O Me of Little Faith

A few months ago I interviewed an interesting guy for an article about reducing waste, scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of Christian Single. His name is Dave Chameides, and instead of throwing away his trash in 2008, he collected it all in his basement. It was a bit of environmental performance art as a personal project to bring attention to the amount of trash we consume each day. A pretty cool idea, I think (though I’m glad he did it and not me). He got some crazy-good publicity from it, though. If you consider feature stories from media around the world to be “crazy good.” Which I do.

One of the things we talked about in the interview was something Dave had begun doing as a way to reduce the amount of trash he had to keep up with: worm composting, otherwise known as vermicomposting. Composting with worms is similar to regular composting, only you’re not letting microbes break your food scraps and stuff into excellent fertilizer…you’re letting a box of worms do it. The worms eat your garbage (and junk-mail, and other organic stuff), then poop it out as worm castings, which is a rich organic material that plants and gardens love.

I thought to myself: There is nothing cooler than keeping a box filled with thousands of worms in your house, feeding trash to those worms, and collecting their poo/compost to feed your flowers. So one of my fun new recycling projects for 2009 is worm composting. I got a 5-tray worm bin from The Worm Factory, set it up, then ordered my worms.

Here’s the factory, with the first tray. (You have to build up to full capacity.)

On Friday, the worms arrived. Worm composting is best accomplished with a particular kind of earthworm: Red Wigglers (Eisenia Foetida). They’re smaller than your basic nightcrawlers used for fishing, but are more communal and love trash. Below are a couple of our new pets, surrounded by damp shredded newspaper, which is part of their habitat (and food) in the Worm Factory:

The worms eat our kitchen scraps, shredded paper products, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, egg shells, and a bunch of other stuff (but not protein or dairy). They don’t smell. They stay in the bin. And they are fascinating to the kids.

At least, that’s what is supposed to happen. Right now my worms are in the recovery stage after having been shipped to us. We won’t start feeding them large amounts of trash — they can consume half their body weight in a day — until they’ve gotten settled in.

I’ll keep you updated.

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