Residences venture into vermicomposting

Trial program unique in Canada, students say

Main Campus Residents’ Council Sustainability Co-ordinator Yan Yu says there are 11 vermicompostors across residences.
Main Campus Residents’ Council Sustainability Co-ordinator Yan Yu says there are 11 vermicompostors across residences.

A new vermicomposting system in residence is giving students the chance to take sustainability into their own hands.

The program, a first in Canada, was designed to divert organic waste in residence and teach students about the benefits of vermicomposting.

Eleven vermicompostors have been distributed to floors in Waldron Tower, Watts Hall, McNeill House, Leggett, Gordon-Brockington, Leonard, Adelaide-Ban Righ and Chown and Victoria Hall residences.

Vermicomposting uses worms to decompose vegetable and food waste.

The idea for vermicomposting in residence came about earlier this year when MCRC Sustainability Coordinator Yan Yu, ArtSci ’13 and Sustainability Coordinator of Student Affairs Kelsey Jensen independently began brainstorming ideas to make Queen’s residence greener. They heard about Trevor Shah, Comm ’12, who was conducting a survey of first-year students in residence to see how many favoured vermicomposting in residence.

“What we wanted to do was a survey with some concrete statistics that showed that students in residence actually wanted this project,” Shah said, adding that he distributed surveys to 160 students. “The results were about 85 or 90 per cent of students would use composting on a frequent basis.”

Around the same time, dons Snaige Jogi and Aimée Brisebois had written a proposal about the benefits of vermicomposting with some of their fellow environmental studies students.

Yu, Jensen, Shah, Jogi and Brisebois met and combined their ideas, which they presented to Housing and Hospitality Services Director Bruce Griffiths in April. “We gave the proposal to him over the summer, he looked over it and in late August he gave the approval for us to lease 11 [vermicompostors],” Yu said, adding that they were all installed last week.

As Sustainability Coordinator, Yu runs the project with the help of the Composting Crew, which is led by Shah and two other students.

The vermicompostors are provided by the Living Cities Company, which designs and sells their own vermicompostors. The program is currently on a trial run, with the possibility of expanding in future years. Shah said the program’s success will be gauged by how much waste is diverted.

“There’s actually three dons and three floors recording weights of how much compost is recorded each week,” he said. “We’re going to take those stats and bring them back to Bruce [Griffiths] at the end of the year.”

The soil from the composters is being used in windowsill planters that grow beans and peas, which are located in Watts and Chown Halls. The excess moisture from the composters, known as “worm tea”, is also collected. Due to its high level of nutrients, it can be used to assist the growth of the plants.

Yu said the compostors are locked to prevent mishaps, adding there are several hundred worms in each one.

“Every don who has a compostor on his or her floor has the key to the access combination to their compostor, which is locked to prevent bad things from happening to the worms,” he said, adding that students interested in participating can ask their don for the combination.

Shah said the program is unique from composting systems at other Canadian universities.

“The waste doesn’t travel anywhere, it’s just decomposing in one spot, no fossil fuels; it’s truly a zero-waste initiative.”

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