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    Ask Janelle Monáe how she gets everything done—the critically acclaimed albums, the world tours, the film roles, the activism—and she’ll answer with a single, slightly unexpected word. “Slack!” she says, with a cheerful laugh. “Email used to stress me out. Now I can organize every conversation, and I go into the channel when I need to—I don’t check it every hour. Like, when I get up, the first thing I do is not look at my phone. The first thing I do is I take at least 10 deep breaths.” She demonstrates, seemingly shifting her mind from the cacophonous, dimly lit restaurant, where she’s occupying a prime corner table, to a mellower internal place: “Inhale . . . exhale; inhale . . . exhale. That really calms you down.”

    Productivity software, it should be noted, is not the kind of thing most stars would dig into during a dinnertime conversation about work-life balance. But Monáe—wearing a high-collared houndstooth shirt and black beret on this September evening at the swanky Clocktower, in New York’s Madison Square Park neighborhood, is exceedingly practical. She’s also methodical (putting out only three albums in over a decade), selective (turning down nearly 30 offers before signing on to her first movie role, in 2017’s Oscar-winning Moonlight), and deliberate (helping steer corporate collaborators, like Belvedere Vodka, toward larger goals). Case in point: She’s performing tomorrow, so after considering a glass of wine, she decides to stick with water. She orders a dozen oysters—”I’m more of a West Coast [oyster] girl, I like the small ones”—and eats them with slabs of the house bread, which she carves from a small loaf. “I didn’t ever eat oysters until I got into the music business and started going out to dinners,” she says. “I thought they were this expensive thing, but you can get oysters for a dollar! Anyway, I just love them.”

    Monáe is in New York to perform alongside Cardi B, Janet Jackson, Shawn Mendes, and the Weeknd at the annual Global Citizen Festival, which inspires fans to engage in a range of anti-poverty-related efforts in exchange for tickets. Today was mostly a travel day. Monáe is just off the plane from her home base in Atlanta, where she was recording some new music and speaking to students from the city’s three historically black colleges on behalf of Michelle Obama’s voter-registration campaign, When We All Vote. “Michelle, Mrs. Obama—well, my forever First Lady is what I call her,” says Monáe, 32, who has known the Obamas since they were in the White House. Monáe joined the effort to honor her grandmother, who passed away recently. “Our grandparents didn’t have the right to vote. My mother came up at the end of segregation.” Monáe, who picked the venue—Spelman College—aimed her pitch directly at black students who might be voting in their first election during the midterms. “I was speaking to that demographic and telling them that black voter turnout was down 7% between 2012 and 2016. We need to galvanize this generation and get them to vote.” (Says Obama of Monáe, “She never forgets where she came from.”)

    This kind of targeted thinking also pervades Monáe’s artistic work, which she typically develops in conjunction with her longtime collaborators at the Wondaland Arts Society. Wondaland is a record label, a TV and film production company, a brand consultancy, a management firm, a hub for activism, and an actual place—the closest comparison being her late friend Prince’s Paisley Park, an inspiration for the enterprise. Its current physical manifestation is a grand suburban house outside Atlanta that has been converted into a supremely vibe-y complex of recording studios, offices, lounge spaces, and a communal kitchen.

    Related Video: Janelle Monáe is a boss, but her team is so important

    Wondaland has about 10 employees. At the top of the org chart is the Vision Board, which is Wondaland’s version of a board of directors. Monáe serves as CEO, alongside Wondaland creative director Chuck Lightning (né Charles Joseph II), and executive producer Nate Wonder (né Nathaniel Irvin III). This trio determines which projects Monáe and the rest of the outfit will pursue. “One of the reasons we created it,” says Mikael Moore, Wondaland’s managing partner and Monáe’s manager, “was to figure out how, in an artist-led enterprise, you allow for the visionary leadership of someone like Janelle, while still giving her the space to be, you know, Janelle.”

    Job descriptions at Wondaland are blurry. Everyone is encouraged to weigh in with ideas; even Wonder’s father, a well-known futurist and professor at the University of Louisville College of Business, is Wondaland’s chief learning officer. Still, Wonder tends to specialize in songwriting and music production, while Lightning’s focus is screenwriting and fleshing out the heady, often sci-fi-inflected concepts that typically underpin Wondaland projects. (The pair also perform together under the name Deep Cotton.) “We’re all involved in the music side and the film side and the endorsement side and the activism side,” Monáe says. But “it starts with the Vision Board. If I have an idea, I bring it to Chuck and Nate, and vice versa. Say it’s an album, or a movie—we [then] bring that to the management team and say, ‘Help us execute, keep us on schedule. All I want is to make sure the creative part of the enterprise is protected from people who don’t understand the metamorphosis—the many stages it takes to create art.” It helps, adds Kelli Andrews, Wondaland’s operations manager and Monáe’s day-to-day manager, that “we’re candid with each other.”

    Monáe’s Wondaland collaborators (from left): Kelli Andrews, Nate Wonder, Chuck Lightning, and Mikael Moore. [Photo: Ramona Rosales; Prop stylist: Justin Fry; hair: Nikki Nelms at Impaq Beauty; makeup: Jessica Smalls at the Wall Group; groomer: Marco Gamboa]
    Monáe grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, raised by her mom—still one of her most important influences—who worked as a janitor, among other jobs. (Her dad struggled with addiction problems, but she and her father are now close.) She was obsessed with the arts, performing in an after-school Shakespeare program, singing and playing the guitar, and listening to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill on repeat. After a brief stint in New York, Monáe moved to Atlanta to pursue music; she got a job at Office Depot, enrolled in a local community college, and lived in a boardinghouse with six other girls, near Morehouse College, where Lightning, Moore, and Wonder were students.

    At the time, Lightning and Moore were running an arts collective called Dark Tower Project, which was inspired by the Harlem Renaissance and drew students from Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta University. One day, Moore stumbled across Monáe playing a free gig—just her and her guitar—on the steps of a library shared by the three schools. Impressed, he bought a CD and invited her to sing at a poetry slam the group was having the following evening. “She opened her mouth to sing, and the audience leaned forward, agape,” recalls Wonder, also a Dark Tower member.


    Related: A day in the life of Reese Witherspoon


    Monáe, Wonder, and Lighting started making music together in Wonder’s apartment studio in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. Meanwhile, Wonder and Lightning were also running an indie label—called Wondaland—and Monáe signed on as a solo artist. She soon attracted the attention of Big Boi, a member of legendary Atlanta hip-hop group Outkast, who put a song written by the Wondaland team and performed by Monáe on the soundtrack of their 2006 movie Idlewild. That effort led to a short-term publishing deal with Chrysalis, which supported some early Wondaland ventures—including a move into its current space. A short album that they self-released in 2007, called Metropolis, got into the hands of Sean “Puffy” Combs, who flew to Atlanta to encourage Monáe to sign to his label, Bad Boy. For almost any other artist, this kind of break would have been a dream, but Monáe and Wondaland put some serious thought into whether it was the right decision. “At the time, we were reading a lot of stuff about the long tail, and superfans, and serving your core audience,” Wonder says. “If you have 500 people who buy all of your stuff, you can do exactly what you want to do.” Yet Combs’s pitch—to put real resources behind Wondaland’s ideas, and to expose Monáe to a national audience—was persuasive. She signed a deal with Bad Boy and Atlantic Records. “He told us, ‘I don’t want to be part of this creatively. I just want the world to know what y’all do,'” Monáe recalls.

    Wondaland had been designed to protect Monáe’s creativity from the demands of commerce. (Says Julie Greenwald, Atlantic Records’s chairman and COO, “It’s all about checking whatever baggage you have at the door and coming into their world.”) Perhaps unsurprising for a budding enterprise—but rare for one that grew out of an arts society—the members turned to business books to determine how best to structure their nascent company. One that particularly resonated with them was Ed Catmull’s chronicle of Pixar’s rise, called Creativity Inc. “We really passed that book around,” says Lightning, who says it demonstrated “the importance of figuring out who’s on our team, making sure that everyone we worked with understood what we were trying to do creatively.” Even more significant to them was Jim Collins and Jerry Porras’s Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, which inspired them to create the Vision Board, along with a set of core values and guiding principles. “We handed [printouts] around to everybody at the meeting when were getting signed at Atlantic [Records] so they could understand what our big, hairy, audacious goals were as an organization,” says Lightning. “And we can always go back to the core values when any shareholder or manager asks us about doing shows or endorsements or whatever. Even in the studio, one of us can always opt out of a lyric by going to the core values—to say, like, “ ’That would make sense if we were making a party song, but this is a song about climate change.'”


    Monáe’s newest LP, Dirty Computer, which came out in April to rave reviews, is a concept album that plays with themes of sex, sexuality, and personal freedom. It’s got a future-funk sound that ranges from Prince-inspired vamps (“Make Me Feel”) and spare, New Waveish R&B (“I Like That”) to full-on rap tracks (“Django Jane”). The title alludes to an idea that Monáe had wanted to explore since before she released her first album, which is the way that LGBTQ people, people of color, women, and too many other Americans are made to feel shame about the things that make them unique human beings. “It’s told from the perspective of a young, queer, black woman who grew up in a working-class family,” she says. “And that’s me! When I strip off this makeup, this outfit, that’s my truth.”

    Earlier this year, Monáe came out as pansexual—she’s had romantic relationships with both women and men, although she doesn’t talk about them publicly—which was more than a little nerve-racking for her, given that she comes from a large, religious family. (“I had a lot of good therapy,” she notes.) One of Monáe’s chief goals is for people from marginalized communities to see themselves represented in culture, politics, and business. “For so many girls who grew up in working-class backgrounds, the likelihood of succeeding or owning their own business is slim. I want the girls who’ve been told ‘no’ because of what they look like to read this article and see themselves.”

    Along with the album, Monáe put out an unusually elaborate visual companion, a 45-minute sci-fi musical epic called Dirty Computer: An Emotion Picture. In it, Monáe plays a “dirty computer” who undergoes deprogramming designed to erase her past, which included a romantic relationship with a woman played by Creed’s Tessa Thompson. It’s become a hit on YouTube, racking up 1.9 million plays, but it also serves as a high-budget calling card for her visual storytelling skills as she and the Wondaland team move into TV and film production.

    As with Monáe’s musical projects, the Vision Board weighs in on the film work she accepts, although she makes the final decisions. This year, she will follow up her memorable roles in Moonlight and Hidden Figures with a performance alongside Steve Carell in Welcome to Marwen, a tender fantasy drama from Castaway and Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis. Monáe, who describes herself as “a sponge, always watching,” has soaked up some key management lessons from the filmmakers she’s worked with—Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins, Hidden Figures’s Ted Melfi, and Zemeckis. “I noticed how they start early—if you start things early there’s a different level of stress,” she says. “So I brought that back to Wondaland—let’s get ahead of our schedule. Because that’s how you have fun, you have room to enjoy the experience. And all three of them are so chill and collaborative—they never have to flex those hierarchy muscles. That’s how I run Wondaland.”

    The fact that Zemeckis had directed Back to the Future was admittedly irresistible to the sci-fi-obsessed Wondaland team, but the decision to appear in Marwen was cemented for Monáe when Zemeckis heard and responded to a concern she had about her character before signing on. “I said, ‘There’s never a moment between her and the main character that says that she’s important in this film.’ A week later I got a revised version of the script and he had written in something to make you empathize with this character more. And that was enough to make me do the movie—to have this incredible director take the time to make this change himself? I felt listened to—he respected my opinion as an artist, and that made me feel like he was someone I wanted to have a relationship with.”

    When Monáe signs on to act in a movie or TV show, she now works into the contract that she (or other Wondaland acts) will be involved on the music end. When Jenkins needed a pivotal song for Moonlight, Moore suggested “Classic Man,” by Wondaland artist Jidenna. “They know exactly the way the track would function in the film,” Jenkins says. In addition to voicing a pound dog in Disney’s forthcoming animated remake of Lady and the Tramp (in which Tessa Thompson will be the voice of Lady), Monáe will perform multiple songs for the soundtrack, and Wondaland will write new music for the film. Increasingly, Wondaland is also offering marketing and design ideas for these projects the way a full-service consultancy would. The team has developed its own pitch process, from researching decks to printing up colorful, hardcover books that help potential collaborators see their vision. “Our approach is, ‘We’re going to show you what we’re going to do,’ ” says Moore, who worked as California Congresswoman Maxine Waters’s chief of staff before joining Wondaland. “For young creatives of color, the chances that some other people get—those aren’t the same chances we get. So when we go in to pitch something, we can show them: This is the thing.”


    Related: 3 simple steps to kick your social media addiction


    Their work is making an impression: In October, Wondaland signed a major film development deal with Universal. “They’re talented, gregarious people, and that’s a potent combination,” says Endeavor partner Dave Wirtschafter, whose agency has represented Monáe since 2011. “We worked with Prince, and were lucky enough to know about some of the ideas he wanted to pursue outside of music but wasn’t able to because he didn’t have the infrastructure. Janelle has the infrastructure. She’s augmented by this skilled group of people that surround her.”

    Unlike most major touring musicians, Monáe can’t book huge runs of shows, because she needs to accommodate her acting roles. Her current tour, for Dirty Computer, for example, has been broken up into three legs so far—two in the U.S., one in Europe—and will continue through next year, when she’ll be working on at least three films (see “An Artist in Full” sidebar). Still, she can’t imagine letting acting become the primary focus of her career, the way it did for artists such as Cher and Will Smith. Music, she says, is too potent. It “has the power to bring people together. It has the power to make you want to have sex, have a child. It has the power to heal.”

    Personally, she has been drawing strength from Stevie Wonder—even in dark political times, “he always moves the conversation back to love,” she says—and Prince, her role model for navigating celebrity, Hollywood, and the music business (he famously battled Warner Bros. for control of his music). “I watched Prince never get distracted,” she says. “Remaining free, and the way he fought for that, was a form of protest.” It’s a lesson she’s incorporated into everything she’s done, including Dirty Computer, the first album she ever made without his feedback. “One of my biggest strengths is I’m unafraid to say no,” Monáe says. “I’m not into people owning me. I have a strong vision, and any companies or partners who want to work with me have to match my purpose: shaping culture, redefining culture, and moving culture forward.”

    [Photos: Ramona Rosales; prop stylist: Justin Fry; stylist: Alexandra Mandelkorn at the Only Agency; hair: Nikki Nelms at Impaq Beauty; makeup: Jessica Smalls at the Wall Group; manicurist: Sreynin Peng]; Maja Saphir (polaroids)]

    Time she gets up

    “9:36 a.m. That’s a good time for me.”

    First thing she does in the morning

    “Work out for 30 minutes—I do Shaun T’s Pure Cardio: Insanity. It cures my anxiety or any depression I’m dealing with.”

    Lunch routine

    “I kind of do a late breakfast—I’ll eat oatmeal. Then I’ll have a big dinner. I’m not a heavy-lunch girl.”

    Productivity tools

    “I have a limiter on my phone so I can only be on social media for 15 minutes a day. I lose so much productivity being on social media, I just can’t do it.”

    Last thing she does at night

    “I’m probably falling asleep to a TV show—I like to watch a documentary. Something a bit cerebral to wear me down.”

    Time she goes to bed

    “If I’m recording, I’ll try to go to bed by 1 or 2 in the morning. But when I’m on tour I need a good eight hours, because my voice has to rest. So closer to midnight.”


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    Just like that, the holiday season is in full swing. Your calendar is probably filling up with lots of dinners and parties that will take you from Thanksgiving to New Year.

    Let’s face it. Your hosts and hostesses are stressed out. Not only do they have a demanding job, but they also have to cook for you. It’s a lot.

    You don’t want to be just another run-of-the-mill friend who picks up a bottle of wine at the grocery store to bring to their house. Literally every other person at the party will be doing this. You want to stand out. You want to bring something memorable, beautiful, and useful–and importantly, something that won’t break your piggy bank.

    We’re here to help. We’ve examined the latest products from our favorite brands to compile this list of affordable gifts for every friend who invites you over. Most of these items are from direct-to-consumer startups that sell their products online. We recommend stocking up on these items now and keeping them by the door so you don’t leave for a party empty-handed during the holidays.

    For the chef

    Spicewalla Spices

    [Photo: Spicewalla]

    If you’re visiting someone who loves to cook, consider bringing some fun, beautifully packaged, fresh spices. Spicewalla, a spice brand with a hip, vintage aesthetic, makes boxes of spices that your hosts will want to display on their counters, rather than hide away on their spice racks. You can buy sets of three spices that are thoughtfully curated to bring together different flavors. The $15 holiday collection, for instance, includes Pumpkin Pie Spice, Apple Pie Spice, and Mulling Spice. If that’s a bit too on the nose, there’s also the $16“Masala” collection, which includes the three Indian spice combinations: Garam Masala, Tandoori Masala, and Madras Curry Powder.

    Brightland Olive Oil

    [Photo: Brightland]

    At $37 a pop, this high-quality olive oil is a gift your friends will actually use. Brightland has two flavors: Alive, whose brighter, nuttier notes are perfect for salads and hummus, and Awake, whose grassier, complex notes are great for hearty stews and roast chicken. The oil is made in a family-owned California farm, but it also comes in a gorgeous bottle.

    For The Overstressed

    Life Elements CBD Bath Bomb

    [Photo: Life Elements]

    If you want to give your host a gift to help them unwind, consider these bliss ball bath bombs (between $14 and $20). They’re by a company called Life Elements, and they’re infused with CBD. I can attest that they do have an almost magical ability to elevate a simple bath by relieving aches, tension, and even chronic pain. They leave your skin with a tingly sensation that lasts for hours.

    Brooklinen Silk Eye Mask

    [Photo: Brooklinen]

    This $29 eye mask that is 100% silk comes in two colors, white and gray, and is delivered in a blue giftable box. It’s the perfect, luxurious, relaxing gift for a host whom you know has been under a lot of stress lately and could do with a good night’s sleep.

    For The Home

    East Fork Pottery

    [Photo: East Fork]

    If your host happens to love interior design, I recommend you look at the North Carolina pottery brand East Fork. These pieces are made in America using clay from the Blue Ridge Mountains, but have a thoroughly hip, millennial aesthetic. If you’re looking for a small piece to bring to the party, check out these little $34 egg vases, which are wheel-thrown and glazed by hand, and look lovely holding a few blooms. For $28, the brand also offers a small candle available in two scents–tender earth and odd wood–that comes in a piece of pottery that can be reused as an expresso cup when you’re done with it. Handmade, locally crafted products don’t often come at such affordable prices.

    Artifact Uprising Custom Calendar

    [Photo: Artifact Uprising]

    Another nice end-of-year present is this $30 walnut desktop calendar made by the minimalist photo gift startup Artifact Uprising. It comes with a wooden stand that features elegant little touches, like a brass-coated clip and peg stand. Your host will be able to design a calendar in the brand’s chic, modern aesthetic, allowing them to showcase 12 of their favorite photos in a year-round display.

    For The Pet Lover

    [Photo: Wild Ones]

    If you’re visiting a friend who loves their dog more than they love you, consider bringing a beautiful gift for their furry friend. This $15 bowl from the pet startup Wild One comes in black and tan, and will look elegant in anybody’s home. It’s also incredibly functional, since it’s dishwater safe and comes with a nonslip base. If you’re into cheekier gifts, you can get this beautiful poop bag carrier for $12 (it comes in a wide range of fun colors) and even throw in some matching compostable poop bags for $10.

    For The Sweet Tooth

    Danconias Truffle Brownies

    [Photo: Danconias]

    These $24.99 truffle brownies come nicely packaged in gift boxes. Each box contains 16 mini brownies in a wide array of flavors, including cocoa creme brûlée, almond toffee, and chocolate orange (my personal favorite). The clever thing about these gifts is that you can buy several boxes and keep them in the freezer to whip out for any last-minute events you get to attend. In addition to being a beautifully packaged treat for your host, there’s a nice story behind Danconias treats: They are baked at Community Table Kitchen, a Colorado-based nonprofit that provides employment and housing to people getting back on their feet.

    Dandelion Chocolate Bars

    [Photo: Dandelion]

    Dandelion, a brand founded by a former tech entrepreneur turned chocolatier, creates bars of high-quality chocolate that uses only cocoa and organic cane sugar, skipping milk and other fillings entirely. They’ve been a sensation in the world of artisanal chocolate, but at between $8.50 and $12 a bar, they’re a treat you want to give someone who will appreciate the subtle flavors of single-origin chocolate. Each bar comes wrapped in paper with vintage-inspired designs on it. Keep a bar or two on hand, and give it to your host wrapped in twine together with a holiday card.

    They can enjoy it later, with 1 of the 12 bottles of wine that the other boring guests brought over.


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    A major reason Amazon landed on “HQ2 x 2” and is building new offices in both New York’s Long Island City and Northern Virginia’s Crystal City (to be rebranded “National Landing“) was, reportedly, the lack of available local talent in any one city vying to be the final HQ2 home.

    Splitting HQ2 across these two cities may alleviate some of the company’s concerns about access to talent. (It must also be said that Amazon, in choosing this approach, should also be investing more than they have pledged to do in training and actively recruiting local talent.) But even so, filling 50,000 jobs locally–even with the offices split between New York and the D.C. area–may not be the best approach. Certainly, much of the talent Amazon is looking for doesn’t already live locally.

    [Source Images: AdrianHancu/iStock, petrovv/iStock]

    By going with the joint mega-office approach, Amazon will likely try to lure people to the region to work for them. In New York and D.C., this will be a challenge. These densely populated areas will soon be faced with even more infrastructure issues, from overloaded transit to skyrocketing housing costs, which many people won’t be able to afford. Amazon will put massive pressure on these newer HQ cities.

    The irony is that at the end of the day, Amazon’s new HQ2s will feel outdated almost immediately. Workers, increasingly, don’t want to be constrained by place, which is exactly what HQ2 will do. Instead, they’re looking for more flexibility, both in terms of working location, and the structure of work itself. Here’s why:

    • The knowledge economy, which over the last few decades has replaced the industrial economy that preceded it, is only expected to grow, allowing more and more work to be done anywhere with an internet connection.
    • It’s getting harder for companies to fill their current full-time openings, and that dynamic has encouraged employers to embrace more agile workforce strategies. Fifty-nine percent of companies are now using more flexible workers, like remote employees and freelancers, according to Future Workforce Report.
    • Millennials, the largest generation in the labor force, value flexibility. The percentage of 18-to-34-year-olds who freelance grew by four percentage points between 2014 and 2018. In the next decade, over a third of workers will be remote.

    At a time when technology makes it possible for most knowledge work to happen anywhere, it is shocking to see companies defaulting to old ways of working. It is especially concerning since our economy needs companies to be responsible corporate citizens and distribute opportunities more equally, not more localized.

    It’s undeniable that there’s a huge imbalance in the geography of opportunity–an imbalance Amazon’s decision perpetuates. To get a better sense of how unequal the dynamics are, look back to the 1990s. Then, 125 counties created half of new U.S. businesses, according to analysis by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG), a bipartisan public policy organization. There are 3,007 counties in the U.S., so 125 is just 4% of all counties.

    When EIG revisited its analysis in 2010, it found that number had shrunk to 20: Less than 1% of U.S. counties created half of new businesses.

    [Source Images: AdrianHancu/iStock, petrovv/iStock]

    To no one’s surprise, those 20 counties weren’t landlocked tracts of rural America but, in almost every case, densely populated coastal areas like Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and Seattle. They’re also the type of places Amazon considered for HQ2, none of which were truly fringe.

    To break up the monopoly of these 20 counties, more workplaces need to enable flexible work arrangements, like remote work. People need more freedom of choice to work where they want to live, instead of living where they have to work–for Amazon or other corporations. More importantly, if given the chance to move to less costly and crowded and congested areas, flexible remote work could fundamentally change our uneven geography of prosperity.

    Currently, the new HQ2 cities are feeling the pressure that results from that uneven geography. In New York, wages rose 3% in the last year, but rents grew by nearly 13% during the same time period. Median rents in the areas surrounding the proposed HQ2 developments are already above $3,000 a month. In D.C., home prices increased 36% between 2010 and 2015, with average home prices exceeding half a million dollars.

    Millennials, who began flooding major coastal metros in the late 2000s and early 2010s, have felt the greatest impact from the skyrocketing cost of living. With the promise of exciting new career opportunities followed mountains of accumulated debt, creating an unrelenting ripple effect on the rest of their lives. Urban millennials point to debt when asked why they’re delaying marriage, launching a retirement savings plan, or buying a home.

    [Source Images: AdrianHancu/iStock, petrovv/iStock]

    The Heartland, though, is a different story. The middle of the country produces incredible talent through its world-class universities, but risks losing its younger-generation members who need to go elsewhere to seek the jobs they want. Flexible work, however, could help counter this trend. Smaller cities or less dense regions off the coasts should focus on building out perks for people who live there and work remotely. In an attempt to grow its population, Vermont passed legislation this year offering $10,000 to people who move to the state and work remotely. Initiatives like this could deliver benefits without the need for clearing way for another Amazon.

    Amazon’s HQ2 process was ultimately a publicity stunt, but what they were selling, ultimately, was a vestige of a bygone era. One thing they got right: Smaller offices are better. But they didn’t go nearly small enough. Amazon–and our economy–would have been better off supporting more remote work across many more cities.

    Too many companies remain unimaginative about the workforce flexibility that technology offers. This move by Amazon is a hint that we are at our breaking point. Companies need to wake up. With the proliferation of co-working spaces and collaboration software, combined with the rise of the knowledge economy and flexible work models, there are countless alternatives to a 1950s-style work-here-live-there paradigm and mega corporate offices.

    The better path forward would be to help more people build their lives–and their livelihoods–wherever they want. If we create conditions allowing more Americans to truly work without limits, more people can choose to stay in–or move to–the oft-forgotten towns that our latest boom has bypassed. It’s time to redraw the map.


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    I enjoy Fast Company’s annual Secrets of the Most Productive People package in the same way an armchair tourist might experience magazines such as Departures or Travel & Leisure. I make a mental note of every tip and recommendation—then promptly ignore all the good advice I’ve just received. I know from reading psychologist Art Markman’s column in this issue that I should limit my multitasking, and yet I know I will continue to answer emails while I’m on conference calls. Author Lee Child tells us he has two computers in his office: an internet-connected one for research and another purely for writing. It’s a clever idea, but I could never make it through 20 minutes of writing without interrupting myself to look up something—usually unrelated—or check for messages. (I actually just peeked at Slack.)

    Fortunately, I am surrounded by a team of incredibly productive writers and editors. By collaborating and sharing resources, this small but mighty band manages to produce a daily website, a couple of podcasts, a handful of video series, an annual Innovation Festival, and a magazine. To produce this issue, for example, we benefited tremendously from the wisdom of FastCompany.com’s deputy editor, Kate Davis. Kate heads up our online leadership content, and she and her team are experts on the latest trends in time management and working smarter, which she also parlays into Fast Company’s Secrets of the Most Productive People podcast, cohosted by assistant editor Anisa Purbasari Horton. This kind of multidisciplinary cooperation happens all the time. The magazine’s beloved Creative Conversation feature has partly inspired a podcast of the same name, hosted by associate editor KC Ifeanyi. Our writers who cover design and social impact online are an incredible resource for the Next section in print.

    Even a team of highly productive people can benefit from a good manager. At Fast Company, that’s managing editor April Mokwa, who creates and enforces deadlines and works across the different editorial platforms to make sure everyone has the resources they need. She’s also a terrific journalist, contributing ideas and fixes that make Fast Company better.

    As 2018 draws to a close, I want to thank the editors, writers, designers, photo editors, copy editors, contributors, and freelancers who make Fast Company a special media brand—and a special (and productive) place to work. Imagine what we could do with two computers each.

    [Photo: Celine Grouard]
    Front row, from left: Chelsea Schiff, Shelley Wolson, Ainsley Harris, Paul Smalera, Yasmin Gagne, Charissa Jones; Middle row, from left: Alice Alves, Ruth Reader, Christopher Zara, Celine Grouard, Marcus Baram, Melissa Locker, David Lidsky, KC Ifeanyi, Amy Farley, Eillie Anzilotti, Missy Schwartz, Maja Saphir; Back row, from left: Katharine Schwab, Jill Bernstein, Daisy Korpics, April Mokwa, Samir Abady, Jay Woodruff, Mike Schnaidt, Kate Davis, Anisa Purbasari Horton, Pavithra Mohan; Not pictured: Jeff beer, Joe Berkowitz, Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, Sean Captain, Morgan Clendaniel, Jesus Diaz, Lydia Dishman, Michael Grothaus, Burt Helm, Aileen Kwun, Suzanne LaBarre, Nicole Laporte, Michelle Lewis, J.J. McCorvey, Harry McCracken, Gwen Moran, Jennifer Weaver Mossalgue, John Oswald, Alex Pasternack, Ben Paynter, David Penick, Adele Peters, Rina Raphael, Daniel Salo, Elizabeth, Segran, Mark Sullivan, Stephanie Vozza, Cale Weissman, Mark Wilson.


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    Waking up

    I have a 6-year-old who likes to have milk at 6 o’clock every morning, so from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., he drinks milk, and my husband [CAA agent Jim Toth] and I drink coffee. We talk and catch up on the news—Jim likes to hear it, I like to read it. After that, I work out for an hour, then go to work.

    Mobilizing

    Assuming I’m not on a set somewhere acting, or traveling for, say, a shoot for [her clothing company] Draper James or Elizabeth Arden [she’s a brand collaborator], I’ll go to the Hello Sunshine office or a meeting related to something we’re developing. I quit driving a year ago. My husband said, “Babe, you’re a terrible driver. Get someone to do that for you.” And it’s great because that’s the time I now spend catching up on phone calls or texts. I’ve deliberately stripped away a lot of the layers of people who silo you off as an actor. That changed when I started producing: I’m putting my money into this; this is my sweat equity, all the equity I have. If you have a problem, call me directly.


    Related: How singer-songwriter, actress-activist Janelle Monáe gets so much done


    Socializing

    It occurs to me at about 6 o’clock that I should probably do something fun at 7:30. I have two girlfriends who are good at that, and thank God, because [otherwise] I’d have no life. I can’t get groups of people on vacation either. That’s not my thing. I’m okay with that.

    Winding down

    I get home around 5:30 or 6 for family dinner—that’s important to me. I hear what the kids [she also has a 19-year-old daughter, Ava, and a 15-year-old son, Deacon, from her first marriage, to Ryan Phillippe] are doing and how they’re feeling. I put my 6-year-old to bed at 8, and then I read for two hours. Or I’ll watch a TV show. I love The Crown, Queer Eye, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Oh, and the latest Chris Rock special on Netflix. He does this great bit about being brutally honest with your children. I feel like I’m constantly counteracting pressure from the parents who want to make the lives of their kids golden and magical at all moments! Guess what, kids? You’re going to be disappointed and uncomfortable once in a while. I remember Ava crying in bed in third grade—she was on JV basketball and she was the only kid on the team who didn’t score. I said, “Aves, maybe you’re bad at basketball.” She thought that was mean. I said, “Mean or true? ‘Cause, guess what? Your mom’s bad at basketball, too.”


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    2004

    As Stanford grad students, Bowen and Monsees begin building an e-cigarette prototype out of foam, observing how smokers respond to different shapes. They hack together a final product by borrowing parts from butane lighters and other devices.

    [Photo: courtesy of Juul]

    2007

    After working out of a friend’s office for about a year, the pair develop a business plan and secure money from angel investors including billionaire Nicholas Pritzker. They incorporate as Ploom, and in 2010 launch the Ploom ModelOne.

    [Photo: courtesy of Juul]

    2012

    Ploom introduces Pax, a premium vaporizer designed for loose-leaf tobacco (but compatible with marijuana) that sells for $250. Bloggers gush: “I believe it could do for alternative smoking methods what the iPod did for MP3s,” writes one reviewer.

    [Photo: courtesy of Juul]

    2015

    Japan Tobacco International acquires Ploom’s ModelTwo, including the intellectual property associated with the device and its pods. As part of the transaction, Bowen and Monsees buy back JTI’s stake in their company, and rename it Pax Labs.

    [Photo: courtesy fo Juul]

    2015

    Pax Labs, which has sold more than 500,000 Pax devices, announces $46.7 million in Series C funding from investors including Fidelity Management. On June 1, the company unveils Juul.

    2017

    After a slow start, Juul’s market share climbs from around 10% to nearly 50%, surpassing British American Tobacco’s Vuse to become the leading e-cigarette in the U.S. Pax Labs quietly spins out Juul, creating two separate companies.

    2018

    The FDA begins investigating Juul’s 2015 launch campaign, which featured youthful models, after critics suggest the company has been targeting minors. In July, Juul Labs raises $1.25 billion at a $16 billion valuation.


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    The ad features real-life Twitter user John Lewis who tweets from the handle @johnlewis. Of course, “John Lewis” is also the name of one of the U.K.’s most popular retail chains, which tweets under the handle @jlandpartners. However, that doesn’t stop people mistakenly tweeting to John Lewis, the man, tens of thousands of times every year.

    But instead of just ignoring these tweets meant for the U.K. retailer, John Lewis, who is American and teaches computer science at Virginia Tech University, has spent a lot of time over the years regularly and politely (and sometimes hilariously) answering the tweets he receives that are meant for the retailer.

    And that is the whole premise behind Twitter U.K.’s holiday ad, which sees the actual Lewis sitting behind his desk responding to holiday-themed tweets meant for the British retailer from his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. You can check out the full ad below.


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    The online shopping giant has teamed up with a number of movie theater chains including AMC, Regal, National Amusement Theaters, and ArcLight Cinemas to offer a super-hero-sized perk to Amazon Prime members. Starting today, Prime members can buy tickets to Aquaman for screenings that will take place at over a thousand cinemas in the U.S. on December 15–a week before the movie hits screens for general audiences on December 21.

    This isn’t the first time Amazon has teamed up with cinema chains to cross-promote a film and its Amazon Prime service. The company did it twice in 2017 with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Hotel Transylvania 3. Now let’s just hope Aquaman isn’t a letdown like most DCEU films (ahem, looking at you Batman vs. Superman).


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    Babies do not, in fact, need shoes. They don’t generally walk until they are a year old. But this is just a technicality.

    You don’t want your mini-me to be any old run-of-the-mill infant. You want your baby to be hip, stylish, and cool—the envy of the other babies in daycare. And Koio, a sneaker startup, is here to make all your baby sartorial dreams come true with tiny leather kicks.

    The brand has just released $78 sneakers that are just as beautiful and well-made as the adult shoes within the collection. In fact, they are just tiny versions of the classic Koio high-tops and low-tops, so if you really wanted, you and your baby could wear matching shoes.

    [Photo: courtesy of Koio]
    The shoes are made in a factory in Le Marche, a region of Italy known for its sneaker production. This particular manufacturer specializes in baby shoes, which need to be ergonomically designed to accommodate the shape of the child’s foot, which is different than an adult’s.

    Selling a $78 baby shoe is not as crazy as it seems. After all, baby brand Freshly Picked created a thriving business from selling $60 leather moccasins. And for Koio, this launch makes sense. Many of the brand’s initial customers are starting families, so this product will resonate with its audience.

    The tiny shoes are dropping in time for the holidays, so expect to see many holiday Instagram posts of small feet wearing sneakers nicer than yours.


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    First comes love. Then comes moving in. And then, like clockwork, the fighting begins.

    You ask yourself: How on Earth did you sleep with someone with taste so horrendous, they buy cushions the color of regurgitated cat food? Do you love this person enough to drop $2,000 of your hard-earned cash on a brown midcentury modern sofa that they adore, but you think is rather banal and boring? Will your relationship end right here, in the aisle of this poorly lit furniture store?

    You’re not alone. The data is in and the facts are inescapable. Furniture shopping is romantically ruinous.

    Online furniture brand Article recently conducted a survey of 2,000 American adults with the polling company OnePoll to better understanding the pain points of furniture shopping. And one fact quickly became apparent. All the decision-making, particularly around such expensive items, puts a lot of strain on relationships.

    The average American couple has 72 arguments around purchasing decisions when setting up their homes. This is a process that takes, on average, 216 hours. And we have found a way to make each of those hours a moment to yell at our partners over the minutiae of our shared living space.

    [Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images]

    But the thing is, furniture shopping provides many unique avenues for potential arguments: You can disagree about budgets and prices, then there’s differences in taste. All of this can leave you with a sinking feeling that you may be stuck, forever, living in an ugly home because of your partner’s love of cat photos and the color purple.

    The fighting isn’t limited to the furniture store. In fact, only eight of the total 72 arguments the average couple will have setting up a new home happen there. Fifteen tiffs happen inside the home the couple is trying to decorate. Four happen on an airplane. A full 10 fights will happen in front of a friend or family member. (This is likely strategic: If you can get this third party on your side, you can gang up against your partner.) And the remaining 35 fights are spread out, spontaneously happening in places like parks, libraries, or on the street. I once fought with a boyfriend in a movie theatre after seeing a cinematic shot of a beautifully styled apartment that I was sure I would never have because of the said boyfriend’s awful taste.

    We all implicitly understand that furniture is a romance-killer. This is why 15% of couples–the smart ones–avoid furniture shopping with their partner altogether. And bad experiences with home decor shopping in the past has led 58% of people to hold back from sharing their opinions, in an effort to avoid a disagreement with their partner.

    These last few statistics remind me a lot of my marriage, which has thankfully lasted six and a half years. For those of you who are looking to achieve this kind of longevity in your own marriage, let me give you some advice: If you happen to be the more design-oriented (or maybe just more opinionated) member of the couple, make it clear early on that you will wield an iron fist when it comes to home decor decisions in your home. Eventually, if you’re lucky, like me, your spouse with bad taste will eventually stop offering their opinion, like 58% of the population seeking to preserve their fragile relationship.

    So there you have it: The secret to marital bliss. You’re welcome.


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    Gemma Hartley is no stranger to emotional labor. The journalist behind the viral Harper’s Bazaar article, “Women aren’t nags, we’re just fed-up,” had been well aware of the disproportionate amount of responsibilities that she took on compared to her husband. But as she wrote in her new book, Fed-Up: Emotional Labor, Women, And The Way Forward, she continued to function this way, until one particular Mother’s Day, she had enough.

    Hartley requested her husband to gift her a cleaning service, wanting to be relieved of the burden to take care of that task. Her husband waited until the day before Mother’s Day, before calling one provider and deciding that they were too expensive. In the end, he gave Hartley a necklace and cleaned the bathroom himself. Hartley was left to take care of the children “as the rest of the house fell into disarray.” Hardly the off loading of responsibility she had asked for.

    Hartley spoke to Fast Company about her motivation to write Fed-Up, why men benefit from taking on emotional labor, and how women can address it at home and at work. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

    Fast Company:Your book is coming out at a time when we’re seeing a lot of examination into women’s anger. How does Fed-Up fit in that broader discussion?

    Gemma Hartley: It’s interesting to see that book being discussed with all these other books like Soraya Chemaly’s Rage Becomes Her, because I didn’t really set out to write a book about women’s anger. But it is, it is a book about frustration and anger and the imbalance of emotional labor that woman are putting forward into the world.

    FC: You described many “fed-up” moments in your book–were there any moments that led you to write the article and make this more than just a conversation between you and your husband?

    GH: The moment I described that Mother’s Day in the Harper’s Bazaar article was a catalyst that made me want to advance the conversation. That was the moment I really realized what a toll it was taking in my relationships, and the more that I talked to other women, the more I realized what I toll it took on their relationships.

    FC: In the book, you talked about how difficult it was to get your husband to understand the concept of emotional labor, because so much of it–like making sure that the house runs smoothly–is invisible. How did you finally get to the stage of having a productive conversation?

    GH: I think it went back and forth for a while. It’s been a process, and now I feel like our conversations are really productive. In the moment, it’s never going to be an easy conversation for either of us. I think what really helped us was that we were not talking about who was doing what wrong, we were talking about how our culture has shaped these gender roles that we were falling into. When we take the personal attack out of the question, it was a lot easier to examine our internal biases.

    For my husband, he didn’t realize I was doing this work. When we did realize, he assumed that I was just naturally better at it, that asking for help is not work and that I’m hard-wired for this type of work. In the same way, I fell for the same biases that I was naturally superior. It was a source of pride for me to be doing it all. I think a lot of women take pride in that and it’s a mentality that they have deep down that is difficult to shake.

    FC: How do men benefit from taking on emotional labor and how do they get to a point where they see those benefits?

    GH: Men will see the benefits when they take it on. For my husband, there were parts of his life that he wasn’t fully present for, both with our children and his work in our house. Taking on emotional labor brings makes him more fully present in his whole life rather than having his whole focus be on work.

    FC: How does emotional labor manifests in the workplace?

    GH: It’s the same components, it’s the same managerial tasks that you do to make everyone comfortable, activities like planning office parties, and bringing donuts to meetings. There’s also the emotional component that we do to keep people comfortable, like women making themselves smaller and making themselves more palatable for their peers.

    FC: What’s an appropriate way for women to bring up the topic of emotional labor in the workplace?

    GH: I think you can still bring it up and make your needs known and set boundaries. It is harder for women because setting boundaries is seen as cold and off-putting. But you can say things like, “I can’t do this every single time. I have work to catch-up on, how about we rearrange it like this?”

    FC: How do men benefit from taking on emotional labor in the workplace?

    GH: Emotional labor draws in empathy and caring about others, and I think that those skill sets make really good leadership skills. This is why women make really great leaders, especially in grassroots activism. I think that it will help men in the workplace to connect with their peers. I don’t think that there is a downside to men taking on emotional labor in the workplace at all.

    FC: It seems that women and men need to have the conversations, and men who let the women in their lives pick up an unfair share of emotional labor need to examine themselves and change that. What can women do when the men in their lives are resistant to changing?

    GH: I think the easiest place to start is by setting boundaries. I think that’s what we have most control over. Changing other people isn’t something we can do. Our partners isn’t going to change unless they want to. The best thing we can do is assess the emotional labor work we are doing and determine what we’re willing and not willing to do.

    FC: What are your thoughts on how we make progress from here?

    GH: I have a lot hope for progress. I’ve talked to so many women while writing this book and saw my own relationship go through a lot of changes.

    I was surprised with how many different people identified with emotional labor even though their lives were incredibly different to my own. It really shook things up for me to look at all the research and realized that I wasn’t naturally better at emotional labor. It’s a learned skill rather than an innate one.

    It’s going to take some time. But I think because we now have a language for emotional labor, progress can happen much quicker than what would have been possible 20 to 30 years ago. I think the #metoo movement is waking us up to this problem, and while I think we have a long way to go, men are finally open to having these conversations. I think we are on the verge of change.


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    Entrepreneur Matt Alexander does not believe in the retail apocalypse.

    For years, we’ve reported about the thousands of store closures sweeping through the country, with staples of the American retail landscape–like Sears and Kmart–filing for bankruptcy. But there have also been signs of revival. For example, digitally native brands like Everlane, Away, and Warby Parker have been opening creative new brick-and-mortar store concepts to much fanfare.

    Alexander has big plans to reimagine the department store with a new company called Neighborhood Goods. He’s received $5.75 million in seed funding–led by Forerunner Ventures, Kirsten Green’s fund that has invested in winners like Glossier, Away, Bonobos, and Dollar Shave Club. And fascinatingly, Alexander is opening his first 13,000-square-foot store this weekend . . . in Plano, Texas. It’s not exactly the place you’d imagine hip retail experiences unfolding.

    [Photo: courtesy of Neighborhood Goods]
    The goal of the store is to create a dynamic sales floor, where about 15 brands at a time will create their own experiences, each shining a light on their products and overall worldview. There will also be fun gathering spots–like a bar, a restaurant, as well as a communal space for that can be used for events and art installations. An iOS app will allow customers to explore the brands in store, make purchases, and ask questions. At launch, companies like Hubble, Hims, simplehuman, and Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James will be on display.

    We’ve seen startups try out various brick-and-mortar techniques, especially in small pop-ups. But Neighborhood Goods will bring all these approaches together under one roof. And it will do it in middle America, rather than the places we’re used to seeing these activations, like New York, San Francisco, or Austin. Alexander says that Plano makes sense because it’s a cheaper real estate market, allowing brands to creatively test new concepts. Eventually, he plans to bring Neighborhood Goods to other cities.


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    We like to think of the workplace as strictly for business. Though most CEOs wouldn’t admit it, companies can sometimes feel like playgrounds, with emotion dictating the way employees interact with colleagues, managers, and clients.

    Emotions come in when we get stressed about a deadline, and when we get excited about an area we’re passionate about. They play a part when we bond with our team, and when we feel someone has broken our trust.

    We all have triggers: a phrase, an assumption, or a behavior that makes us absolutely crazy. Generally, triggers tap deep into our core, revealing our insecurities and frustrations all at once. The reality is that we’re all human, which means we’re all feeling emotions at work–at least until the robots arrive.

    It’s good to feel a broad spectrum of emotions, even the uncomfortable ones. But this can get in the way of work. So if the workday is filled with emotions but no one really talks about them, how do we strike a balance and continue to get the job done?

    The key is building self-awareness of what sets you off. Here are three steps to take to build self-awareness of how you’re feeling, and what’s tapping those emotions on the job.

    Know what triggers you

    What makes you irrationally defensive? What gets you out of your rational thinking brain and into your gut and heart? It’s important to understand what triggers an emotional response so that you can be intentional about how you want to respond.

    For me, hearing gendered feedback (critical subjective feedback that relies on vague, negative words typically reserved to describe women, such as “abrasive,” “too strong,” or “emotional”) really gets my goat.
    For others, it’s hearing they’ve been passed up for a promotion, or a phrase from their boss that suggests they don’t trust them to get the job done. Often, such a slight is unintentional, but the outcome is the same. We let our emotional response run the show.


    Related:Five emotionally intelligent habits for handling work frustrations


    To tackle this head on, think back to your most tense moments at work: What made your blood boil? When have you regretted how you’ve behaved or let emotions get the best of you? Was it something someone did or said? Call upon the feeling and see if you can unpack its root cause.

    Slow down to choose your response

    If you can begin to recognize your triggers, you can choose your response to them, as opposed to simply reacting. To do this, you need to slow your system down. Take deep breaths, remind yourself this is not a true fight-or-flight scenario, and break eye contact if you need to. Go for a walk if you can, and if you can’t, then look out the window. Even if you’re in the middle of a meeting, there’s no harm in taking a quick bathroom break to calm yourself down.

    Communicate what’s happening to others

    Remember my trigger of hearing potentially gendered feedback? When I hear it, I can feel steam coming out of my ears. I get frustrated by what feels to me to be lazy language, and I get angry on behalf of all the women in the workplace who’ve ever had to deal with it. Especially early in my career, it was really hard for me to hear feedback of this kind. My pulse would quicken, my inner monologue would race, and I couldn’t hear anything the feedback giver was saying anymore.


    Related:Emotionally intelligent ways to express these five feelings at work


    Now that I know this about myself, I can recognize it when it happens and then choose how I want to respond. This doesn’t mean that these words no longer affect me; they still make my pulse quicken, and I still dislike gendered feedback with the fire of 1,000 suns. But now I can be honest about what’s happening and clue the other person in to my experience so they’re not surprised by my response.

    For me, that means pausing and saying, “That language is actually triggering to me and I’m afraid it’s taking me somewhere else. Can we take a break and come back to this? I want our discussion to be productive, and I’m not able to do that at the moment. Mind if we return to this tomorrow, when I’ve had a little more time to process?”

    With practice, you’ll be able to recognize your triggers, begin to take ownership of them, and have a constructive conversation that allows you to get your work done effectively and professionally.


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    At an Australian steel mill, a massive solar farm that will be built nearby will soon help the factory run on 100% renewable power. It’s a sign of transition in an energy-intensive industry that has been one of the hardest to move to a low-carbon future.

    A new report looks at some of the most polluting, and hardest to change, industries in the world–from steel, cement, and plastic production to shipping and airlines–and finds that it’s now both technically and financially feasible for those industries to reach net zero emissions by the middle of the century. That’s something that will be necessary for the world to have a chance of limiting global warming to the key target of 1.5 degrees.

    Some new technologies, such as new electric furnaces used to make steel, or plastic made from plant material, are still at an early stage. But they exist. “There is still more innovation that needs to happen,” says Jules Kortenhorst, CEO at the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute, one of the members of the Energy Transitions Commission, the group that published the report, called “Mission Possible.” “These technologies needs to be reduced in cost and they need to be deployed at scale. But what the report is saying is this does not require a breakthrough invention that we haven’t come up with yet. The technologies are viable.”

    They can follow a similar path as technologies like wind and solar power, Kortenhorst says, which have dropped so steeply in price that it’s now more affordable in many parts of the U.S. to build a new wind or solar farm than to keep a coal plant running.

    The group calculated that full decarbonization would cost less than 0.5% of GDP by midcentury, and that cost could be even lower with improvements in recycling and other changes. Consumer products would see only small impacts–a pair of jeans, for example, might cost a dollar more if it traveled from a factory across the ocean on a zero-emissions ship. A bottle of soda might cost one cent more in a plastic bottle made with zero emissions.

    Some changes are happening more quickly than expected. “If you had asked me five years ago, maybe even two years ago, I would have said it’s really hard to imagine how we’re going to take care of trucking without greenhouse gas emissions,” says Kortenhorst. Semi trucks that need to travel long distances without stopping are harder to convert to electricity than a car that makes a short commute each day. But the falling cost of technology is making it possible. Both zero-carbon buses and trucks, running on batteries or hydrogen fuel cells, are likely to be cost-competitive with fossil fuel trucks by 2030.

    On short flights, airlines can begin to shift to electric planes, while biofuels and synthetic jet fuels can cover long flights. Cargo trucks can use electricity and batteries or fuel cells for short trips, and biofuels (or, in the long term, hydrogen) for long trips.

    The plastics industry can shift to bio-based plastic. Moving to a circular economy–with far more recycling of plastic–could cut primary plastic production by 56% compared to a business-as-usual scenario, making it far easier to cut the industry’s footprint. In the steel industry, a more circular economy would also substantially reduce the carbon footprint of steel.

    The changes, of course, are not inevitable. A combination of new policy and industry commitments, and consumer change–including just recycling more–is necessary. “What this report illustrates very clearly is that the technologies and the business solutions exist today to decarbonize most of our economy in a cost-effective manner,” says Kortenhorst. “But there is a crucial role for policymakers, for consumers, and for the private sector to start shifting towards those low carbon technologies of the future, and it is all of our joint responsibility to drive that transition as fast as we can.”


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    If you have a 3D printer, you need to make sure it’s in a well-ventilated area–and maybe keep it out of a child’s room–because across the board, 3D printers release tiny, undetectable materials that could be toxic and embed themselves into your body permanently.

    This advice comes courtesy of Georgia Tech professor Dr. Rodney Weber, who recently oversaw a landmark study on the emissions of 3D printers that was published in Aerosol Science and Technology. Part of a broader collection of research four years in the making, the study sought to standardize the way we measure the particulates put out by 3D printers so that we might one day certify some 3D printers and their components as healthier than others on the market.

    Numerous studies have already confirmed that when 3D printers melt down plastic filaments to shape objects, they release nasty stuff into the air–particles as small as 100 microns (meaning they’re roughly 1/10 the diameter of a single bacterium, or 1/1000th the width of a human hair). But as Weber explains, just how much of this stuff went airborne was hard to measure, because every study was looking at a different combination of machines and filaments, with the emissions being measured in different conditions.

    [Source Photo: the-lightwriter/iStock]
    “There was no standard, so you can’t really compare the results,” says Weber. Instead of developing yet another methodology, Weber’s team started with a standard we already developed for laser printers–yes, the 2D printers featured in offices everywhere. It basically involves putting a printer in an airtight chamber, and taking measurements while pumping in more air at a precisely controlled rate.

    From the new research, Weber’s team discovered a few things. For one, there is no such thing as a 3D printer that doesn’t emit concerning microparticles into the air. Even industrial models that appear sealed, complete with fans and filters, put out measurable particulates.

    “We found that helps a little bit but not a lot,” says Weber. “It’s like people in China wearing face masks for the pollution. It doesn’t do much because the particles are so small they go through the cracks.”

    Another discovery was that because filaments are actually mixtures of many chemicals–think of them as plastic cocktails. Designed to satisfy all sorts of material and aesthetic properties, the chemicals they released varied wildly from one brand or model to another. And even if a chemical is only a tiny component of the filament, it can still be released in significant amounts into the air.

    “The mass of the particles produced in an aerosol is orders of magnitude smaller than what you extrude [for a 3D shape],” says Weber. “They mix in all kinds of things.” And measuring the potential impact all those discrete chemicals could have on human health is hard to assess, to say the least.

    Finally, the heat at which the filament was melted had a major impact on what chemicals became aerosols. As a general rule, the cooler a 3D printer ran, the better the air quality was around it. And hopefully that’s the sort of insight that manufacturers can keep in mind when designing 3D printers of the future.

    So how worried should we be in the meantime? A bit. “I wouldn’t say it’s terrifying because you get exposed to these particles all the time from roadway emissions–like diesel cars. It’s not like 3D printers create the only nanoparticles in the world,” says Weber. “It’s just that it’s unregulated and people haven’t thought about it much.”

    “To be honest, I wouldn’t be too concerned as long as you have good ventilation,” he continues. “That’s what it comes down to. If you have a bunch of printers in one room like a classroom, you walk in and can smell plastic, then I’d be concerned about it.”


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    We all seem to have agreed that it’s totally okay to begin playing holiday music the day after Halloween, so why not move up when we celebrate Black Friday, too?

    Amazon is doing just this because it wants to dominate anything and everything shopping-related. And so even though it’s only Monday, the company already has a fair amount of early Black Friday deals going on this week, but you have to act fast to make sure you don’t miss out. Here’s a rundown of some of the tech-gadget deals you can snag this week. This will hopefully make it so that you don’t have to wait in line at 4 a.m. come Friday morning.

    • The Fire HD 10 tablet is currently going for $99.99 (compared to the list price of $149.99).
    • Various versions of Amazon’s Fire TV devices are on sale. The Fire TV stick is going for $34.99 (compared to $49.99), the Fire TV Cube is down to $59.99 (compared to $119.99), the 1TB Fire TV Recast is on sale for $219.99 (compared to $279.99), and the 500GB Fire TV Recast is $179.99 (compared to $229.99).
    • Certified refurbished Echos are down to $59.99 (compared to $79.99).
    • Many TVs are on sale–including LG 55-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV, which is $696.99 (compared to its usual price of $1,199.99).
    • Bose SoundLink wireless headphones are down to $199 (compared to $279).
    • A Ring Alarm Home Security System is priced at $188.98 (compared to $268.98).

    There are many more deals on the site. It’s going to take some sifting to find the best ones. Good luck out there.


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    In 2017, a study found that in some parts of Germany, the entire flying insect population has declined by 75% over the last 27 years (a trend that has been demonstrated elsewhere). The shocking results moved the Dutch designer Matilde Boelhouwer–who put her skills as a designer to use to help feed insect pollinators in cities thorough a project called Food for Buzz. How? By creating artificial flowers of screen-printed fabric petals and 3D-printed plastic.

    [Photo: Janneke van der Pol/courtesy Matilde Boelhouwer]

    She didn’t copy nature’s designs, though. Rather, she found inspiration in actual flowers and came up with her own designs. With insights from entomologists, Boelhouwer learned how each of the “five big” pollinators–bees, bumblebees, butterflies, hoverflies, and moths–feed in order to design the shapes and color patterns in the flowers. To attract bees, for example, she used high-contrast violet and yellow patterns. She learned that bumblebees like mirror symmetry, so she followed that by using simple structures with a mirrored profile.

    The polyester flower elements are first printed on a sheet, then cut in a laser printer and attached by metal pins to a hollow 3D-printed container–which is called a receptacle in real flowers. This container is connected to a hollow pedicel, or stalk, which becomes the stem. The stems are hollow too, connected to a base that is full of sugar. When it rains, the water is collected by the flowers’ receptacles and directed down to the base, where it mixes with the sugar. Then, the mixed solution is pumped up to the flower so insects can feed on it.

    [Photo: Janneke van der Pol/courtesy Matilde Boelhouwer]

    While artificially feeding pollinators in cities is not a new concept–this magic paper is also designed to save exhausted bees, mixing paper pulp with an energy-rich glucose known as “fondant for bees,” a substance used by beekeepers to feed populations over the winter–this is the most beautiful I’ve seen so far.

    While she doesn’t have statistics about how useful they are yet, she has tested them in the real world. “For now we can’t tell how it affects insect population in the long run,” she says over email. “But they do work.” The photos of insects stuffing their faces above are definite proof of that.


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    There’s compelling data that children who grow up with parents reading to them perform better in school. But is it possible that a childhood passion for books can lay the foundation of a productive, successful–perhaps even, exceptional–life? Listening to Sheryl Sandberg, Melinda Gates, Sundar Pichai, Amy Tan, B.J. Novak, and other great minds of our time talk about how their love for reading began when they were toddlers seems to support this theory.

    This week, the monthly kid’s book subscription called Literati releases a special box curated by these public figures, and others, including Paralympic champion Anjali Forber-Pratt, Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, and Brain Pickings founder Maria Popova. The books that they’ve chosen will be placed in this month’s box, organized by age and reading level. And the titles are diverse, ranging from classics like Madeline and The Little Prince, to recently published works like Rosie Revere, Engineer and Girls Who Code: The Friendship Code.

    [Photo: Aleks Gajdeczka]
    Every one of these “great minds” (as Literati is calling them) has written an inscription, and if a family decides to keep one of the books in the box, they can stick the inscription inside it. “It will feel like they have this personalized message that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives,” says Jessica Ewing, Literati’s founder. “Each of these people took the time to write a short snippet, as a kind of gift message to share with the next generation.”

    [Photo: Aleks Gajdeczka]
    Ewing, who graduated from Stanford with a degree in symbolic systems before working at Google, now spends her days poring over children’s books. She says this startup sprang out of her own personal interest in learning how children’s books influenced the lives of her heroes. She made a list of people she would love to include in this “great minds” list, and then reached out to them one by one. To her surprise, many were excited to participate. “I don’t think they often get asked what children’s books they really love,” Ewing says. “Coming up with their favorite children’s works of literature allowed them to go back to a more innocent frame of mind.”

    Ewing says she kept her brief fairly open: She asked these people to identify children’s books that inspired them. Some of them chose books from their own childhood, but others chose books that they had read to their own children–thereby passing on their love of reading to the next generation–or books that they had recently stumbled upon. But it’s possible to see a through-line between the books that they’ve chosen and their life’s work.

    Sundar Pichai recommends

    Take Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO. Growing up in South India, Pichai showed an early interest in numbers and computers, and then went on to receive a scholarship to study engineering at Stanford. He picked a book called The Wild Robot, which is about a lovable robot called Roz who wakes up in the middle of an island and must use its ingenuity to find its way back to civilization. But on a deeper level, the book is about how technology intersects with nature, and how automation interacts with creativity. And this resonates with what Pichai does at Google, which involves ensuring that technology adapts and responds to the human needs of users.

    B.J. Novak recommends

    Comedian B.J. Novak, who is known for his roles on The Office and The Mindy Project, was influenced by humorous children’s books growing up. He includes Shel Silverstein’s book Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book, which is a twist on an alphabet book but full of advice that no parent would actually share with a child. For instance, D is for Daddy encourages kids to give their father’s hair a trim while he sleeps to save him the cost of going to a barber. E is for Eggs recommends that you throw them on the ceiling. “My dad showed it to me with a very clear conspiratorial explanation that kids were not supposed to read this,” Novak explains. “And that, of course, took my enjoyment of the book’s comedy and my pride at getting the joke to a whole other level.”

    [Photo: Michael Carter]

    Steven Pinker recommends

    Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist and linguist who has also published 10 books of his own, including his most recent Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. He picked a little known Dr. Seuss story called The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. The book is about a little peasant boy who tries to take off his hat for a pompous king, only to find even more extravagant hats appearing on his head, out of nowhere. On the surface, the book seems like good fun for kids, but it is really about the themes of power and its abuse. “It’s this whole parable about power and tyranny, and circumventing it with humor,” says Ewing. “This was an example of how this project led to some delightful surprises and fun moments along the way.”

    Amy Tan and Maria Popova recommend

    Authors Amy Tan (best known for her novel The Joy Luck Club) and Maria Popova (known for her blog Brain Pickings) happen to be obsessed with The Little Prince, which they both continue to read regularly. Popova, for her part, rereads the book every single year. For Tan, the book has different messages throughout our various stages of life. “The Little Prince grows up with us,” Tan says. “He is the fairy tale guide to magical lands with talking animals that opens a child to wonder. He is the fable for teens seeking to cast off rules and become individuals. He helps us as adults to meditate on what we think we know and why we should refresh our minds and wonder anew.”

    Melinda Gates and Sheryl Sandberg recommend

    Melinda Gates and Sheryl Sandberg both included books on the list that inspire young girls to think of themselves as engineers and scientists. Gates, who is ranked No. 3 in Forbes’s list of most powerful women in the world, has devoted her work at the Gates Foundation to women’s and girls’ rights, gender equity, and championing women in technology. So it’s no surprise that she recommends the 2013 book Rosie Revere, Engineer. The book focuses on how Rosie experiences failure early in life, but thanks to the encouragement of her great-great aunt Rose, decides to learn how to fly. The book is designed to give girls as young as 5 insight into the lives of women who excelled at science.

    Sandberg’s suggestion is along the same lines. She picked a book from the Girls Who Code series that focuses on friendship. The book cleverly weaves together a story about friendship with actual snippets of code. The story focuses on Lucy, a girl who needs to build an app to help her uncle. And the story illustrates the first concepts in computer science. Sandberg has spent her career advocating for women in business, and particularly those in tech. Books like this go a long way to helping more girls grow up to become founders of companies like Facebook.


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    This time of year, stretching from Black Friday all the way up through last-minute Christmas shopping, herds people toward spending money. Brands dangle deals in teaser emails before the season, and the rush to collect them leads to notorious stampedes and long lines.

    Aspiration, an online financial firm that only invests in companies committed to sustainability and strong ethical practices, wants consumers to think about Black Friday a little differently this year. Instead of just chasing deals, Aspiration aims to direct people to spend in accordance with their values. Released for the first time this year, the firm’s “Nice List” identifies the top 10 companies across a range of sectors—fashion, tech, travel, beauty–based on how they treat the environment and their employees.

    [Image: Aspiration]

    For any of the around 1 million people who bank with Aspiration, the companies on the Nice List might not come as a surprise. For its checking account customers, Aspiration rolled out a new in-app metric last year that essentially rates companies on their environmental and ethical impacts. Called the Aspiration Impact Measurement (or AIM), the feature analyzes around 75,000 data points about a company to arrive at two scores, “People” and “Planet.” The Planet score aggregates metrics like greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of waste sent to landfill; the People score looks at the share of women employees or people of color, as well as the gap between CEO and employee earnings. Combined, the two scores feed into the AIM, which appears as a number out of 100. The Aspiration app tracks individuals’ spending habits, and gives them a personal AIM score based on where they’ve made purchases.

    The Nice List makes data on companies that Aspiration consumers see when they shop available to everyone. “We wanted to share a representative sample of some of the highest AIM-scored businesses out there,” says Aspiration CEO Andrei Cherny.

    Here are the companies that made the cut, along with the score and what’s most impressed Aspiration about their practices:

    • Athleta (apparel): AIM score of 85.5 for use of recycled fabrics; by 2020, 80% of its products will be made from sustainable fibers.
    • Sephora (cosmetics): AIM score of 79.5 for selling over 2,000 chemical-free products, and launching the Sephora Stands social equality program.
    • Apple (technology): AIM score of 90.5 for shifting to 100% clean energy across retail stores, data centers, and corporate offices, and cutting greenhouse gases from facilities by 54% since 2011.
    • Whole Foods (grocery): AIM score of 83 for selling cleaning supplies free of environmentally damaging ingredients, and for pioneering its own Eco-Scale rating system.
    • Costco (grocery): AIM score of 82 for setting a company-wide minimum wage of $14, and for creating a strong opportunity pipeline for employees–over 70% of current warehouse managers began as hourly workers.
    • eBay (retail): AIM score of 93.5 for its Retail Revival program, which helps small business owners and entrepreneurs reach a wider audience through the platform.
    • Target (retail): AIM score of 92 for strong gender and racial diversity among employees and leadership.
    • Best Buy (retail): AIM score of 88 for its Teen Tech Centers at which young people can learn technology skills.
    • Marriott Hotels (travel and hospitality): AIM score of 84.5 for promoting LGBTQ inclusion.
    • Delta (travel and hospitality); AIM score of 80 for being the first U.S. airline to introduce a carbon offsetting program, and for pledging to replace 20% of its fleet with more fuel-efficient planes by 2020.

    None of the companies on the list are niche or obscure. To Cherny, that’s intentional. “We wanted to look at some of the places that people are already going to be shopping this season, but empower people with information around how these companies are treating their employees and the environment,” he says.

    “We thought we’d try to be a little bit of an antidote to all of the wackiness going on around Black Friday, but also remind people that as they make shopping decisions, they can fold in their conscience and ethics, not leave it at the door,” Cherny says.


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    There’s more trouble afoot at J.Crew. After only 16 months on the job, CEO Jim Brett has left his post, leaving the company’s leadership to a team of four executives. According to the Wall Street Journal, his departure came after clashes with J.Crew’s longtime head Mickey Drexler, and the rest of the board, over differences in spending plans.

    The American clothier has had a tempestuous two years. Last April, its acclaimed creative director Jenna Lyons departed the company. Drexler stepped aside as CEO last June, after 14 years on the job, but continued to serve as chairman of the board. It’s clear now that Drexler still maintains a tight grip on the company.

    Brett had ambitious plans for a turnaround. It was his idea to put some merchandise on Amazon, and create less expensive subbrands, including J.Crew’s Mercantile and a yet-to-launch brand called Nevereven. These lines seem reminiscent of Gap Inc.’s Old Navy line, which has been thriving. But according to people familiar with the matter, Drexler believed that these moves were cheapening the brand. (We reached out to J.Crew, but a spokesperson said the brand did not have any comment to share.)

    J.Crew is not profitable. It generated $1.13 billion in revenue in the first half of this fiscal year, but is also has $1.7 billion in debt from a 2011 leveraged buyout. In August, after four years of declining sales, J.Crew posted a slight gain in quarterly sales, which can be attributed to Brett’s changes.

    Without Brett, it’s unclear what J.Crew’s next move will be. But one thing is clear: The constant shake-up of leadership does not inspire much confidence in the brand.


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