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boy looking at worm factory box

One of our more recent adventures has been the purchase of a worm farm (prior to buy nothing new month!). I was really keen to give it a try – just to see how it worked.

Here’s what we did to set it up.

1) Purchased one worm factory and one box of 1,000 worms (some of these are worm eggs and not live worms).tips for use of worms instructions on box

2) Mixed up some worm soup (peat brick and water).boy mixing muddy water in bucket

3) Set up the box and mounted it on some bricks.green worm farm box

4) Lined the inside of the top level with the cardboard packaging.cardboard instructions lining worm factory box

5) Poured in the worm soup and let it slowly drain.two boys with worm farm

6) Then put in the worms.worms in dirt

Voila, one operating worm farm! The boys had fun and we have now had the worm farm for around 8 weeks and it seems to be working well.

I haven’t put in too many kitchen scraps, as it does advise you not to overload it to start with. I have also noticed that you generally need to cut things a bit finer, whereas with the compost bin I often put vegetable scraps in without dicing them more finely.

One of the main advantages of a compost bin is the worm tea (wee) that comes out the tap at the bottom and if diluted 1:10 with water, is a great fertiliser for your garden.

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Well it’s amazing the things I get excited about! My latest discovery is EnviroLove a business focused on the collection and recycling of organic waste.

Image: Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

They have already made great headways into recycling commercial organic waste in Canberra. Essentially they are collecting food waste coming out of cafes, restaurants and teaching facilities and converting it back into soil – brilliant! Why didn’t someone think of this before?

I have been amazed when I have asked at cafes what they do with their leftover coffee grounds and they have looked at me blankly and said “throw them in the bin with everything else”. Anyway great work EnviroLove hoping to hear more about you in the future.

Also check out the article on Jahne Meyer the founder of EnviroLove at Brilliant Idea.

By the way I have finally found a place that packages their coffee grounds for gardeners/composters to take home!

Source: Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Backyard chooks appear to be making a comeback in Australia.

Certainly suburban Canberra lends itself to this pursuit, with the average backyard still big enough to fit a couple of free ranging hens. Personally, I am plotting my own foray into the world of chook ownership and have been amazed at the range of chicken related businesses around.

My grand plan is to start with an egg incubator so that our kids can see the chickens as they hatch. In the meantime, we will also need to do a bit of reconfiguration in our backyard to fit in a chicken coop. At my current rate of organisation I’ll be ready by this time next year!

Some reasons to try chook ownership include:

  • they are productive pets (i.e. they produce eggs)
  • they can get rid of grubs and add free fertiliser to your backyard
  • they eat your food scraps and
  • can help children understand in a practical way where their food (particularly eggs and chicken meat!) comes from.

For those who are a step or two ahead of me in taking on the chook ownership challenge, here are some businesses that can give you a hand.

Canberra Chooks  – Canberra

Chicks in the City  – Canberra and surrounds

City Chicks  – Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne

Hatching Chicks – Canberra

Rentachook – Sydney and surrounds, will ship to anywhere in Australia (for a small fee!)

And for all you ever wanted to know about keeping chickens see the Keeping Chickens Blogspot.

Today I was lucky enough to have my own personal tour of the EcoCentre located in the St Kilda Botanical Gardens. The centre is situated in the EcoHouse in the old ground keeper’s house which in 2003 was retrofitted to a five star equivalent standard by installing solar panels, a grey water/black water treatment system, large underground water tank, wall, ceiling and floor insulation and solar hot water.

The site includes a community garden, native plant garden and on-site composting and worm farm. The EcoCentre also runs a host of activities including weekly organic veggie box pick-ups, workshops on composting, bike repairs, redesign of old clothes etc.

Apparently there are already several other community gardens operational in the council area (City of Port Phillip) and a few more about to start up. For an area with a relatively low ratio of open space to residents, it appears that community garden plots are in high demand.

I wonder how many of these ideas are transferrable to Canberra?

I know we already have quite a few different community groups with an environmental focus, but do we have enough push factors such as restricted private open space and like-minded people close together looking for similar facilities? It seems to me that the population density and higher education facilities of Canberra’s inner north appear to attract an alternate crowd interested in food co-ops and the like, but what about the rest of us out in “the burbs”?

To me one of the major benefits of these centres, apart from the environmental outcomes, are the community building aspect, by bringing together people within a local community to work towards a common purpose. Local schools, churches and sporting groups can also help in the development of community, but maybe this is another rallying point to improve the sense of community, generate activity and reduce social isolation in our suburbs?

Source: ‘Your Guide to Becoming a No Waste Household’ ACT Government (2006)

This July, I am aiming for our family to halve our rubbish output. That means we will need to reduce:

  • 3 bins of general waste down to 1.5 bins a month, and
  • 2 bins of recycling, down to 1 full bin a month.

Sound easy?

I think it is going to be challenging! We already compost our food scraps (which apparently fills up to half of many Australian bins). So how are we going to reduce the rest and why bother trying in the first place?

Why?

  • Waste generation has increased by 31 per cent to 43.8 million tonnes over the period 2002-03 to 2006-07.
  • Food waste in landfill generates methane (25 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon).
  • Australian cities are running out of landfill space.

How?

Less plastic bags. Not just the shopping bag variety, but also the numerous other items sold in plastic bags, such as loaves of bread, potatoes, carrots and a whole variety of other fresh fruit and vegetables.

Apparently plastic bags can take up to 450 years to break down and in that time can become serial killers, as animals often mistake bags for food, after the animal dies and decomposes the bag is released back into the environment to kill again (Clean up Australia, May 2011).

Less packaging. So many things are pre-packaged, sometimes with multiple layers. Take for example cereal, cake mixes and snack food items.  Apparently every Australian throws away an average of 165 kilograms of product packaging each year! (Clean Up Australia, May 2011). Buying in bulk would help, but I am only aware of two places in Canberra where I can do that.

If you could give me any further ideas on how we could reduce our waste and places to bulk buy – I would love your help!

For more information or to take action see:

Clean Up Australia

Food Wise

National Waste Policy (Australia)