You are What you Eat (or Buy): Being an Informed Consumer Online

Being sustainable or socially responsible is a hot topic these days. Companies publish glossy Sustainability Reports and consumers have started to look for labels that indicate whether something is fair trade, organic or natural. While these issues are important and deserve our attention, the lack of standards means it is difficult to sort through all the available information and make informed decisions. Sometimes it feels like in order to do no harm you can never leave your house.

In an effort to tackle one area at a time, I tend to focus on food. What can be more important than ensuring that what you put in your body is as natural and safe as nature intended it? Lifehacker has a great article called “The Common Sense Guide to Organic and Other Food Labels” that helps differentiate between the different categories and labels.

The Good Guide lets you research any product you are thinking about buying for how it performs on the issues important to you–whether it’s apparel, food, cars, or appliances. However, it often doesn’t occur to me to look something up at the time of purchase. That’s why my new favorite download for chrome (it also works for firefox) is their new Transparency Toolbar. When you are on a retail site, like Amazon, it just appears from the bottom of your screen with a personalized analysis based on the issues you’ve told it you care about most. Pretty neat–and it makes being green a whole lot easier.

The other great online tool I’ve recently discovered is from a company called energysage. I’ve actually been doing some consulting work for them recently, which is how I got to know them. They have a wizard that walks you through a much bigger purchase–whether or not buying a renewable energy system for your home makes sense. It’s still in beta, but it’s a space with a lot of promise due to a lack of information and transparency in the space. It’s definitely a company to watch.

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A New Strategy for Innovation

 

Tuck Professor Ron Adner is releasing a new book called the Wide Lens on Thursday. You can pre-order it now on Amazon, but in the meantime Fast Company just published a sneak preview.

The excerpt focuses on “The Innovator’s Blindspot”, which is that you can’t innovate unless your suppliers innovate too. In it, he says:

Today’s exemplar firms–from Apple in consumer electronics to Amazon in retail, from Roche in pharmaceuticals to Raytheon in defense, and from Hasbro in toys to Turner in construction–do much more than “just” execute flawlessly on their own initiatives. They follow a distinct set of strategies to orchestrate the activities of an array of partners so that their joint efforts increase the value created by their own initiatives many times over. These leaders have understood the nature of the blind spot and have expanded their perspective. They have deployed a wide lens in setting their strategy and prospered in their embrace of the ecosystem opportunity.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it over spring break–it starts on Friday–perfect timing! Continue reading

Energy Efficiency Effectiveness at Home

Greentech Media had an interesting article today highlighting a recent study on the results consumers see from home energy efficiency products. The results are mixed–with results ranging from no savings at all to 20% savings. Check out the greentechgrid article here and the original survey results here. I’m checking out a few products myself that I’ll write about in future posts.

Euro Zone Crisis in One Graph

At the risk of having all of us walk out of class, Professor Jonathan Haskell showed this graph today and told us that this was a whole term’s worth of his Europe in the Global Economy class in one slide. Luckily for him, no one budged, but unlucky for us it is a little more complicated than that. However, this graph is a fascinating narrative about what happened in Europe from the formation of the European Monetary Union through today and helps one grasp just how we get into the debt situation we are in and why it’s only gotten worse.

What we discussed in class can be summarized like this:

Before the Euro: interest rates varied a lot

After joining the Euro: everyone’s interest rate fell because everyone thoug that different government bonds were equally safe. Low interest rates meant high aggregate demand–lots of investment, increased consumption, some increased government spending too

The crisis: asset price bubble bursts, consumption falls as does confidence. Interest rates return to being driven by individuacountries, with interest rates rising across the board, but especially in Southern European countries. This lowers investment.

Before the Euro, Southern European countries could depreciate their exchange rates. Now, the only safety value left is government spending.

For more reading on this topic, check out Profesor Haskel’s blog here.

Better Late Than Never: 2012 Professional Goals

I stumbled on Brazen Careerist‘s monthly blog prompts a month too late, but figured I’d jump on the bandwagon anyway. Rather than starting with February’s prompt, I’m doing a catch-up post from January. Their January prompt was: what are your professional goals for 2012?

2012 will be a year of change for me. I’m graduating from my MBA program, moving to a new city, starting a new job (hopefully!) and even planning to get a puppy. So my goals are around going into all of those changes as prepared, confident and organized as I can be, while making sure all those changes actually happen! It’s a lot to accomplish in a year, but it’s been done before–by everyone who’s ever finished an MBA program. So, no excuses.

As a result, I have three main goals professional goals:

  1. Get the right job (or at least go through the right process): My job goal is to get a job, obviously, but it’s not just about any job, which means it can’t just be any job search. I want to have done a thorough research and networking process, weighedby options based on career progression, compensation and company prospects and to make an informed decision I can be confident in. Easier said than done–the temptation is to take the first job that comes along, and you can always do more research…so the big question is how to balance urgency with thorough research and who to talk to for the most informed opinions when it comes down to the final decision.
  2. Make conscious choices about how I spend my time : I get excited about things, want to try everything and love helping out. What this means is that sometimes I forget to say no, and I get overwhelmed. And while I can do a lot of things (people ask me about how I do this all the time), I’ve inherited the ability to read fast from my dad, and I prefer to be a joiner and get involved in my community, that feeling of having too much on your plate is the ultimate energy drainer. So when I start over in a new city and a new job this summer, I want to focus on doing just a few of the right things right.
  3. More knowledge means more money: Since these are professional goals for 2012, I would be remiss to not mention money. Students obviously don’t have a lot of it, which makes it even more important to keep track of. My goal for this year is to remember that knowledge is power, or in this case, more knowledge means more money. Whether this applies to keeping track of bills, budgeting, investing or negotiating salary, it’s pretty much the universal rule of money. I’ve been consolidating accounts, setting up my savings and preparing to be more organized this year. I’ve been trying out some cool new online tools in the meantime, which could warrant another post once I’ve settled on a system.

What are your professional goals for 2012?