What I can Relate to(u).
for National Geographic News
September 13, 2004
For environmentally minded urbanites, no kitchen is complete without an accessory that treats hundreds of wriggling, red guests to dinner—a worm bin. Inside the units, worms munch kitchen scraps into rich, soil- like humus and help reduce the amount of waste reaching landfills.
So is your kitchen complete without one?
Mary Appelhof's 1982 book, Worms Eat My Garbage, spawned many a home vermicompost system and has popularized the technique over the years. The guide has now sold over 175,000 copies and earned Appelhof international recognition as the "Worm Woman."
"Here were have some of the planet's most lowly creatures taking some of our most repulsive waste and turning it into fertilizer," Appelhof said during a telephone interview. "I realized that the more worms I raised or encouraged others to raise, the world would be a better place."
A 12-inch-by-24-inch-by-20-inch (30.5-centimeter-by-61-centimeter-by-51-centimeter) worm bin can process about five pounds (2.25 kilograms) of garbage in a week.
Managing a worm bin is relatively simple. An aerated container is filled with worm bedding (shredded newspaper and dried leaves, or straw), a small amount of soil, and perhaps a pound (half a kilogram) of red worms or bloodworms.
Bacteria and other organisms break down food scraps buried in a bin maintained at proper temperature and moisture levels. Then the worms get to work, eating everything in their path—waste, organisms, and bedding. Afterward, the worms excrete a soil-like rich, dark humus.
But only certain worms can do the job.
"You can't just go out in your garden, dig up worms, and have them work," Appelhof said. "There are about 4,500 species of earthworms. Only six to eight are used for composting." One is Eisenia fetida, commonly known as a red worm.
Appelhof understands the initial reaction some people have to the idea of any worms in their kitchen. "You can almost see their nose curl up," she said.
As for odors, "there is a bit of an earthy smell," Appelhof concedes. "But when people see a well-functioning system, they are amazed at how little odor there is." (Coffee grounds and fruit and vegetable peels left in a regular trash can for several days typically smell worse, Appelhoff said.)
Not surprisingly, kids are often fond of the process and undaunted by either slime or smell. Educational outreach brings worm composting to classrooms. Appelhof estimates that nearly four million children have been introduced to worm composting through her classroom book, Worms Eat Our Garbage.
"Vermicomposting is something that kids can do. Most 18-month-olds can understand what's going on," Appelhof said. "Kids feel good [about it] because they really are doing something positive for the environment. It delights me to see them get so excited about worms."
Worms in the City
Backyard composting is easy to do, but only if you have the green space, which is why worm bins have become a popular alternative for urban dwellers.
For well over a decade the city government of Vancouver, British Columbia, has funded a worm-composting program run by City Farmer.
"I always joke that we have the largest worm program in the universe," said Michael Levenston, City Farmer's director.
Each Saturday 25 people interested in worm composting attend a one-hour workshop in City Farmer's demo garden. There, they learn how to care for and manage their worm charges. Participants leave with a bin, bedding, about a pound (half a kilogram) of red wiggler worms, and instruction books—all that's needed to put their worms to work.
"The amazing thing for us is that worms hold such an interest for the public," Levenston said. "When I watch people from all walks of life taking part in the workshops and then leave with a complete setup, it's pretty stunning. We never have a problem filling the classes. In fact, we have a waiting list."
To date the program has distributed about 3,500 worm composting bins. Each bin keeps about 130 pounds (60 kilograms) of organic waste out of city landfills each year.
Levenston says that, in addition to such tangible benefits, an entire municipal and provincial mindset of reducing waste is promoted—along with the growth of the program. "The worms are a flagship. They get people involved in trying to keep landfills smaller," he said.
workshops in Permaculture, Green Energy, and Bellydance all at the same event and free with admittance. Sounds like my kind of festival.
Camping in the Beautiful Santa Barbara area, I can't wait to go.
By Larry Santoyo
Imagine living in a place that is blended into the natural environment. Your home is not only naturally heated and cooled, but is elegant and affordable. Integrated into the surrounding landscape are natural water systems where food is being grown safe from harmful chemicals, and waste is managed for productivity. A place where the neighbors, young and old, routinely help one another. There is less traffic, less pollution and more open space. Leisure time becomes abundant and recreational opportunities are close at hand. Also imagine, that as a result of its design, this place saves you money and, most importantly, it saves the Earth its precious resources.
Through the simple and practical strategies offered by Permaculture Design, a village lifestyle like this is not a dream. Permaculture mimics nature -where total resource efficiency is accomplished by managing waste for productivity and balancing its consumption with contributions from each of the elements in the system. Permaculture brings to home owners and design professionals an innovative approach to planning, landscaping, building and retrofitting.
Coined by Australian ecologists Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, "Permaculture" is a contraction of the words "permanent and culture". It is a highly developed Art, Science and Philosophy. Regional groups and colleges teach Permaculture Design, and design firms throughout the country are now offering Permaculture services. Permaculture Design sciences are now used by homeowners, architects, land use planners, landscape designers, farmers and community service organizations world wide.
Permaculture courses train designers in simple techniques to "read the patterns of the landscape" and methods that turn problems into resources. Permaculture designers consider that every property has a unique pattern of natural characteristics. Proper alignment with these natural patterns is the basis of the permaculture process. Using Permaculture Design, human ecosystems (development) can model nature's patterns of multi-functionality and inter-connectivity, making it as sustainable and resilient as a forest system.
Instead of the "one size fits all" approach, Nature is allowed to direct the land use plan. By skillfully using permaculture methods of site analysis and evaluation, elements (such as buildings and roads) and practices (such as farming and forestry) are established only in areas with optimum conditions - working with nature in an efficient and economical way. Elements are placed not in isolation, but in relation to the dynamics of the total site. Proper placement is achieved when an element or a practice is designed to interact efficiently with all of the influencing elements. To do this, permaculture designers use simple physics and biology, as well as specific observation skills.
The permaculture designer treats the built environment and the natural environment as a whole. Houses are designed not only for optimum solar advantage but are carefully sited away from sensitive areas. Prime agricultural land and wildlands are protected. Precautions are taken for the predictable threats of fire, flood, wind, and cold air drainage. One of the primary objectives in permaculture is for designers to develop simple biological alternatives to reduce the need for the expensive and resource consuming demands of high technology. (Proper shading alone can reduced cooling costs even in desert areas by 20% or more.)
Permaculture designers also learn to observe and research naturally occurring plant and animal assemblies (guilds). This information is translated for use in sustainable farming. Perennial fruit trees, shrubs, and vines, together with livestock and commercial crops, are selected to mimic natural assemblies - each plant and animal benefits the other, providing a permanent and maintenance free resource system.
Comprehensive water and soil conservation planning are integral to any sustainable design. For water conservation and flood controls, permaculture designers use roofs of buildings, parking lots, roadways and landscapes for harvesting run-off water. Basin and berm structures (swales) and cisterns are constructed to collect this run-off water and convert flooding problems into helpful resources of drinking water and low cost irrigation.
For economic development, Nature's model of resource efficiency is used again. Creating community development plans is probably Permaculture Design's best application. In this process an inventory is meticulously prepared, examining a community's basic needs and cross-referenced with its renewable resources. Needs that are not met by local resources are considered job opportunities for the community. Only those resources surplus to local needs are made available as sustainable commodities for sale and trade - thus creating a stable economy based on real need and renewable resources.
"Mixed use" zoning closely mimics natural systems and is highly recommended for community land use plans. Designing residential and commercial zones as clusters allows large areas of open and wild spaces to remain intact. This creates an access-by-proximity design allowing people to live, shop, work and recreate in the same general area. Transportation and traffic problems are greatly reduced. Suburban and urban consumers can also help conserve resources and link directly with nearby farms and other rural enterprise.
Permaculture Design offers a natural, practical and inherently economical way to model our homes and communities. Permaculture also offers hope -as it effectively bridges the gap between development needs and true ecological sensitivity.