“Climate Cafe” hears why there are no doors on cold displays in supermarkets

climate cafe ipswich 2018
Ipswich High School students in rear: Grace Evans, Joanna Mullen, Jeremy Powers and Tessa Devoe. Newburyport High School students in front: Kendall Woods, Jori and Jaedin Guldenstern and Bailey Fogel

IPSWICH — Have you ever gone to the supermarket and wondered about the wall-length display of dairy products?

They are typically arranged in an open refrigerator that spills cool air into the aisle beside the display.

There’s a certain logic to that, Mike Guldenstern said. Executive managers at supermarket companies are afraid they will lose sales if doors are put on the displays, he explained.

Guldenstern, an engineer in the field, made his remarks at the Climate Cafe hosted by First Church in Ipswich this morning.

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A workshop run by students from Ipswich and Newburyport high schools, the cafe encourages people to discuss environmental issues and to take action, said organizer Shari Melto.

She has run a number of climate cafes across the North Shore that aim to promote respectful exchanges of opinion about climate issues.

“We’ve gotten people to talk about it here, but now our next ripple is to go out and talk to somebody else,” Melto said.

If Guldenstern could change anything, it would be to add doors to cold displays in supermarkets.

He noted that federal regulations require doors on frozen products. That is a safer way to store food and is cheaper, he said.

But supermarket executives are worried about margins. Some the refrigerated items, such as yogurt, are seen as “grab and go,” he said.

And with supermarkets running on tight margins, executives are unwilling to take the chance of losing a few sales, Guldenstern noted.

But he added that managers and directors see the point of closing off the refrigerated displays.

He said closed doors would use two-thirds less electricity to cool the food. And it would require less heating to warm the store back up from the cold air spilling out.

The issue of supermarket electricity was just one of a number of ideas tossed around at the climate cafe.

The groups looked at what they could do to reduce runoff from storms and to prevent pollution from yard products seeping into rivers.

Some ideas on river-friendly lawn care included disposing of clipping and pet waste properly, cutting down on fertilizers, and avoiding pesticides and herbicides.