Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Lights out, please

Despite standing empty for two months, the Zavvi store in Coventry city centre is still lit up like a Christmas tree 24 hours a day. If there’s one thing in particular that annoys me, it’s people wasting electricity in such a manner. Zavvi is empty and no longer trading – there’s absolutely no need for the lights to remain on, it’s just a mindless waste of energy and light pollution, not to mention a waste of money.

Of course, turning lights off isn’t going to save the world as it looks at the problem the wrong way round. In most cases, the lights we use are the result of producing electricity by burning fossil fuels. It’s such power plants that we should be turning off rather than our light bulbs, but until that day arrives we need to minimise our use of dirty fuel through turning off unused electrical appliances alongside making numerous other lifestyle changes.

Angered by Zavvi’s poor example, I sent an email to the council about two weeks ago, asking that they be turned off. The council promptly replied and sent me in the direction of West Orchard shopping centre, who apparently own the premises. Almost a week went by without a reply and I mentioned this on Twitter. As is the power of Twitter, it was picked up by somebody at BBC Coventry who then asked me to come and talk about it on the Breakfast Show, as it tied in with a long running story they’ve been doing about empty shops in the city centre.

Liz Kershaw was quite receptive of my point of view, but argued that the city centre surely looks better lit up at night. If somebody’s idea of a pretty city centre is one of countless stores, some empty, advertising the latest mobile phone deals, make-up, bestsellers and fashion trends, they’re very much mistaken. Coventry city centre needs more than lit up stores to make it look pretty, and besides, the precinct itself is actually quite well lit without the need for businesses to leave their own lights on. The only reason I can surmise for these businesses to be illuminated are to sell their products, but who goes window shopping in the middle of the night? Unfortunately, due to the short nature of the conversation, I was unable to mention that what really needs to be switched off are the power stations – another time, hopefully.

After I did my bit, the Beeb called the landlords. They said, on air, that the reason the lights were on is because they are part of the same circuit as the shutters and therefore can’t be turned off without affecting the operation of said shutters. That is quite frankly, a poor excuse. (I said as much when the Breakfast Show called me back later). Even disregarding the environmental concerns for a moment, it makes no financial sense to be enforcing such a waste of money by ensuring the lights are left on at all times. Surely it would be cheaper for them in the long run, as well as to the benefit of the environment, to have an electrician split the circuit and cut out the need for the lights to be on? I shall keep pestering them.

Zavvi aren’t the only culprits though. On a walk around the city centre one evening last week, I noticed many more businesses still had their lights on. Many of them were simply lighting up the window displays. These included Bank, Boots, Sony, Monson, O2, Topshop, both of the Waterstones, River Island, Starbucks, HSBC, Yorkshire Building Society, Derbyshire Building Society, Ryman, Thomas Cook, Debenhams and MK One (which is another empty store).

However, some stores were also lit up inside, supposedly to help the magic elves that live amongst the products and navigate the empty aisles at night. These include the Co-op, BSM (the driving school), Halifax, Woolworths (again, empty) Phones 4U, H. Samuel, Abbey bank and Thomson travel agents. Both Marks and Spencer and BHS had their entire stores lit up, but at the time there still seemed to people doing work of some kind. In the most baffling instance, the Virgin Media and O2 stores were blaring out televisions, not to passers by, but the pixies inside.

I can see no reason for any of these businesses to be wasting electricity in such a manner. They’re not going to lose out in any way by switching their lights off, indeed, many other businesses do turn off their lights, so do us all a favour and reduce the waste by turning the damn things off!


  1. i know some types of halogen lights are actually more efficient if left on, than when turned on or off - of course this only applies to trading shops, you are spot on with comments about zavvi at al...

  2. Hey there, I also live in Coventry and completely agree with your views. well done for getting on the breakfast show b.t.w! From what I believe the Zavvi entertainment stores are still in operation around the U.K. so I would most probably think that their main reason for leaving the lights on externally would be to advertise the other shops that they have in operation without having to pay for more advertising around the city...(the cost for the lights to be left on would be considerably less than paying for a billboard which is around £30-35,000 per week in the CV1-5 post coded locations currently.)
    Your theory about the stores leaving the inside lights being un-necessary I feel is completely justified. No body is in these shops for most of the early hours so why the need for the televisions and computers and whatnot being left on. These landlords and the council should be enforcing more ruling on these stores for power consumption. As well as the fact the electrical items left on can cost money they are also a serious fire risk with some of the light fixtures becoming very hot. So anyways, well done on making your mark on this matter and do keep up the pestering! :)