10. Start a worm bin

I’ve been wanting to create a worm bin ever since I lived in Indianapolis (this was another thing on the original list that took me some time to get to). My sister and her husband had one for many years, and I just thought it was the coolest thing ever (basically I think everything my sister does is cool, and this was no exception). There were a number of reasons that I wanted to do this: (1) I want to be like my sister, (2) we use worm bins at the farm (and as cool as I think my sister is, I also think that anything we do at the farm is just as cool), and (3) I wanted to reduce my overall food waste.

I have talked to many of my friends that have also lived on their own and we all agreed on the same thing: people that live alone create a lot of food waste. Think about it. If you have a recipe that calls for 1 single rib of celery, and celery is sold in a bag with two full stalks, it is almost impossible for one single person to eat all of that celery before it goes bad. (This is always my example because the way that celery is sold makes me so irate. Just sell me one or two ribs at a time, please!) But seriously…for someone that wants to eat healthy, waste like this happens all the time with more than just celery. I’m sure this also happens in homes with more than one person, but I’m basing my information on my own living situation.

In comes vermicompost (which is a fancy way for saying that worms eat your food, poop it out, and the poop is used as compost). It sounds disgusting, I know, but it doesn’t smell like poop, and it doesn’t even feel like poop. It looks, feels, and smells like soil. And the process is totally amazing and totally free (once you pay for your worms and tools, that is)!

There are a variety of bins available. The easiest way is to let somebody set the whole thing up for you. Urban Worm Girl can help you with that (they even have parties so you can get together with a group of your friends and they will teach you everything about vermicompost…sounds like my kind of party!). If you want a complete DIY project, this one is super easy (and I’m happy to help if you need it).

I started with two 10 gallon Rubbermaid containers. You can do bigger or smaller, but since I only live with one other person, we don’t create too much food waste and anything larger would be excessive. Also, you will want to use containers that are completely opaque, as worms don’t like light. You will also need a drill with a 1/4 bit. (I had purchased the chicken wire and the duct tape because I was going to set my bin up differently, but decided not to move forward with that idea). So really, you only need the containers and the drill to start.

The tools

The tools

Drill 8-10 holes, about 2 inches apart, along the top of each bin and just under the lip where the container goes in to allow for air to get in:

Drill holes along the bottom of the bin, again, about 2 inches apart:

The reason for the air holes is, most obviously, for air. But also if your food and bedding gets too wet, the holes on the bottom will allow it to drain out so that your worms don’t drown and your compost doesn’t start to smell.

Once all of your holes are drilled, you’ll flip one lid over, stack the two bins on top, and put the other lid on the top bin. Voila, you’re done! (I told you it was easy!)


I ended up purchasing some cheap paving bricks from Home Depot so that my bins could sit up off of the ground a little bit. This just allows for additional air to get into the bin, as well as allows the excess moisture to drip onto the bottom lid. Here’s a wonderful tutorial that I followed: http://www.vermicompost.net/rubbermaid-worm-bin-plans/.

Once your bin is made, you should make the bedding. I created my bedding with newspaper and cardboard, and the day I created my bedding is the day I ordered the worms, so that the bin is warm and damp for the worms arrival (think about how soil feels…this is how worms like it). I ordered my worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm and they arrived in about 3 days (I think this description of the 500 red composting worm mix that I ordered is hilarious). You can also check with a local organic farmer or gardener to see if they have any worms they’d like to spare (and you might get them for free!).

They come in this little bag.

They come in this little bag.

WormBin_5Once you get your worms, add them to your top bin and cover them with bedding. I waited a day or so to add food so that they could get adjusted. I’m learning that it’s important to cover the food scraps with bedding, otherwise you will have to deal with fruit flies (I’m currently working on starving out the fruit flies…those suckers are persistent!). The worms will eat just about anything. Here’s a complete list of what you can and cannot feed them: http://www.vermicompost.net/what-do-worms-eat/.

I’ve had my worms for just about a month. My bin started with just damp newspaper and cardboard. And look at it now!

WormBin_7Anything that’s brown and looks like soil is actually worm castings. So they’ve taken my food waste, the newspaper, and the cardboard and have turned it into a nutrient-rich compost that I will use in my (future) garden.