Office Worm Farms
Dr Jennifer Henry, from the University of Melbourne's Advancement Team tells us about her experience starting a worm farm for her office and getting her colleagues on board to take part in a wonderful sustainability effort.
"The “light bulb” moment happened in mid-2016 while preparing lunch in our office kitchen. My colleague and I discussed our home composting habits while disposing of food scraps into the landfill bins at the office – thwarted by the lack of greener options. Lamenting the lack of food waste infrastrucutre, she said that she felt like the “least green version” of herself at work. My mind started racing. Here was an opportunity to initiate a project that would build visibility for the sustainability agenda within Advancement! Let’s get a worm farm!
One conversation about vermiculture with Dr Tony Weatherly in the Faculty of Vet and Agricultural Science, and Advancement was on its way to acquiring its first worm farm. Over the subsequent 12 months, we have all but eliminated our office food waste going into landfill.
Early efforts saw us diverting compostable food waste to the University’s Community Garden (often in high heels en route to a meeting with a donor!). In late 2016, moving offices from Barry Street to the Raymond Priestley Building provided an opportunity to expand - the new digs had a balcony! Fresh air, out of the way of foot traffic, and protected from the weather – perfect for our own long-awaited worm farm.
In July 2017, the worm farm arrived and a group of colleagues agreed to install and monitor the farm. Using this as our flagship initiative, we signed up to Green Impact as ‘Green Advancement’; eight passionate members advocating for a sustainable workplace.
We continue to encourage colleagues to donate their scraps, being very clear about what the worms do and don’t like. The response has been overwhelming. Within six weeks the farm was full, and we purchased a second (larger) unit. This now keeps up with food scraps from 60-odd staff. Our worm farm now produces around a litre of liquid fertiliser every day, so now we’re educating the staff about taking it home to help their gardens thrive, and using it to feed the potted plants in our office. About once a month we harvest around ten 500-mL takeaway containers worth of worm castings, which staff take home. Very little, if any, food waste from our kitchens now ends up in landfill and we are excited about encouraging other departments to follow in our vermiculture footsteps.
The worm farm has enabled us to showcase how easily each of us can reduce our impact on the planet in small ways every day"