Worming Your Way Into Sustainable Living

Environmental action in parliament has been lacking of late. But while our representatives are being influenced by the whims of corporate giants as big as Gina Rinehart – and some less big – we see that there is still a lot that can be done on a small scale, contained within our own individual societal ecosystems. It’s quite possible in fact, that spineless critters are both the cause of the problem and one of the solutions.

While we’ve had politicians for a long time, my family only got a worm farm this year. It was a source of significant excitement for my parents, so much so that, by the time I found out we were getting one, we already had it. This particular one is a little over 1 metre tall, composed of several layered sections and looks very much like a small water tank. You put organic refuse in and – by the ecological machinations of worms – you receive a nutrient rich fertiliser for your plants and soils, charmingly named “worm juice”.

It was an interesting choice by my parents. I had always seen a worm farm as being an addition to the backyard, the sort of thing that you’d find beside the veggie patch. Living in a converted warehouse in the inner west, we had no garden (and none has sprung up since) yet the worm farm is surprisingly at home. There are four reasons that might be preventing a household from opening the not-so-proverbial can of worms and starting such a farm.

1. Everyone one would have a worm farm if it were cheap so it must be expensive, right? Wrong. You can buy a triple-tiered worm farm as well as a starter pack of 500 worms for around $100 from Bunnings and for even less from other specialist stores. This is more than enough for most households. Ah, well then it must be expensive in terms of time? Nope, unlike dogs these worms don’t require daily walks, and unlike cats they don’t require worshipping. Once you’re set up, your duties are kept to giving them your scraps and a few litres of water once a week, collecting that worm juice and occasionally lifting the lid to ogle at all the wriggling.

2. Sometimes the fear of “eau de worm” can prevent this leap into sustainable living. Rest assured, after several months, my mum (whose office is right next to the garage and worm farm) has no complaints. Bad smells are from rotting materials, but the scraps of food are so quickly consumed that this is never an issue. The only way that smell can be a problem is if you’re putting in much more food than can be digested.

3. “I wouldn’t know what to feed them.” Unsurprisingly, these little guys are not picky. They will eat paper, cardboard, leaves, eggshells, almost all other organic waste, even hair. It’s much easier to learn the few things they won’t eat: things that are acidic, spicy or dairy products. Any household has more than enough organic material (that would otherwise rot at a dump) to sustain a worm farm.

4. The final reason you might be holding back is that you don’t see enough of a need for the worm juice to want to bother. If you have a garden at all, then worm juice is perfect, being one of the best fertilisers money can buy. If you don’t have a garden (like my family), it’s just as useful. You could improve the aesthetic of the whole street by using it on the kerbside greenery. You could give it to a neighbour or a relative. You could even sell it if you were so inclined. One litre is usually around $20. The average worm farm produces this in a week.

Given the huge amount of political rubbish going around, it might be the perfect time to start putting yours to good use.

A fact sheet with information on getting your worm farm up and running: http://www.ecohouseandgarden.com.au/documents/3-ehg-factsheet-wormfarming.pdf