Composting · How-To · Sustainability · Sustainable Home

Sustainable Kitchen: vermicomposting

Do you compost?

We have a bin for green waste picked up by our city, but we also compost in our basement. Using layered buckets and mail ordered worms, my husband built us a vermicomposter.

Why is composting important? Doesn’t food waste just decompose wherever it ends up?


Food waste that ends up in a landfill generates methane, a greenhouse gas. By properly composting, the methane emissions of organic waste are significantly reduced. Composting reduces the amount of waste being added to landfills and introduces rich organic content back into the soil.

If you have the space, and aren’t totally skittish around worms, I highly recommend setting up one of these worm composters. You can configure it to take up less space and I promise there’s no odour. Here’s what you’ll need:

• Worms (we ordered our red wrigglers online from here). It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever received in the mail.

• A tiered bucket system whereby fluid can leak from the top level into the bottom (sometimes called worm tea, which is way cuter). Make sure your inner bucket can nestle into the outer bucket without touching the bottom. You need a tray below for the worm tea to seep out. We found these bins worked really well.

• paper scraps and organic waste.

If you’re not feeling up for a DIY project you can buy really pretty pre-made systems that might take up less space or look a little more chic if you don’t have an out of the way spot to put your composter.

DIY Worm Composter

We used these from The Home Depot. At $10.47 a piece, the price was right.

If you want to go the budget friendly DIY route here’s what we did:

• Buy your bins. Again, we liked these because the price point was right and they nestled while leaving a tea tray. Drill or punch some holes along the bottom of the inner bucket to allow the fluid to drain out. You also want a breathable lid to keep the worms from venturing out and exploring your house.

• You can put down a non-metal screen to keep the worms from pulling a Steve McQueen Great Escape out of your bucket, but we didn’t and haven’t had any worms fall out into the tray yet. Over the screen sprinkle a few inches of shredded paper. Have old bills and mail with personal information on it that you don’t want to toss out? Give it to the worms! They won’t tell your secrets. Dampen your bedding with water – enough that it feels spongy but not so much that it’s actively draining out of the bottom. For the bedding you can also use shredded egg cartons or coffee trays, as well as ordinary garden soil.

A new 7 layer dip: newspaper page over the holes, then the worms and the dirt they were shipped in, then shredded newspaper.

• Add in your worms (about a pound). Red Wrigglers are excellent composters but there are also some other varieties you can look into.

• Feed your worms 1-2 times a week depending on how quickly they’re eating. Now that our compost colony is established we feed them about 500 g/day. Don’t feed them daily though, so as not to disturb them. They’re vegan so no dairy or meat. We give ours fruit and veggie scraps plus tea leaves and coffee grinds (we joke they compost so quickly because they’re fully caffeinated). Place the food under the bedding material so that the worms can eat peacefully in the dark.

Other approved worm food includes: fruit and vegetable scraps and peels, sawdust (from untreated wood), egg cartons, crushed eggshells, coffee trays, coffee filters, coffee grinds, tea bags and leaves, beans, cooked pasta and rice (no sauce), breads, grains and cereals, beard trimmings, and plant cuttings.

• When you remove the fresh fertilizer make sure you leave the worms in the bin so they can keep making more!

Random tidbits: red wrigglers are happiest at temperatures between 16-28 degrees Celsius, so keep them indoors. And there is NO odour from the bin.

Questions? I’m happy to answer them!

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