right?
But a recent walkthrough of trendy Old Pasadena found numerous businesses with their air conditioners going full-blast and their doors wide open to the summer heat. It’s a shock to anybody who’s taken personal action to conserve power, maybe even inspiration for Al Gore to consider a sequel.
The Pottery Barn at the corner of Colorado Boulevard at Fair Oaks Avenue had its AC going and doors wide open on Friday. So did The Body Shop, and Urban Outfitters, and H&M, and American Apparel, and Steve Madden, and Diesel, and Guess, and Armani Exchange, and Banana Republic, and the Sunglass Hut, and the Sprint store at Colorado and Arroyo Parkway, and T-Mobile a block over, and Ella Bella next door. Plus, Foot Locker, Crate & Barrel, Lush, Lather, Beach Bliss, Neo 39, Fine Kicks Shoes and Fine Leather — even the supposedly enlightened Apple Store, where Gore used to sit on the board of directors.
Diesel employees told us it is company policy to keep the door open so as not to appear closed for business. American Apparel employees told us their stores don’t have an official policy, so they get to decide whether to keep it open, which they did that afternoon with an outdoor temperature of 80 degrees. Apple’s national offices did not return several calls.
Crate & Barrel staff said it’s their company policy to close the door and that a customer must have left it open momentarily. To their credit, their doors were closed Monday afternoon.
On the other coast, New York City officials are likely to adopt an ordinance that would penalize businesses that leave their doors wide open while air conditioners are blasting, according to The New York Times. Stores will get a warning first, then a $200 ticket and $400 fines after that.
But Pasadena has no such rules, despite a tremendous push by council members to make this a model “green city” since simultaneously signing on in September 2006 to both the US Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and the United Nations Green Cities Declaration and Urban Environmental Accords.
City Hall now runs on renewable, wind-generated power, and traffic lights throughout the city are being switched from inefficient incandescent bulbs to energy-saving light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.
To try to get others onboard, Pasadena City Council members in June approved a plan for the city Water and Power Department to spend up to $5 million over the next three years to install energy saving equipment — including modifications to heating and cooling systems — in area businesses. To help make green technology more accessible, the Emerging Technology Program covers the first $25,000 of installation costs and half of any other expenses, said PWP Communications Manager Erica Rolufs.
PWP also has a new Energy Efficiency Partnership Program, which offers significant rebates to commercial customers who choose to install permanent energy saving technology on their own. See cityofpasadena.net/waterandpower/yourbusiness.
But this isn’t the first time the utility has encountered such flagrant disregard for conservation efforts. Over the past several years, PWP officials have occasionally paid visits to some stores to ask them to close their doors and stop wasting cool air, said Programs Manager Mauricio Mejia.
“The way to influence behavior like that is to first raise people’s level of consciousness,” said Councilman Steve Madison, whose district includes much of Old Pasadena. The second step is to talk dollars and cents. Madison supports changing the city’s power rates to discourage waste, making those who squander electricity pay higher rates for the energy they use while rewarding those who conserve with lower rates.
A spokeswoman for Lush, a cosmetics chain that promotes social awareness and environmental sustainability — clerks at their 24 E. Colorado Blvd. were expected Wednesday to wear little under their aprons to show support for reducing consumer packaging waste — said the company hopes their stores will be more energy conscious in the future.
“We know we’re not perfect, but we’re always striving to do the best for the environment,” said Lush’s Leanne Goff after being told the Pasadena store had been keeping its door open Friday. “There is currently no company policy about opening or closing doors, but we acknowledge the need to minimize energy use and are investigating different strategies, such as using air fans which would prevent the cold air from leaving the building even with the door open.”
But concerned residents shouldn’t just wait for power-wasters to wise up or the city to take action, said Elizabeth Pomeroy, chair of the Sierra Club’s Pasadena Group.
“I would say something about it. We are the customers, and so I think they would value hearing from us,” she said. “I would probably go in and say ‘We’re all trying to conserve energy, Pasadena is a very green city, so it would be best if you didn’t pour your air conditioning into the outside world.’ And I might say that I’m not inclined to shop in a place that hasn’t caught on to the green spirit of Pasadena.”
Deputy Editor Joe Piasecki contributed to this story.