How Composting Has Gone High-Tech
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How Composting Has Gone High-Tech

We tried out four new ways to encourage rot that are easier, chicer and far less smelly than the hippy methods of old.

By Jordan. G. Teicher
Thu, Jan 21, 2021 12:46amGrey Clock 3 min

Humans have composted food for about as long as they have grown it. But in a world increasingly obsessed with tidy convenience, many view the chore of converting food waste into fertiliser for plants and gardens much as they do tending to kombucha scoby or committing to cloth diapers for their infants: too time-consuming, too “granola” and too plain icky.

Composting has “been perceived as this very stinky project that takes a bunch of time and only makes sense if you have a big backyard,” said Friday Apaliski, a San Francisco “sustainability concierge” who works with clients to make their homes more green. She believes that people “are starting to understand how truly phenomenal composting is.”

Composting has ‘been perceived as this very stinky project that takes a bunch of time and only makes sense if you have a big backyard,’ said Friday Apaliski.

Indeed, new composting technology has emerged that makes the process easier, faster and more stylish. Some composting systems are now small enough to live on your kitchen’s countertop and sufficiently attractive that you won’t mind looking at them day after day.

And with houseplant ownership skyrocketing (compost is just as good for Instagramable succulents as for an old-time vegetable garden) and a growing desire to reduce methane-producing food waste, more Americans are trying the ancient practice out for themselves. Between 2014 and 2019, according to the 2019 Composting in America report, the number of American communities offering composting programs increased 65%. This summer, Vermont became the first state in the nation to make composting mandatory.

If you’re going to do it, why not do it as pleasantly as possible? Here, our four favourite new products that use sharp design and cutting-edge technology to speed up, shrink down or even glamorize composting at home.

For Lazy Gardeners

Anyone looking to turn food scraps into fertilizer has typically had to house the refuse in rudimentary backyard containers and use their own forearm strength to intermittently aerate it with a shovel. New age tumblers like the Envirocycle do most of the aerating for you: You need only spin the drum manually a few times a week. Stored outside, the device is fully enclosed—keeping funky smells in and curious critters out. The company offers a 64-litre version of its classic 132-litre tumbler designed to fit on a patio or balcony. It promises to produce usable compost for your pandemic victory garden in a month. (US$210, envirocycle.com)

For Odor-Averse Urbanites

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Once, environmentalists looking to keep their kitchens smelling fresh had no good option but to stuff their scraps in the freezer or bring them immediately to the collection pile outside, even on inconveniently freezing January nights. These days, tabletop bins like Bamboozle’s are designed to accommodate charcoal filters under the lid that oust odours through adsorption. The Bamboozle’s handle also makes it a good way to transport waste to a nearby community garden or compost collection site if you lack the space or ambition to make plant food yourself. (US$40, bamboozlehome.com)

For the Worm-Curious

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Vermicomposting (that is, worm-assisted composting) can speed up the tedious process, but “pretty” is not something you’d call red wigglers, or the tiered plastic vermicomposting structures they typically live in. Uncommon Goods’ sculptural Living Composter, however, gives hardworking worms chicer digs. Just drop peelings and sawdust soil mix into the countertop device’s opening and the worms-in-residence (order yours from Uncle Jim’s, from US$28, unclejimswormfarm.com) will get busy processing about 1 kilogram of food a week into nourishment for houseplant babies. (US$200, uncommongoods.com)

For Impatient Gearheads

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Microorganisms take weeks to do their work. High-tech machines like Vitamix’s Foodcycler, meanwhile, require only hours. While not technically a composter (the definition requires “natural” decay), the microwave-sized device can turn a wider than normal range of organic material into “recycled food compound” in no more than the 8 hours you’ll be asleep in bed. You can add in dairy, meat scraps and even some bones. But be warned: the Vitamix has a relatively tiny capacity of only 2.5 litres, and is less environmentally friendly than methods that don’t require electricity to work. (uS$350, vitamix.com)



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Is ‘Rizz’ the Secret to Getting Ahead at Work?

Whether you call it charisma, charm or magnetism, some people seem like naturals. Good news: It can be learned.

By Rachel Feintzeig
Mon, Jul 22, 2024 4 min

Great leaders have it. Gen Z has a new word for it. Can the rest of us learn it?

Charisma—or rizz , as current teenage slang has anointed it—can feel like an ephemeral gift some are just born with. The chosen among us network and chitchat, exuding warmth as they effortlessly hold court. Then there’s everyone else, agonising over exclamation points in email drafts and internally replaying that joke they made in the meeting, wondering if it hit.

“Well, this is awkward,” Mike Rizzo, the head of a community for marketing operations professionals, says of rizz being crowned 2023 word of the year by the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s so close to his last name, but so far from how he sees himself. He sometimes gets sweaty palms before hosting webinars.

Who could blame us for obsessing over charisma, or lack thereof? It can lubricate social interactions, win us friends, and score promotions . It’s also possible to cultivate, assures Charles Duhigg, the author of a book about people he dubs super communicators.

At its heart, charisma isn’t about some grand performance. It’s a state we elicit in other people, Duhigg says. It’s about fostering connection and making our conversation partners feel they’re the charming—or interesting or funny—ones.

The key is to ask deeper, though not prying, questions that invite meaningful and revealing responses, Duhigg says. And match the other person’s vibes. Maybe they want to talk about emotions, the joy they felt watching their kid graduate from high school last weekend. Or maybe they’re just after straight-up logistics and want you to quickly tell them exactly how the team is going to turn around that presentation by tomorrow.

You might be hired into a company for your skill set, Duhigg says, but your ability to communicate and earn people’s trust propels you up the ladder: “That is leadership.”

Approachable and relatable

In reporting this column, I was surprised to hear many executives and professionals I find breezily confident and pleasantly chatty confess it wasn’t something that came naturally. They had to work on it.

Dave MacLennan , who served as chief executive of agricultural giant Cargill for nearly a decade, started by leaning into a nickname: DMac, first bestowed upon him in a C-suite meeting where half the executives were named Dave.

He liked the informality of it. The further he ascended up the corporate hierarchy, the more he strove to be approachable and relatable.

Employees “need a reason to follow you,” he says. “One of the reasons they’re going to follow you is that they feel they know you.”

He makes a point to remember the details and dates of people’s lives, such as colleagues’ birthdays. After making his acquaintance, in a meeting years ago at The Wall Street Journal’s offices, I was shocked to receive an email from his address months later. Subject line: You , a heading so compelling I still recall it. He went on to say he remembered I was due with my first child any day now and just wanted to say good luck.

“So many people say, ‘Oh, I don’t have a good memory for that,’” he says. Prioritise remembering, making notes on your phone if you need, he says.

Now a board member and an executive coach, MacLennan sent hundreds of handwritten notes during his tenure. He’d reach out to midlevel managers who’d just gotten a promotion, or engineers who showed him around meat-processing plants. He’d pen words of thanks or congratulations. And he’d address the envelopes himself.

“Your handwriting is a very personal thing about you,” he says. “Think about it. Twenty seconds. It makes such an impact.”

Everyone’s important

Doling out your charm selectively will backfire, says Carla Harris , a Morgan Stanley executive. She chats up the woman cleaning the office, the receptionist at her doctor’s, the guy waiting alongside her for the elevator.

“Don’t be confused,” she tells young bankers. Executive assistants are often the most powerful people in the building, and you never know how someone can help—or hurt—you down the line.

Harris once spent a year mentoring a junior worker in another department, not expecting anything in return. One day, Harris randomly mentioned she faced an uphill battle in meeting with a new client. Oh!, the 24-year-old said. Turns out, the client was her friend. She made the call right there, setting up Harris for a work win.

In the office, stop staring at your phone, Harris advises, and notice the people around you. Ask for their names. Push yourself to start a conversation with three random people every day.

Charisma for introverts

You can’t will yourself to be a bubbly extrovert, but you can find your own brand of charisma, says Vanessa Van Edwards, a communications trainer and author of a book about charismatic communication.

For introverted clients, she recommends using nonverbal cues. A slow triple nod shows people you’re listening. Placing your hands in the steeple position, together and facing up, denotes that you’re calm and present.

Try coming up with one question you’re known for. Not a canned, hokey ice-breaker, but something casual and simple that reflects your actual interests. One of her clients, a bookish executive struggling with uncomfortable, halting starts to his meetings, began kicking things off by asking “Reading anything good?”

Embracing your stumbles

Charisma starts with confidence. It’s not that captivating people don’t occasionally mispronounce a word or spill their coffee, says Henna Pryor, who wrote a book about embracing awkwardness at work. They just have a faster comeback rate than the rest of us. They call out the stumble instead of trying to hide it, make a small joke, and move on.

Being perfectly polished all the time is not only exhausting, it’s impossible. We know this, which is why appearing flawless can come off as fake. We like people who seem human, Pryor says.

Our most admired colleagues are often the ones who are good at their jobs and can laugh at themselves too, who occasionally trip or flub just like us.

“It creates this little moment of warmth,” she says, “that we actually find almost like a relief.”

MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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