TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.0 INTRODUCTION 2
2.0 GOAL AND OBJECTIVES 3
2.1 GOAL 3
2.2 PRIMARY OBJECTIVE 3
2.3 SECONDARY OBJECTIVES 3
3.O PROJECT RATIONALE 3
3.1 WHY VERMICOMPOSTING? 3
3.2 WHY ORGANICS? 4
3.3 WHY OFFICES? 5
4.0 ACTOR SYSTEM 6
4.1 PRIMARY ACTORS 6
4.2 SECONDARY ACTORS 7
5.0 SYSTEM STUDY 8
5.1 DESCRIPTION OF THE SYSTEM USED 8
5.2 SUBSYSTEM: HIERARCHY OF SYSTEMS 9
5.3 BIOPHYSICAL IMPLICATIONS OF VERMICOMPOSTING 10
5.4 SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS OF 11
6.0 METHOD 12
6.1 ST. PAUL'S UNITED COLLEGE 12
6.2 THE OFFICES 13
6.2.1 THE FEDERATION OF STUDENTS 13
6.2.2 THE ALUMNI OFFICE 14
6.2.3 THE WASTE MANAGEMENT COORDINATOR'S OFFICE 14
6.2.4 THE ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES BUILDING 1 15
6.2.5 TURNKEY DESK 15
6.2.6 UW PRESIDENT'S OFFICE 16
6.2.7 OTHER DEANS' OFFICES 16
6.3 AWARENESS AND EDUCATION 17
6.3.1 THE PAMPHLET 17
6.3.2 THE CAMPUS CENTRE AND THE ES COURTYARD 17
6.3.3 VISUAL AIDS 18
7.0 QUESTIONNAIRE 18
8.0 LIMITATIONS TO THE PROJECT 19
9.0 SOLUTIONS TO PROJECT LIMITATIONS 20
10.0 RESULTS 21
11.0 DISCUSSION 23
12.0 RECOMMENDATIONS 24
13.0 CONCLUSIONS 26
14.0 BIBLIOGRAPHY 27
TABLE OF FIGURES
FIGURE 1: SYSTEM DESCRIPTION 8
FIGURE 2: HIERARCHY OF SYSTEMS 9
FIGURE 3: THE BIOPHYSICAL SYSTEM 10
FIGURE 4: THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC SYSTEM 11
TABLE OF APPENDICES
APPENDIX 1: USEFUL CONTACTS 29
APPENDIX 2: IMPRINT ARTICLE 31
APPENDIX 3: LETTER TO THE ALUMNI OFFICE 32
APPENDIX 4: MEMO TO ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES STAFF 33
APPENDIX 5: LETTER TO DR. DOWNEY 35
APPENDIX 6: VERMICULTURE PAMPHLET 37
APPENDIX 7: PHOTOS 41
APPENDIX 8: PRICE LIST 47
APPENDIX 9: FINAL LETTER TO DR. DOWNEY 48
APPENDIX 10: LETTER TO THE DEANS' OFFICES 50
APPENDIX 11: BUDGET 51
APPENDIX 12: TIMELINE 52
APPENDIX 13: CRITERIA FOR EFFECTIVE VERMICOMPOSTING 53
APPENDIX 14: CAMPUS WASTE FIGURES 56
APPENDIX 15: QUESTIONNAIRE 58
Vermicomposting, or composting with worms, converts organic waste into a dark, rich soil conditioner usable on plants and lawns. The process uses redwigglers (red worms) and other micro-organisms which eat and expel their own weight in food every day. The purpose of this project was to move towards a sustainable campus by reducing the quantities of organic waste disposed of in landfills, by implementing vermicomposting on campus offices. A variety of methods were used to increase awareness and interest, and decrease fears and concerns of vermicomposting. These include information presentations, pamphlets and booth displays. Vermicomposting bins were implemented in the Federation of Student's Office, at the Turnkey desk in the Campus Centre, and in the University's Waste Management Co-ordinator's Office. As well, interest was generated for bins to be implemented in the future for the office of the Dean of Environmental Studies and the University President's office. It was found that of the offices which implemented vermicomposting, all were very enthusiastic after initial concerns were alleviated. It has been recommended that the objectives of this project be pursued by other groups due to considerable interest displayed by faculty, staff and students at the University.
Sustainability on the campus of the University of Waterloo can never be achieved or attained. It is not reaching a new scientifically defined condition, nor it is returning to some past desirable state. Rather, it is a process that is continually changing in its goals, objectives, and directions. Sustainability allows the campus ecosystem to support a diversity of life and functions, without compromising the natural, social or economical dynamics of present and future generations. Waste management is part of this process.
Waste management on a sustainable campus would deal with waste issues at their source; i.e. eliminating packaging from bagels, before it enters the campus. However, there will always be some waste produced through basic food consumption. If this waste is to be dealt with at its source, then the campus must employ a method that would both process waste and use the end product on campus. Composting is one method that could effectively do this to manage organic waste.
Organic waste is produced almost everywhere on campus, from Food Service cafeterias to Faculty and staff offices. Most of this waste is eventually disposed of in a landfill. The relatively small size of most offices on campus makes outdoor composting inconvenient and impractical. Vermicomposting, or composting with worms, can easily manage the organic waste produced in office settings. The purpose of this project is to reduce the amount of organic waste disposed of in offices on campus through the use of vermicomposting.
· to eliminate organics, specifically food waste, from the University of Waterloo's waste stream.
2.2 PRIMARY OBJECTIVE
·to reduce the organic food component of the waste stream, by vermicomposting in selected offices on campus and attempting to achieve a high degree of participation.
2.3 SECONDARY OBJECTIVES
·to increase the awareness of vermicomposting on the UW campus.
·to alleviate participants' phobias of worms and increase acceptability of vermicomposting in offices.
·to describe the project procedure so that others can easily implement a similar project, or follow up on short and long term recommendations.
·to create a sense of community and responsibility amongst office staff.
3.1 WHY VERMICOMPOSTING?
Vermicomposting was chosen as a step towards a sustainable campus because: it reduces waste going to the landfill, its benefits are immediate and observable, it deals with waste at its source, and it is easy and simple to do.
A vermicomposting bin containing one pound of worms can divert approximately one pound of organic waste per day.(Applehof, 1982) The average office then, operating 5 days a week for approximately 46 weeks a year, will divert over 230 pounds of organic waste annually. However, this estimate does not take into account the reproduction rate of worms, which will consequently allow more organic waste to be diverted. Therefore, vermicomposting is a sustainable and effective way to reduce organic waste destined for the landfill.
Vermicomposting was also chosen because the office participants will be able to see the direct benefits of their actions. The end product of vermicomposting, called worm castings, when applied to garden soil adds phosphorus, carbon, nitrogen and potassium. The results are visibly healthier plants and lawns. Participants will also gain hands-on involvement by helping to divert their organics from the campus waste stream.
Finally, vermicomposting can be practised in the office as it requires as a maximum of five minutes daily to maintain. It is also kept inside so that participants do not have to go outside in the winter in order to compost.
3.2 WHY ORGANICS?
The diversion of organics from the University's waste stream was focused on for a number of reasons.
As organics begin to decompose, they release small amounts of minerals and nutrients into the immediate environment. This is part of the natural nutrient cycling process. However, when enormous quantities of organics are decomposing at one time, then biogas, a mixture of methane, carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), is created. The components of biogas have been known to cause increased incidents of stomach, uterine and liver cancer (CBC Centrepoint, June 5,1994). By removing even a small percentage of organic waste from the landfill, these harmful problems can be reduced.
Second, organics comprise 18.43% of the solid waste stream on campus. UW produces 2040 tonnes of garbage annually, meaning approximately 376 tonnes of organics enters the landfill each year (Cook, 1994). Offices account for 22.84% of the total waste stream, and it is estimated that 7% of this is organics. This percentage is expected to be low because garbage collection was missed during the day. However, with these figures we can assume that at least 33 tonnes of organic waste is generated from offices each year. (See Appendix 14 on page 58).
By focusing on organics a large proportion of the University's waste stream can potentially be diverted from the landfill. The portion of organics from offices can easily be diverted through in office vermicomposting.
Finally, the University has a responsibility to divert organic waste from the solid waste stream as legislated by the 3Rs regulations. These regulations, which came into effect in March 1994, will require the University of Waterloo to reduce its total solid waste output to 50% of its 1987 levels by the year 2000 (Gazette, 1994).
3.3 WHY OFFICES?
The offices of the University President (Dr. James Downey), the Federation of Students, the Alumni, the Waste Management Co-ordinator (Patti Cook), and the Dean of Environmental Studies (Jeanne Kay), were selected as potential places for vermicomposting units, over other locations on campus for five reasons.
To begin with, all of the selected offices operate year round. This is important for the maintenance and survival of the worms. Worms, if left unattended, will only survive for about a month.
The offices selected are relatively small in size. Vermicomposting is better suited to small numbers since the worm bins can quickly become overloaded if too many people are contributing organic waste to them. Smaller numbers of people are also easier to educate, train, and monitor.
The President's office was chosen because of its position in the University's hierarchy. Implementation of vermicomposting in this office will set a precedent for other offices. This will hopefully generate a trickle-down effect, encouraging other offices to also become involved in vermicomposting.
The Federation of Students' Office was chosen because of its close ties to the U.W. student population. It is thought that students will react favourably to vermicomposting and adopt the idea if other student leaders are involved with it. The Federation of Students' interaction with other universities was also a factor in targeting this office. Their interaction may facilitate the adoption of vermicomposting in other universities across the country.
Finally, Patti Cook, the waste management co-ordinator, was selected because she is in charge of waste management activities throughout the campus. If there are opportunities to expand the project to other offices it is hoped that Patti will promote the idea and initiate vermicomposting in other offices. As well, she will serve as the contact for troubleshooting in the future.
The actors involved in any project or study are not merely those presently involved with the issue of concern but those individuals or groups who were previously involved as well as those to be involved in the future. "In any specific situation, various actors will have different involvement. This may alter over time. They are also likely to have different perceptions and diagnosis of the problems, issues and opportunities." (Francis et al, 1992). A multitude of actors are involved in this vermicomposting project. Contact names and numbers are given in Appendix 1.
4.1 PRIMARY ACTORS
The members of the Worm Crew are primary actors for this project. The Crew's role was that of educators, implementors and support-staff for the vermicomposters and their respective office members.
Patti Cook has been involved in all stages of the vermicomposting project from the introduction of vermicomposting to new offices, to ordering new supplies, to the instructing offices how to harvest the vermicomposter. Patti is also involved in the actual composting process itself, as a vermicomposter has been placed in her office. Patti has been provided with books and other literature throughout the project which will ensure that she is educated about the practise of vermicomposting.
Greenbacks, an environmental store located in Westmount Place Mall on Westmount Road, Waterloo, was active in the initial stages of the project as suppliers of worms, bins and bedding. Greenbacks was chosen as a supplier primarily due to its proximity to the campus, which makes it more accessible to those organizing this project, and because of their enthusiasm for vermicomposting.
The employees and volunteers in each of the offices involved in this project are also primary actors. They will be the individuals directly affecting the amount of waste being diverted. It is their efforts that will ensure that their vermicomposter is successful and healthy.
Staff at the campus greenhouse have agreed to accept the harvested worm castings from offices on campus if members of these offices do not wish to use it themselves.
4.2 SECONDARY ACTORS
Plant operations will have to deal with less waste on a day to day basis because the organic component of the office waste will have been diverted from the waste baskets.
The staff at the UW student newspaper, the Imprint, are also secondary actors. Their involvement has helped to publicize and inform individuals on the UW campus, however, they are not directly involved with the project.
5.1 DESCRIPTION OF THE SYSTEM USED
Efforts were focused on the following offices: the President of the University - Dr. Downey, Patti Cook's office, the Federation of Students' office, the Alumni Office, the Environmental Studies I building, and the Turnkey Desk. Figure 1, on this page illustrates this system. These offices generate organic waste originating from employee homes and local restaurants; both on and off campus. UW's Food Services on campus also receives its foods from external sources. This is then dealt with by the existing Waste Management System. The organic waste is, for the most part, disposed of by transporting it to the Regional landfill. Some of the campus organics are diverted from the landfill through outdoor composters at Minota Hagey, and Environmental Studies, as well as through vermicomposting in the WPIRG office.
FIGURE 1: SYSTEM DESCRIPTION
5.2 SUBSYSTEM: HIERARCHY OF SYSTEMS
Of the total waste stream on campus, a portion is generated in the offices. Of this waste, part of it is organic and can be easily composted. This project proposes that vermicomposting is an appropriate technology for offices. The visual representation of this system is shown in Figure 2.
FIGURE 2: HIERARCHY OF SYSTEMS
5.3 BIO-PHYSICAL IMPLICATIONS OF VERMICOMPOSTING
Vermicomposting will divert waste from landfills, therefore requiring less land to be dedicated for solid waste disposal. Less organic material in the landfill will reduce hazardous methane released into the atmosphere and leachate entering into the groundwater. Reusing the worm castings can contribute to healthy soils and a reduced need for chemical fertilizers. The bio-physical systems involved are shown in Figure 3 (page 11). Vermicomposting will also allow thousands of other worms to exist. As the worms multiply, the opportunity to have another vermicomposter in the office is created and more waste will be able to be diverted from the landfill. However, if another composter is not needed in the office, the excess worms will allow those individuals involved with the composting process the opportunity to take some worms home to establish their own vermicomposter.
FIGURE 3: THE BIOPHYSICAL SYSTEM
5.4 SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS OF VERMICOMPOSTING
There are several socio-economic implications which will take place as a result of vermicomposting. For example, a heightened awareness of waste issues will be experienced by those involved. Those participating will also have the opportunity to feel good about what they are doing. The waste diverted from landfills will save money from reduced tipping fees and help prolong the life of the landfill. The natural soil conditioner obtained from vermicomposting will reduce landscaping costs and the need for artificial fertilizers. All these aspects help contribute to campus sustainability both economically and socially (See Figure 4).
FIGURE 4: THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC SYSTEM
This section outlines what was done to achieve the goals of the project. The original plans were altered periodically, as unforseen complications and opportunities arose. However, each change of direction enabled the group to gain further insight to the application of vermicomposting on campus.
6.1 ST. PAUL'S UNITED COLLEGE-STUDENT RESIDENCE
A member of the project team lived on the UW campus at St. Paul's United College during the summer term when this project was initiated. The member purchased a vermicomposter for personal use and encouraged many members of the college to contribute to it throughout the term. This was beneficial for members of the project team to experiment with the vermicomposter and gain expertise to provide advice to office staff when the need arose. The use of a vermicomposter in a student residence also provided the opportunity to increase student awareness of vermicomposting. In addition, this endeavour added credibility when describing the method of composting since it was not only "preached", but it was practised as well. Thirdly, it meant there would always be an active vermicomposter available for displays and presentations. The ability to display the product makes the concept of worms eating garbage a convincible practice. Finally, a vermicomposter at St. Paul's United College allowed the project team to educate approximately forty UW students and ten faculty/staff members about vermicomposting.
Since this implementation was only for one term (as the vermicomposter will leave St. Paul's when it's owner does), it is not considered to fit within the hierarchy of systems on campus, and it won't operate continuously as a sustainable practice.
6.2 THE OFFICES
This project focused on the possible reduction of organic wastes produced in offices. The various offices approached were each handled differently.
6.2.1 THE FEDERATION OF STUDENTS
Initial correspondence with the Federation of Students relayed the goals and objectives of the project over the phone. Correspondence was maintained with Julie Cole, Vice-President of University Affairs. She indicated that inter-office discussion was essential with office staff and with Katherine Hay (an Environmental Advisor for the Federation). On one occasion a member of the project team arrived during the lunch hour and discussed the benefits, methods and costs of the vermicomposter, and demonstrated how organics should be buried in it. The project team estimated the most appropriate size of vermicomposter for the office based on the amount of organics disposed of daily.
WATgreen funding was available for group projects, though it was limited so that the group could only afford to purchase two vermicomposters for the term. Realizing this, the project team reasoned that only after the offices indicated a financial difficulty in buying a vermicomposter themselves would the WATgreen funding be offered. The Federation decided to pay for their vermicomposting kit, and a "one-pound" vermicomposter was ordered from Greenbacks (this refers to the mass of worms in the vermicomposter). When it arrived, a training session was held for all members of the Federation's Office to answer all questions and concerns. A dish of crushed egg shells was provided to help maintain the soil's pH balance. The pamphlet, produced by a member of the project team, was given to the office members for further vermicomposting information and as a troubleshooting guide. This pamphlet can be seen in Appendix 6.
As well, a list of contacts, such as Patti Cook, Greenbacks and the project team members, was provided, in case the office staff had further question about the procedures.
The project team provided a large yogurt container and a lid as a collection bin for organics, as well as a garden fork to aid in burying the organics. All employees or guests were instructed to deposit their organic wastes the collection bin. Once a day, a single employee was responsible for burying the organic waste and checking on the vermicomposter.
The vermicomposter was checked weekly by project team members to ensure everything was working well. The secretary, who had accepted the responsibilities of supervising the vermicomposter, called a member of the project team once, with a concern about the moisture level in the box. A member was able to go to the office that same day and alleviate this concern.
The IMPRINT was notified of the training session with the Federation of Student's office, and was invited to attend. Since this was the first vermicomposter to be implemented by this project team on campus, the project team decided it would be beneficial to have the event covered in the press. A briefing was given to the reporters which clearly outlined what the objectives of this project were, and what ERS 285 was. An article which appeared in the Imprint is included in Appendix 2.
6.2.2 THE ALUMNI OFFICE
This office was initially contacted by telephone. The office co-ordinator was on holidays, so an appointment was made with her assistant. Reluctantly, the assistant agreed to inform the other office members of the presentation. A date was set for the day after the office co-ordinator had returned from holidays.
When the office was called in the morning to confirm this, they informed a project team member that this term was not the most appropriate time for such a project, but if the project team contacted them again in six months time, it would be better.
A letter and pamphlet were sent to the Alumni Office to present the opportunity for the office to learn about vermicomposting (see Appendix 3). Patti Cook's name and number were included if the staff wished to implement one in the future.
6.2.3 THE WASTE MANAGEMENT COORDINATOR'S OFFICE
Patti was consulted with frequently during the course of the project since it was imperative to inform her about the practice of vermicomposting. She decided to purchase a vermicomposter as well, and she was designated the trouble shooting expert following the completion of the project. As a trouble-shooter, Patti would be able to provide advice to offices in need of advice.
A presentation was completed for Patti in which the project team trained her to care for the vermicomposter, referred her to beneficial readings and provided names of contacts if she needed future assistance.
Patti had holidays for a period of three weeks during the term, and she trained someone else in the vicinity of her office how to care for her vermicomposter in her absence. This individual was provided with phone numbers of the project team, and was encouraged to contact them if assistance was needed. Patti plans to experiment with collection systems herself, so other staff members in her hallway could participate in vermicomposting. Patti wished to have a vermicomposter in her office not only to reduce the amount of organic waste, but also to use as both an educational tool and environmental statement.
6.2.4 THE ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES BUILDING 1
It was initially intended that a vermicomposter would be implemented in the office of the Dean in Environmental Studies. However, the Dean (Jeanne Kay) was on holidays for a large portion of the summer. The staff in her office also felt there would be insufficient room in their office to have a vermicomposter. In the absence of the Dean, the office was reluctant to commit to this project without the final approval of the head of the Faculty.
The Worm-Crew decided to assess the overall interest in the ES building. A memo was circulated to all of the staff in Environmental Studies building 1 as shown in Appendix 4. This explained that an information session in the courtyard would be held on a designated afternoon. Offices in ES1, which included Planning, ERS, Geography and the Dean, were invited. Those interested, but unable to attend were asked to sign their name and phone number so they could be contacted. The phone numbers of the project team were also provided for those who had specific questions.
6.2.5 TURNKEY DESK
A visit was made to the Turnkey Desk in the campus centre during one of the group's public presentations. Phone numbers of the worm crew members were exchanged with members of the "Greenkeys", an environmental group within the Turnkey employees. One of the members of the Greenkeys contacted the project group and set up a presentation date to explain vermicomposting to other members of the Greenkeys.
During this presentation, the project team assessed that the largest size of vermicomposter with one pound of worms would be best. It was decided that the vermicomposter would only be used by the turnkey staff, rather than by those using the Great Hall, in the Campus Centre. By doing so, greater control of the materials being put in the composter could be ensured.
6.2.6 UW PRESIDENT'S OFFICE
Initially, a telephone call was made to Dr. Downey's office. The staff agreed to confirm a time for a presentation when everyone in the office would be available. Several weeks passed without any further response from the office, so a letter was sent directly to Dr. Downey (see Appendix 5). A phone call was received from a staff member to say that they still remembered the initial contact with the project team, and that they were excited about the possibility of implementing such a vermicomposter. Again, they were trying to find a time when everyone would be available and would call back when there was a suitable opportunity.
There was no response from the President's office for some time, so a project team member called the office again, and it was learned that the President had gone on vacation. A final letter was sent explaining how their office could implement a composter in the future (see Appendix 9). A copy of the information pamphlet and Patti Cook's phone number were also included.
6.2.7 OTHER DEAN'S OFFICES
Following all presentations and implementations, a letter was sent to the Deans of each Faculty at University (Science, Arts, Engineering, Applied Health Studies, Mathematics, Independent Studies and Environmental Studies). This letter is included as Appendix 10. The project was explained to them and their offices were also challenged to implement a vermicomposter.
6.3 AWARENESS AND EDUCATION
Two awareness and education sessions were organized as a part of this project. The team also designed multiple copies of an information pamphlet to distribute, and visual aids.
6.3.1 THE PAMPHLET
An information pamphlet was designed based on a variety of sources (see Appendix 6). This pamphlet was distributed at our information sessions and during all training sessions. Greenbacks was given some copies of the pamphlet and asked to buy more at cost. This was considered a fantastic success of the project. As Greenbacks customers would have the opportunity to have a pamphlet, this is a way to educate the community about vermicomposting.
6.3.2 THE CAMPUS CENTRE AND THE ES COURTYARD
The first public information session was held at the Campus Centre in the common area. Patti Cook informed the team that the Independent Living Centre would to be setting up a display on backyard composting. The team then decided to take advantage of the opportunity to present vermicomposting display alongside the backyard composting display. Pictures of this are included in Appendix 7.
Permission was granted by the Turnkey Desk to put up a display, and the team contacted Greenbacks to borrow a variety of vermicomposting supplies including: samples of bedding, various sizes of boxes, and related literature. Greenbacks was very co-operative and accommodating of the team's efforts during the course of the project. Free jelly worms were also distributed to attract the attention of visitors. The Turnkey Desk allowed for the use of large display boards which were available from the Campus Centre. Approximately six students approached the display to ask questions while the display was set up.
The information session at the Campus Centre was advertised with signs on campus, with a high number of posters put up in the Environmental Studies building. The display was at the Campus Centre was available at 11:00 am and was available for viewing until 2:00pm.
The information session held in the Environmental Studies Courtyard was geared towards the staff of Environmental Studies. The same display used in the campus centre was used there, and free jellied worms were offered once more. The use of large display boards was not available, so posters for the presentations were simply taped to walls. This session was held between the hours of 11:00 am to 2:00 pm to capitalize on the staff's lunch break. Three Environment and Resource Studies staff members and several students came to view the display, and asked questions.
6.3.3 VISUAL AIDS
The Worm-Crew created a series of visual aids to enhance their presentations. These included handmade T-shirts (with statements like "I've Got Worms - they Eat my Garbage!", "Worms - just Chew it!" and "UW just got 4000 new employees, they're in Waste Management"). Patti Cook was given a t-shirt as well, to enhance her role in the project. Large signs were made with both humorous and informative facts. These included facts about worms and what you can feed them, as shown in Appendix 7.
A questionnaire was prepared by the project team to be distributed to those individuals in the offices who had participated either in the decision-making of having a vermicomposter, contributing to organics in the collection containers, burying the organics, or some other part. Staff and residents at St. Paul's United College were also asked to complete the questionnaire.
One of the targets of this survey was to assess if phobias of vermicomposting were alleviated by creating awareness about vermicomposting and by implementing it. The effectiveness of the pamphlet was also tested and the degree of participation with the vermicomposter was measured.
It was decided that the survey would be more valuable if conducted after a longer period of implementation. Since the vermicomposters had only been implemented for a relatively short time period at the end of the term, the Worm-Crew did not feel the full vermicomposting cycle had been fully completed. Therefore, their written and approved questionnaire would be better utilized four to six months later, after the castings and worms had been separated (thus completing the cycle).
As with all projects, limitations and obstacles occur along the way and this project is no exception. A major limitation to this project was the short time period of three months. Within this short time, the worm crew had to plan, implement and monitor the various vermicomposters. In order to do adequate monitoring, a longer time period would be necessary. Since the bedding needs to be changed approximately every six months it would be ideal to monitor each vermicomposter for six months following its implementation.
The inability of people to accept change and welcome new ideas was also a major obstacle to overcome. Maintaining and harvesting the vermicomposter requires at least one dedicated person from the respective offices with a keen interest in reducing waste.
A less obvious limitation was a strong phobia of worms! Many people tend to be squeamish about the prospect of handling worms or allowing worms to live in a box near their desk. That, coupled with a heavy work load, made it difficult to implement a vermicomposter into every office we approached.
Funding issues were suspected to be a possible source of limitations. However, only the Alumni Office questioned who was going to be paying for the vermicomposter; all other offices covered the costs themselves. In the future, this may continue to be a limitation depending on which offices are approached and their financial situation. (For the vermicomposter price list see Appendix 8.)
Finding a time when all members of the office were available for a presentation was another limitation. Some offices (like Dr. Downey's) felt it was imperative that all members of the office be present during a training session. However, this created a great deal of difficulty as a common time could not be found.
Perceptions of the group may have been unrealistic in terms of what each group member could handle in addition to other course loads. Perceptions and expectations of others may also have been weak in terms of what the group expects office staff to handle and be willing to accept. Being environmental studies students with a genuine concern for the environment, it can be easily overlooked that other people may not have the same concern or interest in environmental matters.
Finally, this season may have also been a limitation to the success of the project. During the summer term not all staff are present since people are taking vacations and going on sabbaticals. Therefore, if a significant number of people were not present during scheduled presentations, they would not have been able to get the first hand training and information about vermicomposting. It only requires a few untrained individuals to cause a lot of problems in a vermicomposter. However, it is possible that the set-up and refining of the program might have been easier with fewer people in each office.
For this project, and all others, planning and a wise use of time are the only solutions to the ever present time constraints. Education and effective presentations were able to alleviate the fear of worms in many individuals. Funding issues were and can be worked out between the initiating office and the WATGreen Program as shown in Appendix 11. Each office that implemented a vermicomposter this term paid the full price of the composter. WATGreen paid for some of the supplies and for the production costs of the project.
There is little that can be done if there is not a dedicated individual present in the particular office. Training sessions can help make people feel comfortable about working with worms, but will not guarantee that someone can always find the time to look after them. Encouragement and regular check-ups could help, but are impractical in the long-term. Similarly, it is unlikely that any group will be able to change the human desire to maintain the status quo. Some individuals resist change and may make it very difficult to implement any sort of changes in the office. The only answer for this challenge is to try to make incremental changes. On-going education regarding the benefits of such changes may be one way to gradually share stories which could improve attitudes. If the office is implementing a whole new recycling programme, it may be a bad time to try to implement a vermicomposter as well.
It is difficult sometimes, being a student in environmental studies, to understand that not everybody sees the environment as their number one priority. This must be kept in mind when making presentations or confronting various offices with the idea of implementing a vermicomposter. It is unlikely that you will be able to benefit the environment if you offend everyone in your attempts to save it! The issue of having everyone available for a presentation is easily solved by conducting more than one presentation. However, with proper training, staff members should be able to train other members of their office to ensure that everyone is aware of how to properly vermicompost.
The following section outlines the various activities that took place throughout the vermicomposting project, the successes and those things that didn't go quite as planned. Further discussion about these various points is outlined in the section following, entitled "Discussion".
Vermicomposting units were successfully implemented in the following offices or locations on campus:
· Federation of Students' Office,
· Waste Management Office,
· Turnkey Desk, and,
· St. Paul's United College Residence.
Although originally selected as one of the project's target offices, the Alumni Office did not receive a presentation or a vermicomposter, due to other activities occurring in that office at the time of project implementation.
Also targeted was the University President's office. Although great interest was shown, an opportunity to make a presentation has not yet been realized.
All offices involved purchased their vermicomposter from Greenbacks through the project group. There was no expectation that anyone else should pay for the vermicomposter other than the offices themselves. This willingness to accept the financial responsibility to vermicompost is a clear indication of each office's positive attitude towards this project.
Presentations were made to the offices mentioned above as part of both their education and training. As well, displays were set up in a number of locations in order to reach our objective of increasing awareness of vermicomposting and its benefits on campus. These displays were set up in the Campus Centre and in the Environmental Studies Courtyard.
The Campus Centre display generated quite a bit of interest from the general university population and was the catalyst to implementing a vermicomposter at the Turnkey desk. Members of the Turnkey desk knew that the Federation of Students had already implemented a vermicomposter from their personal interaction and from the article in the IMPRINT.
The Environmental Studies display had limited success, with only a few students and professors visiting. It was hoped that this display/demonstration would result in the implementation of a vermicomposter in the Dean's office, however, due to lack of interest during the day of the display as well as other limitations, implementation there was never realized.
Although many changes in the original project plan occurred throughout the term, the vermicomposting implementation project was overall a great success. Four vermicomposters were implemented which was the initial target number. The actual locations varied somewhat due to a variety of circumstances -largely beyond our control.
The Dean of Environmental Studies expressed interest originally but went on holidays for a significant part of the term and therefore was unavailable for implementation. The University President's office revealed a similar situation in their expressed interest. Unfortunately, due to the short length of the term, the project drew to a close before the opportunity to make a presentation to Dr. Downey and his staff arose. It would be advantageous to the successful implementation of vermicomposting in a greater number of offices on campus to have a vermicomposter in Dr. Downey's office. It would also set a strong precedent for other offices both on campus and at other universities.
The enthusiasm of the staff in the Federation of Students' office towards vermicomposting will certainly have a positive influence on other offices as well as on the students of UW. It is hoped that having a vermicomposter in this location will provide an opportunity for students on campus to become educated about vermicomposting. As well, such a program can set a precedent for the student organizations of other universities across the country.
The willingness of the various offices to pay for their own vermicomposting unit was not only an advantage from a budgeting perspective, but also demonstrated the interested and dedication of the various offices to commit to the success of the vermicomposting process. Having each office pay for their own unit also provides them with a greater sense of ownership which will also aid in ensuring that the vermicomposter is effectively and successfully maintained.
It is recommended that:
· the existing vermicomposters be monitored to ensure their continued success within their respective offices.
· individuals currently involved in vermicomposting be given the prepared questionnaire to assess their general feelings and attitudes towards vermicomposting and how these might have changed following its implementation
· a compiled list of all offices on campus, with their names and phone numbers, should be made readily available. This would make the process of approaching other offices to implement vermicomposting easier and more efficient.
· if future offices are unwilling to pay for their vermicomposter, for whatever reason, negotiating a cost-sharing purchasing method would be a good idea. This would encourage the office to contribute, since they have personally invested in the vermicomposter, and also show a spirit of co-operation between offices.
· time be spent approaching other offices on campus to see if they would be interested in implementing a vermicomposter. Special attention should be made with the Deans' offices. Advertising could be done through the Gazette (the on campus paper, published by UW for the entire UW Community).
· those implementing vermicomposting own a composter of their own (either individually or as a group), so that they better understand the process and can be of greater help those new to vermicomposting.
· a quantitative study of the vermicomposters already implemented be conducted. Having measured data of the food waste being composted would be useful for determining how much organic waste could potentially be diverted from the landfill. It would also give the participants involved a greater sense of accomplishment in knowing their contribution to improving our environment.
· future public presentations be more flashy and interactive to reach more people.
· the individual who will be making the decision regarding the implementation of the vermicomposter, within their office, be contacted initially when setting up possible presentation times.
· the staff and faculty of St. Paul's United College be explored as a possible future location for vermicomposting implementation. Their management team should be contacted at the main office.
· a central list of who currently has a vermicomposter be established and maintained in the Waste Management Office.
· offices with vermicomposters be encouraged to share their multiplying worms with other offices so that these new offices can start their own vermicomposters.
· attempts be made to implement vermicomposters into local elementary and secondary schools.
Vermicomposting has proven to be a success so far in its implementation on campus. It is designed to be sustainable within the campus system and therefore meets the mandate of both the vermicomposting project group as well as that of WATgreen, the organization under which this project was carried out.
With many of the objectives met during the process of the project, it is very possible that with further education and awareness the overall goal of eliminating organics from the campus waste stream can be realized through vermicomposting.
Applehof, M. Worms Eat My Garbage. Flower Press: Michigan, 1982.
Burns, R. The Wormletter. 1993
Canadian Original Vermicomposter Ltd. Office Implementation. 1993.
CBC - Centrepoint. Radio Show. Toronto, Ontario, June 5, 1994.
Chiras, D. Daniel. Environmental Science: Action for a Sustainable Future. The Benjamin Cummings Publishing Co. Inc., 1991.
Environment Canada. Federal Environmental Stewardship. Ottawa,
Environment Canada. Worms At Work: A Guide to Office Composting.
Fetterly, Rhonda; Fox, Shari; Gjertsen, Heidi; Hart Ramsey;
Thompson, Jill. Evaluation of Composting Programs on Campus.
Green Earth Environmental Products. Vermicomposting. London,
Ontario: Green Earth Environmental Products Store. 1989.
Ministry of Environment and Energy. Vermicomposting. 1991.
Mississauga Clean City Campaign. Vermicomposting. 1990.
Mississauga Clean City Campaign. Vermicomposting At Home. 1991.
Region of Peel. Waste Management Programs. Brampton, Ontario, 1994.
Sure-sprout. Wormerater Composter. 1992.
Vandermoer, J. Composting on the Tenth Floor: Red Wigglers Do the
Trick. Earthkeeper Magazine pp. 22-27. Delhi, Ontario, 1991.
Vierrge, Linda. Personal Comments. University of Waterloo.
Waterloo, Ontario, June 7, 1994.
USEFUL CONTACTS FOR VERMICOMPOSTING ON CAMPUS
Patti Cook, Campus Waste Management co-ordinator
Patti is responsible for all waste reduction activities on campus, and therefore vermiculture within offices is of interest to her. She can provide information and assistance in all composting endeavors. If money or materials for the vermicomposter are needed, or for alternative contacts, Patti will be of help.
ph: 885-1211 ext. 3245, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Roy Weber, Greenbacks Environmental Store, WestMount Place Mall
Roy is an employee at Greenbacks and serviced the vermicomposters used in this project. He can be contacted when information for troubleshooting is needed. Roy can also provide additional composting material when needed (worms if they die, bedding).
Linda Vierrge, WPIRG U of W campus
Linda is a staff member at WPIRG where a vermicomposter has been successfully implemented into an office atmosphere. Linda may be contacted if any interested offices wish to know more about how to
maintain a successful composter, or if an office wished to know how to use a do-it-yourself vermicomposter.
Lynn Hoyle, Campus Greenhouse
Lynn is a staff member at the greenhouse who would be interested in accepting harvested compost from vermicomposters from offices. Lynn can be contacted through the campus switchboard at 885-1211.
OTHER USEFUL CONTACTS
Composting Expert- Recycling Council of Ontario
489 College St., Suite 504
Phone: (416) 960-1025
Mississauga Clean City Campaign
161 Lakeshore Rd. W.
Phone: (905) 274-6222
Nigel Chubb, Technical Analyst for the Region of Peel
10 Peel Centre Dr.
Phone: (905) 791-7800 ext. 4727
Office of Environmental Stewardship
(office in the Federal Government that develops and implements ideas pertaining to environmental stewardship)
10 Wellington St. 5th Floor
Phone: (819) 953-6457
Susan Suave, Region of Waterloo
Waterloo Region Recycling Hotline
Phone: (519) 886-2634
St. Paul's United College, UW
July 25, 1994
University of Waterloo
Dear Joy Roberts:
I apologize for not contacting your office earlier. I am a member of the group that had arranged to make a presentation to the Alumni Office at noon, on June 20, 1994 regarding the possible use of vermicomposters in your office. We received a telephone call that morning informing us that this was a very bad term to try to do anything with the Alumni Office because you were undergoing renovations and many staff members were taking their holidays. This was unfortunate but we hope that your office will be interested in pursuing the implementation of a vermicomposter in the future.
Our group was successful in putting vermicomposters in four different locations on campus this term. These initiatives were done through the Environmental Resource Studies class 285 -WATGreen; the greening of the campus course. The Federation of Students, the Turnkey Desk, St. Paul's United College and the Waste Management Office have each implemented a vermicomposter to help divert their organic waste from the landfill. This is a very exciting project that promises to grow in the future. After only six years, these small vermicomposters can divert over a ton of garbage! This could mean significant savings for the university in terms of waste disposal costs. The UW President, Dr. James Downey, is also considering implementing such a composter in the near future.
Again, it was unfortunate that we were unable to see you this term. Each member of our project team will be on co-op during the fall, but Patti Cook in the Waste Management Office would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please call her if you'd like to learn more about vermicomposting and how to start one in your office. We have enclosed a copy of a pamphlet we developed this term which explains the basics of vermicomposting.
St. Paul's United College
Westmount Road North
June 17, 1994
Dr. Jim Downey
University of Waterloo
Dear Jim Downey,
Hello! My name is Ryan Kennedy and I'm in 2B ERS and Geography. I had the pleasure of meeting you last fall at St. Paul's United College. I've enclosed a picture of you and the sign I made for your welcome. It would be great if you could come by again at some point.
I am writing you this letter to introduce you and your office to a project I have been working on with 3 other ERS students. We have initiated a vermicomposting program on campus with Patti Cook, the UW Waste Management Co-ordinator.
The ongoing effort to reduce the amount of garbage we are throwing out has resulted in the development of numerous composting projects on campus. This term, our group from ERS 285 (WATGreen) has been educating various offices about the benefits of vermicomposting (composting with worms). These indoor composters are ideal for offices and can turn your coffee grounds and lunch scraps into a valuable soil conditioner as well as reduce the amount of garbage we're sending to the landfill. These are obvious environmental benefits, but there are also clear economic advantages.
I'm sure you are aware of Ontario's 3R's Regulations that will require this institution to reduce its total amount of garbage disposed of to 80% of its 1987 levels. Organics comprise over 25% of UW's waste stream, and we feel vermicomposting is a feasible method to reduce the food waste being thrown out.
Vermicomposters, such as the one implemented in the Federation of Students' office, will divert over a ton of garbage in only six years! This is not taking into consideration that worms can easily double in number after 6 months. If this is considered, more than a ton could easily be diverted in only 2 years.
We hope that you and your office will be interested in learning more about vermicomposting and the possibility of implementing a composter. We would be delighted to present to you on the matter.
I was very pleased to read in a recent issue of Canadian Business that you are working hard to diversify UW's reputation. I think you would be making a very strong statement not only to the rest of campus, but to our community as well, that the UW's Environmental Studies program is a leader that inspires action and change.
Thank you for considering this, and I look forward to hearing from you. I can be contacted at St. Paul's United College or at 725-7672. I truly hope we will be able to share some ideas.
APPENDIX 6 - THE PAMPHLET
The following is the information
pamphlet that was produced by
Janet Joynt - Worm Crew Member.
It was distributed at all of our
information sessions and to all
offices that implemented a
vermicomposter, or those
offices that were contacted through
Staff and students at St. Paul's United College
were also given copies of the pamphlet.
A copy was mailed to the Federal Government's
Environmental Stewardship Office.
APPENDIX 7 - PHOTOS
Price List of Vermicomposters
From GREENBACKS, the environmental store.
- prices as they were on July 27, 1994.
Small Bin includes: book Worms Eat My Garbage, half a pound of worms, bedding and bin with lid and holes
this size bin was implemented in Patti Cook's office and in Ryan Kennedy's
room at St. Paul's United College.
Large Bin includes: book Worms Eat My Garbage, one pound of worms, bedding and large bin with lid and holes
this size bin was implemented at the Federation of Students and the Turnkey Desk.
Book, Worms Eat My Garbage, $12.95
Large Sized Bin, lid and holes, $19.95
Small Sized Bin, $15.95
Worms, one quarter pound $10.95
Bedding - large bag, $ 5.95
All above prices do not include provincial sales tax, or g.s.t.
St. Paul's United College
University of Waterloo
July 25, 1994
Dr. Jim Downey
University of Waterloo
Dear Dr. Jim Downey:
This is Ryan Kennedy, a member of the project team which informed different offices across campus this term about vermicomposting. It was unfortunate that we did not have the opportunity to explore the benefits of vermicomposting with you and your office. I understand that you have discussed the possibility of implementing such a composter with your staff. Our project team sincerely hopes that you will pursue this method of waste reduction in the future. The precedent that you could set on campus would truly make a statement about your commitment to environmental studies.
Our project was very successful this term. We were able to implemented four vermicomposters this term with the: Federation of Students, the Turnkey Desk in the Campus Centre, St. Paul's United College and in Patti Cook's Waste Management Office. This was very encouraging and we are certain that more offices will be added to this list in the future.
Patti Cook has been fully trained on vermicomposting and would be able to help you in the fall term if you decide to pursue this further.
Again, thank you for your interest in vermicomposting. It is unfortunate that we did not have a chance to make a presentation to you this term. We have included with this letter a copy of the pamphlet we developed this term that explains the basics of vermicomposting. We have also completed a full report of our project for our class, Environmental Resource Studies 285 (WATGreen, greening the campus), which will be on reserve in WPIRG and in Patti Cook's office.
Good Luck in the fall! Each member of this project team has been placed in the Ottawa Region for their work term, but Patti would be more than willing to answer any questions you might have concerning vermicomposting.
St. Paul's United College
University of Waterloo
Faculty of *
University of Waterloo
July 27, 1994
This letter is being sent to you to inform you of an innovative WATGreen project which was initiated this term by four students in Environmental Resource Studies. WATGreen is the course which encourages UW students to develop and implement ideas that will make our university more sustainable environmentally, economically and socially. This term our project team implemented vermicomposting in different offices on campus. These composters, which use worms to eat organic wastes, can be found in the Federation of Students' office, the Turnkey Desk in the Campus Centre and in Patti Cook's (Waste Management Co-ordinator) office.
These new vermicomposters promise to reduce the amount of organic waste currently being sent to the landfill site. Not only will this help save money for the university from reduced waste disposal costs, but will create a valuable soil conditioner which can be used by members of each office.
We are writing to challenge you and your office to implement a vermicomposter. It is easy to maintain (less than 5 minutes a day!) and can make a significant difference in the amount of garbage you send to the landfill.
We have included a pamphlet about vermicomposting. For more information, please contact Patti Cook in the Office of Waste Management (X 3245). Patti has been fully trained on vermicomposting and will be very happy to talk to you.
on behalf of the project team
WATGreen, ERS 285, Spring 1994
This budget outlines the various costs that were incurred throughout the vermicomposting program based on the implementation of vermicomposting into four offices.
ITEMS TOTAL COST RAKES
-to assist in burying organics $8 PAMPHLET
-design and publishing $10 PRESENTATION MATERIALS
-paper, bristol board etc. $5 T-SHIRT MAKING MATERIALS $9 MISCELLANEOUS
-photocopying, laminating, etc $5 CORRESPONDENCE
-letters, phonecalls, faxes, etc $15 PHOTO DEVELOPING $10
DATE ACTIVITY PERSON May 23 -project definition planning All May 20 - 27 -become experts All May 23 - 27 -set up/book presentation
appointments Ryan May 26 -project definition due Janet May 26 - Jun 1 -make budget Jennie June 1 - 20 -design pamphlet Janet -design visual aids All June 9 -"Study Design" due Kathy -t-shirt party/dinner @ 5pm All June 15 - presentation and training at Federation of Students Off. All June 16 -"Study Design Critique" due Jennie June 20 -The "Educate Patti Cook"
presentation All June 27 -Campus Centre Display 11-1 All July 4 -display/presentation in ERS courtyard All July 5 -presentation/training to Turnkey desk staff Jennie,
Kathy, Ryan July 11 -final draft and presentation planning All July 13 -implementation of vermicomposter at Turnkey Desk All -submit survey for approval at office of Human Research Jennie July 14 -draft of final report due All July 19 -class presentation All July 28 -final report due All
1.O INITIAL SET-UP
One of the criteria for a successful vermicomposting program is an initial set-up of the composter. This includes a favourable location and an appropriate container for the worms in order to maintain a sustainable environment for them.
1.1 TEMPERATURE: Red worms can tolerate a temperature range, between 5-29 C. Bedding temperatures any higher could be harmful to the worms. Thus vermicomposters should not be placed in an area in the hot sun or in a cold place (Appelhof, 1982).
1.2 MOISTURE: All worms need moisture. They "breathe" through their skin, which must be moist for exchange of air to take place. Since water can always be added to bedding when necessary, it is important that the worm bin does not become flooded either, as the worms would drown (Appelhof, 1982).
1.3 VENTILATION: Worms use oxygen in bodily processes, just as humans. Constant circulation of air is an important consideration for the vermicomposters. Wrapping a bag around the composter for example, would quickly smother the worms (Appelhof, 1982).
1.4 LOCATION: The worms will survive if all of the previous basic requirements in a vermicomposter are met. The location of the composter should be easily accessible, for the convenience of those that manage it, and in a place which will not create a hazard of any kind (Fetterly et al, 1994).
1.5 AESTHETICS: In particular offices, locating the worm bin will depend on it's appearance. Assessing the available space and determining if it is to be simply functional and out of the way, or whether it should be a centre of attention needs to decided (Appelhof, 1982)
1.6 DESIGN: Vermicomposters can be hand-made or purchased ready-made, but a sturdy and long-lasting design is essential. The size of the bins is determined by the amount of organics which will be put into the composter- which is dependent on the number of staff within an office. The bin should be at least 1 x 3 to 1 x 2 m deep. A bin with greater surface area, provides better aeration and more locations to bury waste on a rotating basis (Appelhof, 1982).
2.0 GETTING STARTED
One aspect to starting a vermicomposting program in an office is to estimate how many people will be using the composting system, and to assess the attitudes and perceptions of those in the office. This way the feasibility of success can be determined. There should be easy access into the composter to be able to turn the material over regularly (Fetterly et al, 1994). If time is a limit to assemble the composter (creating bedding, adding worms) then another option is to purchase a complete vermicomposting unit already assembled. This includes bedding, worms and a bin with a removable lid which has holes for aeration (Appelhof, 1982).
3.0 USE, MANAGEMENT, AND MONITORING
3.1 FOOD WASTE: Putting the proper food waste into a vermicomposter contributes to making a composter work successfully. Potato peels, fruit rinds, vegetable leftovers are all products which can be added to the composter. Other acceptable materials include coffee grounds, tea leaves, eggshells, and tea bags (Appelhof, 1982).
Waste which should not be put in includes fish, meat, grease, oil, bones or non-biodegradable materials. For a more complete list of items which cannot be composted see Appendix 6. Putrefaction (the breakdown of proteins in meat by decay) can produce offensive odours. Mice and rats may be attracted to a worm bin containing meat. Also picking bones out of worm castings during harvesting may injure hands from sharp edges (Appelhof, 1982).
3.2 BURYING THE FOOD WASTE: To feed the worms, a plastic container with a tight lid handy to store waste in, can collect all organic waste that will eventually be fed to the worms. The vermicomposting bin should be broken into "cells" to ensure that waste is buried in a different location each day. In order to keep track, a record sheet illustrating these cells should be placed on top of the composter and marked of as each cell is filled.
Covering newly deposited waste each time with an inch or so of bedding will prevent odours from attracting fruit flies. If there is not a problem with odour, then there should not be any means to attract animals or pests (Appelhof,1982).
When the worm bedding becomes darker, worm castings will become evident. Soon, much of the bin contains primarily castings and the bin must be harvested. There are various methods to do this. One of the easiest is to place food on one side of the composter so all the worms will move to one side. This leaves the other to be harvested without removing any worms. Then this can be repeated for the second half to be harvested. Once fully harvested, new bedding must be added with the new worms in order to continue the vermicomposting process. The harvested compost can then be used as a soil enhancer (Appelhof, 1982).
APPENDIX 14 - CAMPUS WASTE FIGURES
SOURCE: COOK, 1994
SOURCE: COOK 1994
The following is a copy of the Questionnaire
which was written by our Worm Crew.
It has been approved by the office of Human Research on
the UW Campus.
It is suggested that this questionnaire be conducted
after the vermicomposters implemented through
this project have be in use for approximately