The Adventures of Red Wigglers: Education Started from Kids
The education for youths, especially regarding the environment, is increasingly important to think about together to solve the environmental problems at this new normal. Many references state that in the past, our grandparents, our ancestors, cared more about the environment. Maybe that’s true, even though the conditions in the past were much different from now. This is mainly because the human population was not too dense, the peoples were not so consumptive, pollution and environmental damage were not as bad as now, and global warming had not been felt at that time.
One of the big problems in today’s environment is that there is too much waste all around us. In fact, if we, as well as the younger generation, care about this problem, a solution will be found from the beginning. Especially for organic waste from our kitchen as well as paper waste from our table. We can solve the problem with 3Rs + 1 more R: reduce, reuse, recycle, plus renew it with composting – vermicomposting in situ or on site.
Compared to conventional composting with high temperature (thermophilic), vermicomposting is an aerobic process at a cool room temperature (mesophilic). The advantage of vermicomposting is that organic waste can be broken down faster by red wigglers or compost worms with less pollution. The finished product of worm castings or vermicompost is much better in quality because the thermophilic composting will destroy the nutrients and beneficial soil microbe’s activities.
The process of vermicomposting or composting using compost worms or red wigglers with their friends the beneficial soil microbes (all called decomposers) is simple. The kitchen waste mostly consists of the green and brown waste. The green waste which is rich in nitrogen and nutrients can be used to feed the worms. The brown waste or any paper waste as a carbon source will absorb the excess water. Both will be turned into vermicompost or worm castings that are useful for all plants, especially for creating living soil to support the organic farming or the natural way of farming.
Educating the younger generation to care more about the environment is the key to getting a better environment. After they are aware of environmental problems, for example regarding our kitchen waste and paper waste, then the next step is to provide examples of technical problem solving that are easy to apply, fun, and supported by science so that they can develop.
This is expected to form a critical, caring, responsible attitude from the new generation. One of the fun environmental care activities is vermiculture, raising compost worms and soil microorganisms that are useful for processing kitchen waste and paper. This activity has been around for a long time and naturally occurs in nature.
Worm composting is getting more popular because the red wigglers and their microbes friends increase the speed of composting in cool room temperature, produce high value of vermicompost for plants and worm biomass or protein for animal feed and fishing.
Household vermiculture – vermicomposting is a simple closed system and can be easily started by following 3 steps.
1.Making or getting a worm bin
One or two containers in the stalk can be used. The container should be at least with a surface area of 2 X 1 feet and about one feet or 30 cm depth with some holes at the bottom, side, and lid. At start, about one square foot surface area is needed for about a pound of kitchen waste per week.
2.Preparing the bedding
Moist bedding can be made of mature compost, which is rich in organic matter, plus shredded paper, untreated sawdust, leaf mold, peat moss, coco coir or other rich carbon resources waste. Ideally if we squeeze a handful of moist bedding, we should only be able to squeeze a few drops of water. It means the moisture content of the bedding is about 75 – 80% with a cool room temperature 15 – 25°C.
3.Adding the red wigglers
Red wigglers Eisenia andrei or Eisenia fetida are the most common compost worms to be used for vermiculture – vermicomposting. To determine the number of worms needed to populate the bin, provide two handfuls of worms or about ~500 worms or about a pound including their former home worm castings. The feeding is about once a week, it depends on how fast the worms adapt with the new environment.
The photo is courtesy of Megan Sutherland, Wix-Brown Elementary, Langley, British Columbia. One of her students during the worm composting class said: “I don’t like worms, but this is epic!”