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Composting worms turn the spoil into soil

Composting worms make The Dateline fun and sustainable

By Indira Zaldivar

Over 100 little red wigglers displayed the wonders of composting in a small 8-quart plastic tote during the two-day Earth Day event in the Sciences and Technology Building.

These red wigglers were not brought temporarily to show Gators how indoor composting happens; they live on campus. I brought them in a small bin into The Dateline office in October 2021, and they have lived here since.

They work around the clock to transform the organic waste of the newspaper staff into a nutrient-rich solid additive which plant enthusiasts commonly refer to as “black gold.”

The red wigglers have inspired The Dateline staff, such as News Section Editor Amy Nguyen, to learn more about composting.

“The worms have shown me how incredible they can be for helping the environment,” Nguyen said.

The hardworking newspaper team constantly fuels on coffee and consequently so do the red wigglers. Coffee grounds, as well as any post-consumer waste such as fruit and veggie scraps, extra newspaper, toilet paper rolls, etc., are fed to our worms.

The Dateline’s Assistant Editor Edward Saenz said feeding the worms makes him feel good as he’s helping the environment.

“I’ve enjoyed learning about the worms, how they work and what they can and can’t eat,” Saenz said, “as well as being able to share that knowledge with other people in and out of the office.”

The Dateline’s indoor compost bin diverts our organic waste away from landfills, which are the third largest source of methane emissions in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Methane is 25 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, thus, a powerful greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.

“Composting indoors makes me feel mindful of what I’m putting into the environment,” Nguyen added.

Contrary to popular belief, indoor composting is not dirty. A well-maintained indoor worm bin does not stink up the office nor attract unwanted organisms.

Conversely, undiverted trash ends up in landfills which are 100% toxic-level dirty. For example, landfills host a feast for disease-spreading pests. They pollute the soil; water table, and air in our environment. Composting is an environment-friendly activity that makes use of two categories of waste labeled as greens and browns. Greens are rich in nitrogen (fruit and veggie scraps, peels, spent coffee and tea grounds, etc.). Browns are carbon-rich waste (cardboard toilet paper rolls, coffee filters, newspaper, and yard waste).

“I used to throw everything in the trash without hesitation,” Saenz added. “Now I find myself thinking about everything I eat, and if it’s safe to throw away, toss into the yard, or give to the worms.”

While composting has been a therapeutic activity that I started at home with my family during the COVID-19 lockdown, I was afraid my office mates would reject the worm bin. Fortunately, the worm bin in the office has facilitated a discussion and demonstration of how sustainable efforts are a win-win for people and the environment.

For example, The Dateline’s writer Anita Goolcharan said the worm bin in the office has served as an educational tool that has facilitated composting.

“I am always learning about the worms and what composting can do,” Goolcharan said.

“Because the compost bin is accessible to me, it makes it so easy for me to compost my leftovers from lunch. Even though it’s such a small step, it helps me feel good about doing something for our planet!”

The planet needs composting as it is one way to counteract climate change by reducing municipal waste and harmful gases.

The EPA says composting also reduces the need for chemical fertilizers, multiplies beneficial bacteria and fungi which break down organic matter, enriches soil to help retain moisture, and suppresses plant diseases and pests.

Seeing The Dateline team dispose of organic waste into the worm bin and care for the earth together is a big green plus to the many rewarding experiences that the busy and talented news staff has gifted me with.

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Last updated 4/28/2022 7:32 AM