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On November 20, 2016, mrp commented on Your Toaster Has Been Hacked :

Thanks for a really revelatory post. I generally think of tech-enabled devices and digitization in terms of how much efficiency and simplicity they create in our lives but it is important to remember the sobering reality that everything is hackable, as you and other comments point out. I think the example of the toaster is particularly powerful because it highlights a product that we assume no one would want to hack, so no one would hack. In the case of Alexa, I’m sure most consumers assume that it would be less desirable to hack than a laptop but that doesn’t mean we aren’t exposing ourselves to serious privacy and security risks.

I wonder how, even with firms like Icon Labs tackling this issue, we will ever reconcile the convenience of technology with the risk of personal information breaches. Similarly, how much security can one firm provide and who’s responsibility is it to protect consumers from hackers–the product creators, the internet service provider, government regulators?

On November 20, 2016, mrp commented on Fishing for Fish Data: Digitizing Aquaculture :

What an interesting choice, Jina. This post made me think about our other TOM challenge about climate change in that I believe most consumers think that eating seafood rather than mammals reduces their carbon footprint because fishing or fish farming seems like it would be less carbon intensive than beef-farming, for example. That said, the disease risk and heavy equipment use that you point out are real problems of our increased seafood consumption that are ripe for digital solutions.

I also wonder how much digitization can help an industry so dependent on consumer perception? Is, for example, consumers value of wild-caught fish so strong that even farmed fish that might be free from antibiotics, disease, and other negative characteristics is still perceived to be less desirable? Regardless, I’m happy to see that digitization is improving our food supply.

On November 20, 2016, mrp commented on Outsourcing Chores: Groceries On Demand :

I’m an Instacart user and identified with a lot of the points you laid out as to why people use the service and what weaknesses it has. As other comments have mentioned, I agree that Instacart could improve it’s quality assurance policies on items that contain a lot of variability such as produce, flowers, meat, etc. Instacart also, in employing contractors, does open itself up to a lot of delivery variability. If, for example, a shopper cannot find your address or have questions about your order, they are instructed to call the customer. This can result in several phone calls with a shopper in a way that doesn’t feel more efficient than going shopping yourself. In addition to improving these pain points, I agree that the service could differentiate around bulk orders and urgent orders in order to better meet consumers different purchasing needs.

Thank you for such a powerful post. I didn’t know much about the Polaris Project but in reading your research it’s an incredible use of big data and analytics to detect patterns in human trafficking in order to decrease its existence and better respond to it as it happens. I had a similar thought to the one in the comment above as I was reading; what legal arms does the Polaris Project and its supporters plug into and how do they operate in tandem? This strikes me as an example where an independent nonprofit or firm can, and should, influence policy changes so that this work is aided by governmental resources rather than continuing to go it alone. I also wonder how this manifests internationally with governments or databases cooperating with one another?

On November 20, 2016, mrp commented on Pill Popping Made Easy :

Great choice, Elyse! PillPack strikes me as a novel example of how digitization can be done in a way that doesn’t require massive behavior change on the part of the consumer. Because patients are still receiving physical pills without the hassle of carrying bottles or going to the pharmacy, I would imagine the adoption curve isn’t as steep as it would be for company’s attempting to more radically digitize a habitual behavior. To your point about reducing medical distribution errors, I wonder what kind of consumer education PillPack has had to do, and might continue to need in order to gain traction, in order to ensure patients that their pills undergo stringent quality assurance checks given the consumer is no longer regularly interacting with a pharmacist to explain dosages, side effects, etc.

On November 6, 2016, mrp commented on Blue Apron: Delivering an efficient tomorrow :

Really interesting choice, Aakash. I also wasn’t as aware of how deliberate Blue Apron’s portion sizing was in reducing food waste. I have to say that I had a more negative perspective on how environmentally friendly they were as a business, based on living with someone who used their services quite regularly. Like Margaret mentioned, the ice packs they use are huge and really hard to dispose of or recycle. I actually wasn’t even aware of the fact that they could be cut open and emptied, which perhaps shows that Blue Apron could drastically improve their footprint by educating the consumer about proper disposal, allowing for easy ice pack returns, or exploring alternatives all together. I wonder if a model like Instacart, that allows users to select a delivery window so that foods packages can be stored in climate controlled environments until they’re ready to be delivered, would eliminate the need for ice packs all together (which are currently used so that customers don’t have to be home for a delivery)?

Lastly, I would be curious to see how many Blue Apron users actually follow the recipes and use all of the food. My hunch is that food still goes uneaten and customers are left with several small bottles and containers of ingredients they might not use. More customer feedback and research might cut back on the number of small bottles and packages Blue Apron ends up needing to send out.

On November 6, 2016, mrp commented on IT’S TIME TO PLAY BY THE RULES :

Well done, Shaun! I think this is a really creative and thoughtful topic. I agree with another classmate’s comment that if done correctly, Mattel will likely see a huge marketing win because of the way it’s consumers (parents making purchases) value the end user (their own children). It also seems as though brands that take on this challenge of going all-natural, chemical-free etc. (using foods that remove artificial dyes as an example) face the initial concern that product quality or perception will suffer. I wonder if Mattel could combat this by building stronger brand awareness around the environmentally friendly nature of its new toys? Also, using the Barbie image as an example, I would be interested to see whether character Barbies that care about the environment or larger social / global issues would see market success that would encourage Mattel to continue advancing in this space?

I agree; interesting choice and well done, Heather! When I first thought about Shake Shack as an “enlightened hospitality” business, I wondered whether it made sense for them to choose a type of cuisine that is, as you point out, so dependent on ingredients that are particularly hard on the environment. Diner food, even if it is upscale in this case, is by nature consistent and dependent on livestock products. I really like your “setting the policy” suggestion that Shake Shack should look to create more global partnerships as it expands, but wonder if that would be realistic in their context as a chain restaurant? How much global variability can Shake Shack’s customers bear when they come to expect a fairly uniform, if not creative, menu from store to store?

I didn’t realize that Shake Shack partnered with both Brooklyn Brewery and Stumptown Coffee and appreciate you citing both of those companies and what they do to be eco-friendly. I wonder too what other partnerships Shake Shack could pursue–perhaps in relation to product packaging or store design–that would highlight progressive brands and draw from their local communities.

Great work!

On November 6, 2016, mrp commented on So Hot Right Now! The Levi Strauss Climate Change Agenda :

Well done, Emily Britt! I think Levi’s is an interesting choice for the assignment and appreciated the way you laid out the post. I had also thought when reading this that Levi’s could approach some type of lifetime guarantee or recycling program to incentivize customers to prolong the product lifetime and also create a channel of vintage denim that can be repurposed. Patagonia has a program that allows customers to return old or damaged clothing at any time. They then either repair or resell the product or recycle the material for something new. I agree with the previous post that Levi’s image of being vintage and durable but also hip would play well into these programs.

As for the LEED certifications, I wonder what their success has looked like in retail stores? I saw in my own research that reducing emissions in leased retail outlets is harder due to the parent company’s lack of control in the property itself.

On November 6, 2016, mrp commented on The Ecological Impact of Feminine Hygiene Products :

What an important and interesting topic. I completely agree with your point that stigma around menstruation prevents us from having conversations that affect 50% of the global population and all of us from an environmental perspective. Not only does this stigma you mention lead to less-informed consumers (I for one did not know that the applicators and adhesive strips were the main contributors to sanitary products’ footprint) but it also prevents current technologies and scientific advances from being applied to this problem.

I agree with your conclusion that an open dialogue will help women “make a switch” from sanitary products that are environmentally harmful to ones that are more environmentally friendly, like Natracare, but would go further to say that the topic of stigma prevents many women from using any commercially developed sanitary products at all. As such, I think that companies like Natracare should think strategically about education and empowerment campaigns as well as partnering with relief organizations that might be many women’s first introduction to sanitary products.

On November 6, 2016, mrp commented on Traveling to Iceland? Perhaps think twice. :

Thanks for a really well thought-out post, Rebecca. I agree with others that your topic struck me as someone who would love to experience Iceland’s natural beauty, but has to reconcile that with the significant environmental harm that comes with travelling to the very location I’d like to see and preserve.

I agree with your suggestion that Icelandair should partner with the government to create a plan of action for extreme environmental episodes. I would, actually, argue to take it one step further and coordinate with the airline associations or governments of countries that passengers most frequently travel to in connection with Icelandair’s “free layovers,” that you mentioned earlier. I was in Dublin waiting for a flight to London in 2010 when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted and halted all air travel. Although the eruption itself was not large by volcanic standards, the dust traveled quite far and remained in the atmosphere longer than experts had seen before, causing air travel delays in Europe and the North Atlantic for close to a month. Partnering with surrounding governments seems like a realistic way to acknowledge how interconnected air travel is, and how frequently these episodes will occur moving forward.

I do have questions about limiting travel to Iceland based on airline capacity because I wonder how much the country’s economy relies upon tourism. If the financial benefits from tourism better allow Iceland to invest in its natural resources then making it more difficult to travel there might not have the intended benefits you describe.

Well written and researched, Caroline! I agree with some others’ sentiments that fast-fashion is a really interesting industry to focus on from the perspective of climate change–Zara in particular as I think it’s customers are a bit older and perhaps more professional than other brands you mentioned, like Forever21, and therefore might know more about climate change and care about their role in preserving our environment. I was struck by your point that “fast fashions, held on average for 35 days, are worn fewer than five times during their product lifetime. As such, each fast-fashion garment generates 400% more carbon emissions per year than a regular article of clothing, typically retained and worn for ten times as long.” This data point made me wonder what Zara could do to design more durable or classic styles, and conversely how it could educate its customers about the importance of extending a product lifetime. I also wonder how successful Zara and Inditex’s efforts have been to reduce emissions in retail stores, considering several large retailers are in leased space and might have less ability to retrofit existing outlets.