Worm World: Midterm Project

Worm World is a long-term project I have just started as a part of this midterm, but it extends far beyond the timeline of this course.

worm anat
Image from NYC Compost Project Pamphlet

I will be using a compost kit purchased from the NYC Compost Project. This kit includes 1 pound of Red Wiggler worms and a bin to house them while they do their work composting. They are an amazing creature: 5 hearts, a tiny nerve bundle that functions as the brain, a gizzard, and both male and female sexual reproductive organs.

Red Wigglers, Eisenia fetida, are the ideal composting worm, unlike typical garden variety worms, because they like to live in the top layer of the soil to feed on maximum amount or organic matter- food- possible. As they consume this food, it travels through their long intenstines and eventually gets deposited as waste. This waste, known as vermicompost, is incredibly nutrient rich and can be used as fertilizer for soil. The worms will live in the bin and eat all my kitchen scraps for months until I can harvest the waste they produce to use in my mini-garden.

This soil can be used to grow plants and vegetables, and hopefully will show significant increases in growth rates and health. Once I have enough soil to begin planting, I will create another experiment in which I use vermicompost  in 3 new plants and a control of simple soil in 3 other plants. From seed to harvest I will document and record information from each plant so I can confidently claim that my worm soil helped or did not help growth and health of the plants.

During the next three months I will document and photograph my worm experience. I’m certain that the worms will decompose certain foods at much quicker rates than others, so I am very curious to see what the worms’ favorite food becomes. I will also record the amounts of different types of food scraps that go into the bin on a weekly basis. I think it will be beneficial to see the limiting nutrient and the most common food scraps in this project because it will serve as a record of what my roommates and I consumed and wasted most frequently.

This morning (the day after I presented this project) I went to a new donut and coffee shop in my neighborhood. I started talking with the barista and I asked him what the shop does with it’s coffee grounds as I read in the NYC Indoor Composting Brochure that coffee grounds are safe and beneficial for the worm compost process. The barista, Austin, said he was looking for somewhere to donate them because he knew they served a valuable purpose elsewhere, but he was having trouble finding someone to accept all the shop’s coffee grounds. I told him I would love to take some off his hands and give them to my worms. He paused and looked at me a little different, I had to laugh it off. In the end we agreed that I would start coming into the shop weekly, once the worms are thriving, to collect the coffee grounds. I’m incredibly excited that already this project is creating a network of involvement outside of my own. As I said in my presentation, I believe the worms and this compost project are a simple and direct tool of inspiration and education. I also believe that the worms will do most of the work in spreading that network, I will just help facilitate their power. I want people to learn from the worms and let their process inspire change many aspects of life.

A simple TED-Ed lesson summarizes and explains the process of vermicomposting in an urban environment:


I love this video for many reasons, mostly how accessible and simple it is, but I also like the underlying theme it implies:

“We’re wasting the change to change, to make the system of food consumption more efficient.”

We truly are wasting a beautiful opportunity to create life out of waste. All the food humans waste in a year (1/3 of the amount we buy and consume) can be recycled back into the earth in ways the benefit all life forms, including us humans.

“We can remake waste into an asset.”

I believe that with the worms, we will remake waste into an incredible asset of growth. The worms are the way to a more balanced and sustainable urban ecosystem.

My presentation is below:


The worms arrive on Saturday, I will be documenting the first day of the project and posting so stay tuned and wish me luck with my pound of Red Wigglers!