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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The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index reveals investments of passion are paying strong dividends, in some areas at least

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, Apr 9, 2024 4 min

Art was the investment of passion that gained the most in value in 2023, according to Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index (KFLII). This is the second consecutive year that art has risen the most among the 10 popular investments tracked by the index, up 11 percent in 2023 and 29 percent in 2022. Art was followed by 8 percent growth in jewellery, 5 percent growth in watches, 4 percent growth in coins and 2 percent growth in coloured diamonds last year.

The weakest performers were rare whisky bottles, which lost nine percent of their value, classic cars down six percent and designer handbags down four percent. Luxury collectables are typically held by ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) who have a net worth of US$30 million or more. Knight Frank research shows 20 percent of UHNWI investment asset portfolios are allocated to collectables.

In 2023, the KFLII fell for only the second time, with prices down 1 percent on average.

Despite record-breaking individual sales in 2023, a surge in financial market returns contributed to a shift in allocations impacting on luxury asset value,” the report said. “… our assessment reveals a need for an ever more discerning approach from investors, with significant volatility by sub-market.

Sebastian Duthy of AMR said the 2023 art auction year began with notable sales including a record price for a Bronzino piece. But confidence waned as the year went on.

“It was telling that in May, Sotheby’s inserted one of its top Old Master lots – a Rubens’ portrait – into a 20th Century Modern evening sale. But by then, it was clear that the confidence among sellers, set by the previous year’s record-busting figures, was ebbing away. In the same month, modern and contemporary works from the collection of the late financier Gerald Fineberg sold well below pre-auction estimates.”

The value of ultra contemporary or red-chip’ art contracted the most in 2023.

“Works by a growing group of artists born after 1980 have been heavily promoted by mega galleries and auction houses in recent years. With freshly painted works in excess of £100,000 almost doubling in 2022, it was little surprise that this sector was one of the biggest casualties last year. There is a risk there are now simply too many fresh paint artists with none really standing out.”

In the jewellery market, Mr Duthy noted that demand was strongest for coloured gemstones of exceptional quality, iconic signed period jewels, single-owner collections, and items with historic provenance in 2023. In the watches market, Mr Duthy said collectors chased the most iconic and rare timepieces.

A Rolex John Player Special broke the model record when it sold for £2 million at Sotheby’s in May, double the price for a similar example sold at Phillips in 2021,” he said.

Although whisky was the worst-performing collectable in 2023, it has delivered the highest return on investment among the 10 items tracked by the index over the past decade, up 280 percent. Andy Simpson of Simpson Reserved, said 2023 was a challenging year but the best of the best bottles gained 20 percent in value. In my opinion some bottles that lost significant value in 2023 will return through the next two years as they are simply so scarce and, right now at least, so undervalued, Mr Simpson said.

Whisky was the worst performing collectable in 2023 but it had highest return on investment over a 10-year period. Image: Shutterstock

Classic car expert Dietrich Hatlapa said the 6 percent fall in collectable vehicle values in 2023 followed a 22 percent surge in 2022. The strong performance of other investment classes such as equities may have dampened collectors’ appetites it’s a very small market so it only takes a minor change in portfolio allocations to have an effect, and there has also probably been a degree of profit taking. However, we have seen some marques like BMW (up 9 percent in value) and Lamborghini (up 18 percent), which appeal to a younger breed of collector, buck the trend in 2023.”

Mr Duthy said a dip in the share price of the top luxury handbag brands last Autumn appeared to spook investors. Last autumn it was possible to pick up an Hermès white Niloticus Himalaya Birkin in good condition for under £50,000. The recent slide reflects a general correction at the upper end that’s been underway for some time rather than changing attitudes to the harvesting of exotic skins.

According to Knight Frank’s Attitudes Survey, the top five investments of passion among Australian UHNWIs are classic cars, art and wine. Fine wine values gained just 1 percent in 2023 as the market continued its correction, said Nick Martin of Wine Owners. “It’s been a hell of a long run, so I’m not that surprised. Some wines from very small producers that had enjoyed the most exuberant growth have seen the biggest drops. It had got a bit silly, £50 bottles had shot up to £200 or £300.”

Favourite investments of passion: Australia vs Global

1. Classic cars (61 percent of Australian UHNWIs vs 38 percent of global UHNWIs)
2. Art (58 percent vs 48 percent)
3. Wine (48 percent vs 35 percent)
4. Watches (42 percent vs 42 percent)
5. Jewellery (18 percent vs 28 percent)

Best returns among investments of passion (10 years)

1. Whisky 280 percent
2. Wine 146 percent
3. Watches 138 percent
4. Art 105 percent
5. Cars 82 percent

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35 North Street Windsor

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

11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

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

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