Turn Your Garbage into Gold: Urban Worm Composting Made Easy

by Lorraine Thompson on January 26, 2009

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Photo: ShyganticPhoto: Shygantic


Part One of a Copywriters’ Kitchen two-part series: Composting Myths and Facts

Think the ecological crisis is too big to tackle—that your little household has no impact on the environment? Think again.

By taking one simple step—composting your garbage—you can reduce landfill, cut greenhouse gas emissions, zap dangerous chemicals in soil and much more.

You don’t need a garden to compost. You don’t even need outdoor space.

And dig this: It’s all on account of worms.

The Big Apple now has worms in its kitchens

Today an increasing number of New Yorkers—busy people living in tiny apartments—compost. Urban composting is rising, thanks in large part to the Lower East Side Ecology Center (LESEC), an environmental non-profit organization founded in 1987.

At LESEC’s New York City Worm Composting Workshop on Saturday, January 24, 2009, the Copywriters’ Kitchen crew learned all about indoor composting.

After the workshop, we nabbed a LESEC Worm Condo kit, hurried home and set up the Condo in Copywriters’ Kitchen—in less than 20 minutes.

Now you can too.


Copywriters’ Kitchen unearths worm story ahead of The New York Times

FYI, The New York Times was on hand for LESEC’s Saturday event to be featured in the Times’ New York section.

Lorraine Thompson urging Copywriters' Kitchen photographer to start snapping photos at LESEC Worm Composting Workshop in NYC

Lorraine Thompson urging Copywriters' Kitchen photographer to start snapping photos at LESEC Worm Composting Workshop in NYC



Urban compsoting made simple by Tara DePort, LOSEC Program Director (background, left) and Carey Pulverman, LOSEC's Manhattan Project Manager (background, right). Copywriters' Kitchen's Lorraine Thompson (foreground, left), thrilled to be inching toward a green kitchen.

Urban composting made simple by Tara DePort, LESEC Program Director (background, left) and Carey Pulverman, LESEC's Manhattan Project Manager (background, right). Copywriters' Kitchen's Lorraine Thompson (foreground, left), thrilled to be inching toward a green kitchen.

Composting myths and facts

Likely you have questions and concerns about composting. Does it really make an environmental impact? Isn’t it a huge hassle? And, you know, what about worms? In your home?

Let’s dig up (sorry) some composting myths and facts:

Myth: Composting doesn’t have much impact on the environment.
Fact: Composting provides many tangible ecological benefits. Composting…

  • Cuts your garbage waste by 25%
  • Reduces landfill and allows land reclamation
  • Improves air by reducing greenhouse gas production
  • Detoxifies soil: Compost neutralizes dangerous substances, including some heavy metals
  • Reduces need for chemical fertilizers and decreases toxic rainwater runoff

For more detailed information on composting benefits, go here and here.

Myth: Composting smells stinky.
Fact: Composting is odorless when implemented properly.

Red Wiggle worms in tray. Stinky factor? Zero.

Red Wiggle worms in tray. Stinky factor? Zero.



Myth: You need a yard to compost.
Fact: Nope. All you need is 1½ square feet of space. It can be a kitchen, closet or cabinet indoors.

Myth: Composting is difficult and time consuming.
Fact: Composting is easy, fast and fun. We set up a Worm Condo in the Copywriters’ Kitchen in minutes. You can make a worm bin from scratch in half an hour. After that you just dump in scraps.

Myth: It’s expensive to compost indoors.
Fact: Composting set-up costs next to nothing. You can buy LESEC’s all-inclusive Worm Condo Kit for just $55—and even less when you attend one of their free workshops. Uber-frugal composters: You can save big bucks when you make your own bin and buy bargain-priced worms from LESEC. For complete purchasing information and instructions, see More composting resources, below.

Myth: You have to touch worms a lot in order to compost indoors.
Fact: You rarely touch worms. When you buy the worms they come in a bag or package mixed with compost, see photo, below. After you set up the bin, you can gingerly sprinkle the worms/compost without touching the worms. You add scraps and organic garbage by lifting up the fluffy damp newspaper strips that make up the bin bedding. In the beginning, worms hang out at the bottom of the bin—out of sight, mind and touch. Later, you can scoop compost with a trowel or spoon to make room for scraps.

Red Wiggler worms. You don't have to handle the worms, like this intrepid soul. You can simply sprinkle them gently into their Worm Condo.

Red Wiggler worms. You don't have to handle the worms, like this intrepid soul. You can simply sprinkle them gently into their Worm Condo.

More composting resources

Explore the Lower East Side Ecology Center (LESEC) website

Visit LESEC at the Union Square Green Market Composting Stand
North Plaza, Union Square Park
17th Street and Park Avenue South
Year-round: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 8am to 5pm
At LESEC’s Union Square stand you can:

  • Buy Worm Condo kits for just $55
  • Buy Red Wiggler worms for $22 a pound or $12 for half a pound—FYI, this is a HUGE bargain
  • Drop off organic scraps if you can’t or don’t want to compost in your apartment

Tomorrow: Check back and learn how to make your ownWorm Condo with Part Two of Turn Your Garbage into Gold: Urban Worm Composting Made Easy, Worm Composting in 7 Simple Steps

7 comments - Please leave another.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Melia April 23, 2009 at 8:03 am

Thank you for debunking the indoor composting myths that even I, a composting fan, had believed. As much as it pained me to throw away organic materials, the idea of stinky compost and worms inside just grossed me out. What you’ve laid out here seems manageable, and I just might try it. Hope other people do, too. Composting just makes sense. The City of San Francisco actually picks up compost along with the trash, but this trend hasn’t hit Jackson, Mississippi….yet.

Could you link to Part 2 at the bottom of this post? I want to pass it on, and folks will be curious about the how-to.

Lorraine Thompson April 23, 2009 at 8:28 am

Hi Melia:

Like you, I was eager to compost but procrastinated for years because I have a small kitchen–and virtually no garden.

I had heard of worm composting, but was squeamish.

As you can tell, I’m a now true believer–and not because I’m any less squeamish about worms. The truth is, I never have to see the little wigglers.

And after three months, I have yet to smell rotting organic matter–or anything at all.

Hope you give composting a try.

And yes, I will link to Part II right now. Sorry for the oversight.

Melia April 23, 2009 at 9:06 am

I’m doing an article on a local organic garden and hung out with the coordinator yesterday. He said that the newspaper inhibits the smell of compost, which I didn’t know. As you said, it’s all about doing it the right way, with the right ingredients.

My partner, Darren, logged onto your site right away to look into ordering a ready-made kit, so we’re on the path! $55 for bucket, worms, and all is a great deal.

Thanks! I realized that the “Next post” at the bottom points to Part II as well, so bases covered.

Lorraine Thompson April 23, 2009 at 9:25 am

The kit is the way to go, IMHO. And sales benefit a great green organization–the Lower East Side Ecology Center.

I am ordering a second kit soon–we have 4-5 in our family (1 child in college–but he eats a lot when he comes home!) and we eat a ton of vegies.

Looking forward to hearing how your composting turns out.

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