by Joanne Sim
At Cundall, using the One Planet Living principals we set ourselves targets to reduce our impact the business has on the planet. One of these principals is to reduce our waste. I help look after two worm farms, one at work and one at home. My one at home was bought by my husband as a birthday present (some would think this is a strange present but I loved it!). The Sydney office started a worm farm about 18 months ago and I have learnt a few things along the way.
Why do we do this?
Many people think that food scraps in landfill quickly break down into soil anyway – but this is not the case. Soil microorganisms require moisture and oxygen to transform organic waste but, landfill sites are compacted (anaerobic) and kept dry to minimise leaching. This means that materials that can decompose rapidly under the right conditions take centuries to break down in landfill, while releasing methane (a potent greenhouse gas).
Keeping a worm farm in an office environment
At first some people in the office were not keen, comments like it will smell, attract pests and general eeeewws. It was agreed that we would try it and if any of the formentioned happened then it would be removed. We are particularly lucky in the Sydney office to have a shaded outside area, plus a garden area which can use the worm tea and castings so it was not as difficult as others who may not have access to an outdoor area. We have set up a caddy in the kitchen area which gets emptied on a daily basis, this avoids smells.
How to keep a worm farm happy?
I went to a free council course to help me on my way, where I learnt a few tips and rules. When you read all the rules it can sound very daunting but it is easier than it seems.
- Keep worm farm moist – It should feel like mash potato consistency, this keeps the worms happy, deters other insects and helps with the production of worm tea.
- Avoid acidic food waste – Don’t put any citrus fruit or onions in, the worms will not eat this and it effects the PH of the soil.
- Add egg shells – This not only gives the soil extra calcium, the egg shells help the worms reproduce
- Do not add pineapple – It will kill your worm farm and you will have to start again- this is something to be very aware of.
- Worms multiply – For the first couple of months having a worm farm nothing seems to be disappearing, then all of a sudden, you have loads of worms, the waste starts turning into soil and the worm tea becomes rich.
- Give them a blanket – They like the dark, you can buy special blankets, here a colleague got a hessian bag from a local cafe, when we added this on top the food scraps seemed to reduce so much quicker.
Our worm farm has been a great success and I would recommend it to others both in your office and at home. For a worm farm at work below are a few top tips:
- Have a few people assigned to take responsibility – depending on the size of the office have a rota on who is going to empty the caddy, water the worm farm, empty the worm tea.
- Make staff aware of what you are doing – Tell them the reason why you have set this up.
- Have a list of dos and don’ts – Make sure they know what goes in the caddy and what does not plus a contact for any questions.
- Celebrate the successes – Tell the office when you have produced worm castings (fertile soils) and worm tea (the fertilizer) and offer this to staff for their gardens at home.
I would love to hear other people’s experiences of setting up a worm farm in their office – please share in the comments section.
Find out more about Cundall – http://www.cundall.com/