6 Reasons Why Composting & Worms are a Good Idea

April 2, 2009 at 4:33 pm 1 comment

From Annelid Adventure's in Sunny's Worm Bin
From Annelid Adventure's in Sunny's Worm Bin

When it’s rich and black gold, it’s full of nutrition.  When you stick your hand in and it comes out dry (the compost sliding off your fingers like fluffy down), it’s ready.  

[Sunny, the communications guy for FoodCycles follows up on an interview with Peter Gorrie, from the Toronto Star & National Geographic regarding the importance of good soil, composting and worm/vermicomposting. (Sunny added a few extra sentences for all you special blog readers out there that weren’t in the original email)]

Peter,

Just following up for Rebekka Hutton with some facts about why composting and growing food locally is such an important idea.  Here are those extra details that could help you with your work now or in the future.  (In fact, we’d love to have you check out our greenhouse once it’s in the full swing of things should you have the time)

1.  Your helping to heal and rebuild the land and the soil. 

You need good soil to create good food. Good soil means it needs to have all its vitamins and minerals just like we do. If you give a person good food, lots of sleep and a lot of challenge and exercise they’ve got a better chance of doing good for themselves and the community. Well the same has to be said for plants. 

You want good plants?  You’ve got to give them nutritious soil – there’s no better soil than the stuff that worms help to create. 

The food created with chemicals and pesticides is like creating people hooked on steroids and drugs.  Today’s chemically spoiled food set the stage for creating the rotten apples of today.  People know that the only way a kid can thrive is through challenge.  What challenge are we giving the plants we grow when we give them chemicals?  

Where do the worms come into this you ask?

“A CIDA-sponsored study in 1976 found that worm-populated soils increased the productivity of certain crops, like peas, by up to 300%, when compared to soils without worms (which is often what happens when chemical fertilizers are used – chemical fertilizers lead to increased salts in the soil, which worms and other life forms cannot tolerate)” (Gaddie, 1976) [1]

Worms are the guys who make it easy for plants to get those vitamins. 

“Compared to regular soil, soils with a healthy population of worms have 7 times more available phosphorus, 6 times more available nitrogen, 3 times more available magnesium, twice the amount of available carbon, and 1.5 times the available calcium.” [1]

If you did a soil analysis of worm castings (the stuff that happens after the worms are finished with it), you’d find that it had the healthiest balance of all.

“…an NPK analysis of vermicast would read approximately 1:1:1, which is a natural balance required by plants for vigorous and healthy growth. There is no issue of excessive nitrates and phosphates, and the associated concern with run-off and pollution that occurs with chemical fertilizers.” [1] (NPK = nitrogen phosphorous potassium)

2.  Your helping to rebuild local communities.  Your helping to prepare for emergencies.

By creating good soil, you are helping to put “money in the bank” as Will Allen of Growing Power Inc. would say.  It’s like investing in the book and putting aside money for a rainy day.  In this case, that money is going to make sure that we have good land to grow food with in the future regardless of any storms that come our way. 

3.  Your doing your part to reduce climate changing emissions.  At the least you’re cutting down on smog producing, lung burning air pollution.

In fact, FoodCycles has done some number crunching. According to Environment Canada, every tonne of food that goes to a landfill creates nearly a tonne of greenhouse gas emissions.  The City of Toronto transports tonnes of waste well over 82000 km annually per truck and they have over 2000 trucks doing this constantly.

That’s huge.  It’s gigantic.  Like stepping on a shovel crazy huge.

A local waste operation like FoodCycles can do that locally traveling no more than 3400 km a year. That’s a difference of 24 times.  In fact, the site we will be setting up shop has a farmers market that produces enormous amounts of waste already.  They just happen to be a 10 minute walk from our greenhouse.  That’s an even shorter distance.

Either way, it will result in at least 67 tonnes less greenhouse gas emissions just by reducing all that transportation.  This is just the beginning.  With over 100,000 tonnes of waste in Toronto there’s lots of composting opportunity.

If you could stick a low ball price tag to the waste recycling services that groups like FoodCycles could provide it would be worth at least $45000 per year just from disposal fee savings.  

Work by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund has found that leaking methane emissions from landfill is so massive that they overshadow the emissions from transporting that waste to MIchigan (which they’re still doing). That makes localized composting in general a major priority.  [2]

4.  So what about the worms!  Tell you more right?

The Living Machines

Worms are living machines that help to break down food and organic waste, helping soil bugs do the job even faster. They’re the key players in building soil. There’s even indications that worms can help to take out dioxin poisons out of contaminated soil (except that wouldn’t be very nice to the worms). 

As they travel through the soil they keep it fluffy so that air can still get in.  You know what it’s like to get a breath of fresh air after being stuck indoors all day. That’s what worms are like to the soil. They’re the guy at the door who opens it and the wind comes in and hits you in the face like “Wham”.  

Hell, that fresh air kills bad bacteria.  That’s why ozone is a cleaning agent.  It’s the natural way.  All of this happens as worms eat half their weight in food everyday, pleasantly sliding through the soil.  [1]  

Worm Food? Or Worm Food?

Worms are food too.  In fact every hectare of soil has 5 tonnes of worms on average.  My gods, can you imagine how many fish you could catch with that?  Turns out all those worms feed 25 tonnes of predators in an area.  Yeah, you heard right, Peter.  (grins) [1]

When you burn the soil with chemical pesticides and fertilizers you stick a sign saying, “Not good to eat.” Scorched earth, ya know. You wouldn’t eat charred hamburger would you? So why are we eating food grown on scorched soil?

5.  What about compost in general?

Of course, composting in general has a bunch of indirect effects too.  Compost helps soil to hold water.  Water is the blood of life.  

A guy can go without food for weeks, only a few days without water.  That’s how important water is.  You know it, we know it.

For soil to be vibrant, to nurture, holding water is about holding the blue gold too.  Being able to hold more water means you have to water soil less which helps you save water and save on the energy that would be used to pump that water to your house.  When worms go through the soil they leave a track of natural glue that acts like the foundations of a building (keep all those burrowing passages open you know) and actually seduces water molecules to stick around.  [1]

Because compost is so nutritious for plants and for other creatures, you don’t need much if any fertilizers, herbicides or fungicides to have healthy plants.  You’re giving them the V8 (the compost) and they can outlast anything.  

You’re boosting their immune system so to speak.  In fact worm compost is the best there is.  According to Peter Cundall in Organic Growing with Worms, actinomycete bacteria in worm filled soils create a natural antibiotic that fights off disease.  Talk about soil that can defend itself!  [1]

6.  How does FoodCycles start in this whole poetic picture?

By turning up to 109 tonnes of food waste into rich, vibrant compost and preventing it from going to the landfill we’ll help to lower greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 150 tonnes per year.   That’s at full capacity for one 3000 square foot greenhouse.

The plan is to plant the roots in the local community around Downsview and from their branch out like a poplar tree.  The aim is to educate, teach, train, inspire and motivate people to build more greenhouse branches in other parts of the city and then beyond.  Nothing beats the naked ambition of a tree in good soil reaching upward for the sunlight.

If at any time you need more information just give me a call at 416.845.0818.  Or drop me a line by email at torontocompost@gmail.com.  Included are some pictures from my worm composting bin just to make things amusing.  If you want more photos on what we’re doing, the greenhouse and our recent trip to Growing Power Inc in the US check out http://bit.ly/rdfPA and http://bit.ly/sp2Dh.  

Fair winds and light laughter,
Sunny Lam

Board Member (Communications, Outreach and Social Enterprise Development), MES
FoodCycles
T: 416.845.0818
E: torontocompost@gmail.com
http://foodcycles.org || LinkedIn http://bit.ly/4Yqqj || Twitter http://bit.ly/wJoQy (@sunnylam) || Facebook http://bit.ly/pqoRi
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Resources

[1] Organic Growing with Worms, by Peter Cundall
[2]  Pickering M.  2007.  Greenhouse Gases & Air Pollutants in Toronto:  Towards an Integrated Reduction Strategy.  Presentation.  Toronto, Ontario (Feb 20).

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Entry filed under: climate change, Compost, Environment & Sustainability, Food Sovereignty, Organic Agriculture, Organic Waste Management, Soil Management, Solid Waste Management, Toronto, Urban Agriculture, Vermicomposting. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. obserryododia  |  November 24, 2009 at 11:04 am

    A lot of of guys blog about this subject but you wrote down some true words.

    Reply

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