By LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff

Getting past the ick factor

There’s an ick factor to having worms composting under your kitchen sink.

There’s an ick factor to having worms composting under your kitchen sink.

But Rene Michalak, project leader of ReThink Red Deer, thinks city residents should get past it for the sake of producing a clean, non-smelly and beneficial by-product year-round.

Organic kitchen waste can be broken down to create a nutrient-rich soil additive that’s great for gardens or indoor flower pots, said Michaelak at the ReThink Red Deer EcoLiving Fair on Saturday at Red Deer College.

“Sure, there’s an ick factor when people think of worm poo.

“But we have bags of it here, and it looks like coffee grinds and smells like clean earth,” added Michalak, who also had small indoor worm composters on hand at the 30-vendor ecological trade show.

He showed that the bins look “aesthetically benign” and not at all alarming.

Michalak knows the City of Red Deer’s Composting at Home Program does not yet encompass indoor worm composting.

But someday he hopes it will. The advantage is indoor composting can be done during summer and winter months, diverting even more waste from the landfill.

In the meantime, Michalak is glad to see the city’s outdoor composting program expanding to a third year.

The city’s worm-free backyard composters depends on heat caused by microbial activity to break down organic wastes.

Those interested in learning more can sign up for the third year of the program on March 7. The municipality is seeking 200 households that have never composted before.

Anyone interested can go to www.reddeer.ca/composting to register.

The program will provide participants with a free compost bin, tools, a kitchen catcher, and training and support.

In exchange, registrants must commit to attend a how-to workshop and yard composting until June 2015.

“We eliminate any reason for putting off composting,” said Lauren Maris, the city’s environmental program specialist.

By providing training and tools, local residents will learn how to compost the right way, eliminating the potential for smells or pests — which are common misconceptions.

Since the city program was launched in March, 2012, more than 450 local households have been trained to compost in their own backyards.

A study found at least 70 per cent of first-year participants were still composting a year later.

Michalak said “it’s very encouraging” to see the city program growing.

Eventually ReThink Red Deer would also like to see a local composting program developed for commercial businesses.

The group is already trying out a 12-foot commercial composter containing horse droppings from Heritage Ranch, distiller grains from a local brewery and coffee grinds.

Michalak was pleased with the public turnout to this year’s show, despite Saturday’s frigid weather.

The fair featured double the workshops as in 2012.

All kinds of green displays were available.

There were booths promoting a variety of organic meats and vegetables and an online local food distributor — TheGreenPantry.ca which has a Lacombe warehouse and makes weekly customer drop-offs at the Sunnybrook Church in Red Deer.

There were also vendors promoting organic or “heirloom” seeds. ReThink Red Deer started its own seed bank — featuring the germs of everything from sunflowers to parsley, purple carrots and “Amish” tomatoes.

Many local gardeners don’t want to worry about potentially growing genetically modified vegetables, said ReThink Red Deer board member Ashling Amato.

“There’s food security in heirloom seeds.”

For more information about the seed bank, please call 403-986-7981.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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