Caring and Sharing with
By: Rebecca Tye
What are creepy and crawly, have five hearts, consume half their body weight in food daily, can live up to 10 years, and are great waste managers? Worms! And what's a great way to care for our environment and raise money for your girls to share on Unit activities? Vermicomposting!
Red wigglers (eisenia fetida) are related to the common worms that live in our lawns and gardens and that we often find on our sidewalks and driveways after a rain. The difference between these cousins is that common worms like to burrow deep in the soil, while red wigglers prefer to live closer to the top, making them expert composters. In the process called vermicomposting, our red wiggly friends very efficiently turn kitchen scraps and yard waste into a dark nutrient-rich soil.
Vermicomposting and the Environment
As the problem of garbage disposal climbs towards a crisis level, vermicomposting is becoming a sustainable alternative to landfill overload, while providing us with a nutrient-rich organic product to improve the health of our gardens and household plants. A large portion of the waste sent to landfills is organic, and even in communities that have "green bin" programs, vermicomposting offers an alternative to transporting organic waste, with the associated costs and vehicle exhaust emissions.
The soil produced from a vermicomposting harvest is one of nature's finest
resources. It improves soil structure,
texture and fertility, and stimulates
healthy root development among plants.
The compost can be used on large outside garden projects as well as on indoor house plants. Best of all, it's sustainable and inexpensive!
Vermicomposting and Your Unit
Worm composting offers a tremendous hands-on learning opportunity to educate girls on the importance of environmental sustainability. It's also a great way to raise funds for Unit trips and activities.
Since worms can be kept nourished and healthy on one feeding a week, your regular meeting location might be an excellent place to store a vermicomposter, guaranteeing one visit a week from the girls and keeping them interested and engaged in the project, as they learn about worm habitat, worm biology, and worm composting from start-up to harvest.
Vermicomposting issimple and easy! It
requires only a small plastic or untreated
wood bin, bedding materials, and a couple of
handfuls of soil, food scraps and, of course, some
of those red wiggly worms! To keep your red wig-
glers happy, you need to provide moisture, moderate
temperature, ventilation and bedding, which can include
shredded newspaper, scrap computer paper or cardboard. If you have each girl collect bedding material for your vermicomposter you can also discuss and promote the benefits of recycling paper products with your Unit and with the girls' families.
With the exception of meats, dairy products, peanut butter, oils, citrus peels, vinegars, spicy foods and twigs, most yard and kitchen waste is suitable for your vermicomposter, so having the girls arrive at each meeting with "food" for your red wigglers is not only simple, but will enable them to help put some of their families' "garbage" to good use.
When you are ready to harvest your "earth," you will notice that the volume of material in your vermicomposter has dropped significantly and the original bedding is unrecognizable. There are two main methods of harvesting your compost, both of which, are easy and convenient. For information on these methods and anything else you want to research about vermicomposting, you can search the Net for any of the many websites listed under "Vermicomposting." One site I highly recommend is: Cathy's Crawly Composters at: www.cathyscomposters.com
Packaging and Marketing
Your vermicompost harvest will consist of a beautiful nutrient-rich soil, guaranteed to attract plant owners and green thumb enthusiasts. This is an excellent opportunityto fundraise for a Unit trip. Brainstorm ways to sell this earthy organic material. For the outside gardener, place the soil in a large reusable bag, or if customers desire a smaller amount, fill clean juice or milk cartons and sell those. Or, make "worm poo eggs;' by moulding the damp soil into egg shapes, letting them dry, and filling egg cartons to sell. By dropping a vermicompost egg into a watering canister, your customers can easily add nutrients to their plants when watering.
Introducing vermicomposting into your Unit is an educational and profitable initiative that will enable your girls to practise caring and sharing, with practical, tangible benefits for your community and for themselves. It introduces the importance of environmental sustainability in our everyday lives and enables the girls to experience a unique and hands-on project while educating those around them.
Rebecca Tye, of Toronto, Ontario, is Girl Programs Coordinator
at the National Office.
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