This new vermicomposting product fascinates me. I am so hopeful to see a product like this. I have no connection to the Bionicraft company producing it, but as an artist who has created artworks that also function as domestic worm composting ecosystems for over 10 years, I offer my critique. There are many positive things to say about it …and 2 big concerns.
Starting with the positive:
- The fact that this product exists (at least as a funded Kickstarter) tells me the world is moving in the right direction. We are finally ready to co-habitate with worms!
- The company has done an excellent job with framing the problems of food waste and presenting their product as a solution. Their advertising copy aligns with the spirit of this WormCulture blog: “…it brings nature into your urban home and redefines your waste by turning it into nutrients that feeds new life!”
- Putting this ecosystem on your kitchen countertop makes perfect sense. This is where food waste happens and the home is the ideal temperature for worm ecosystems.
- They are right in saying that there are no foul odors. From maintaining various experimental indoor worm bins over 10 years, I can attest to this.
- The product appears to have a workable solution for separating the finished compost – the removable lid at the bottom.
- The algorithmic design that has contributed to the odd shape of this product is mysterious. I’m going to guess that it has to do with creating the largest surface area, which helps aerate the system, at the lowest cost of manufacture and shipping. The inner structure identified as a regulator hole intrigues me. Is it for extra aeration?
- The portal for food waste is too small. It will only accept a tiny handful of waste and if the waste is concentrated in that one area, it will cause anaerobic bacteria to build up and the worms will avoid that stink. In actuality, you would need to open the entire wood lid to spread the food out to take advantage of the surface area that worms need to feed in an healthy aerobic zone. Worms want to be fed a layer of food that is no more than one inch thick. Check the worm compost quickstart guide.
- It is made of plastic. Making new plastic products does not show concern for the ecosystem. What makes this design nice is that it looks like a ceramic vessel. That would have been an excellent material choice. The wood top is sweet, but questionable, since worms will eventually eat it, unless it has waterproof paint on it, which again makes me ask, why not use ceramics? Or stainless steel?
Ultimately, this is a good start for a saleable, indoor worm composting product. Though it is clearly in the beta stage, it is on a good track. Its very existence frames the problem nicely and helps educate humans about the benefits of living with ecosystems. I look forward to future iterations that go further into solving the design problems of evenly distributing food waste – and the problem of using plastics.
And even if Bionicraft does not pursue the quest to solve these design problems, surely there will be other eco creatives and green business people who will. Looks like the time is ripe for designing kitchen worm composters.
~ Amy M. Youngs
This is my diy kitchen counter worm composter called the Worm Cozy. It is based on traditional upward migration systems usually made of plastic. This one is made of thrift store stainless-steel cookpots and colanders with fabric trimming.
Copy it, or better yet, improve upon it and send me a photo. I am always looking for creative worm projects to feature in this WormCulture blog.
Worm Cozies allow you to keep composting worms hidden in your home or workplace. No one suspects a plant stand, a teddy bear or paper shredder to contain an active worm colony. Here are my instructions on how to make the plant stand Worm Cozy out of a 5-gallon bucket.
By Erika Braccini, designer and recent graduate of Camberwell College of Arts, London, UK.
The Gaia Cabinet is a movable furniture unit that contains soil and earthworms. It has been designed to be brought around the city to schools to educate children on how important earthworms are, how important is to limit food waste, and to recycle it by feeding it to the earthworms, who will turn it into nutrients that will enrich the soil, making it 1000 times more nutrient. By using this enriched soil children are encouraged in planting and growing their own food, and by doing so learn how healthier food from highly nourishing soil is, and at the same time are also stimulated in being more connected with nature. By encouraging children, even on a small scale, in growing their own food, Gaia Cabinet can be the way forward in ensuring that children eat healthier food, therefore breaking the power of multinational corporations that control a big chunk of a food chain mainly made of non healthy and often GMO foods. In addition, Gaia Cabinet also wants to stimulate children and people in being more respectful of nature, and by getting in touch with the earthworms who have played an important role in our lives, could make children realise the importance of the environment that surrounds us and of preventing its destruction.
The main purpose of Gaia Cabinet is to bring attention on important issues through play, positivity, happiness and colours instead of seriousness and gloominess. I believe that if important issues such as food waste, healthy eating, respect to the environment and the importance of earthworms for our lives are explained in a more playful and interacting way, children are more likely to understand the importance of them.
I like to call myself an activist, environmentalist and happy designer, as I believe that design is a new form of positive activism that has the potential to become a powerful tool to tackle environmental and social issues. This is the reason why I decided to embark on a journey through the field of design and what has led me to graduate in three-dimensional design from Camberwell College of Arts in June 2014.
In fact, I have faith that play, creativity, positivity and happiness is the way forward to tackle and overcome environmental and social issues.
The design of the cabinet is fundamental for the project and for my ideals. Since this project is all about raising awareness on food waste, connecting and respecting nature, growing food and have a healthy and balanced diet, is also important that the product itself is coherent with these principles. Gaia Cabinet is entirely made with recycled plastic and stainless steel, both fully recyclable and locally sourced in UK. It is very easy to assemble and disassemble, therefore once its lifespan is over, it can be easily placed into the recycle bin, making it a truly zero waste product. The product is born from a thorough research on how to limit its impact on the environment, and be in line with the principles of a circular economy, an economy without waste where all the materials are going back into the system from where they were coming from.
Gaia cabinet has already been tested at Rhyl Primary Schools, at the Assembly Community Centre and at Oliver Goldsmith Primary School (schools in London), as part of my research for my final major project. In an hour workshop I explained to children why earthworms are important for human lives, why is important to have a healthy diet and how to prevent food waste. I was letting children touch the worms so they could have a better understanding of them and explained them how to compost with worms. After the lesson on earthworms, compost and food growing, we were making simple clay pots together that I took back to university and fired, glazed and donated to them so they could start planting their own edible plants. The workshops have been successful as children were very happy to see me after a few months when I was going back to schools to bring them the pots. Teachers were happy and willing to have more workshops in the schools and engage with different age groups.
The aim of Gaia Cabinet is to create a cycle within which every form of life will help and support each other, and provide a great ecosystem.
Please visit my website at www.erikabraccini.com for more information about Gaia Cabinet project, a video of the project and images of the cabinet.
Street Corner Composter by Rowin Snijder
Can worm composting become a community activity? Carpenter/artist Rowin Snijder is testing this concept out on a street corner in Amsterdam. He has designed and built a durable, oak cabinet that looks like an elevated planter box. Inside, it hides 2 vermicomposting compartments, into which neighbors can deposit their food scraps. When one side is filled, they use the adjacent section so the worms will follow the food scraps and move into it through a bamboo lattice that connects them. The finished compost can be harvested from the first bin while the second becomes full of worms that are being fed. And the composting process continues. Rowin says, “When a group of people take it upon themselves to take responsibility for their own trash, and work together, so much more happens than just making compost. It builds community, a connection with your surrounding, and is an inspiration for others to do so as well. The compost produced, can be used in gardens in the street or on rooftop gardens and balconies.” He has also designed a version for the balcony, which he sells in Amsterdam, but also offers the plans for free on the Le Compostier Facebook page for others who want to build it themselves. And there is a new, 2 square meter version that has space for worms and bees. The bees are invited in through a yellow-painted portal in the wood box, where they can find refuge in their own protected box inside. An intriguing cohabitation with worms, bees, plants and people on the street. I look forward to hearing more about this project as it develops. Visit the Le Compostier blog for more information.
The yellow painted hole invites bees in to share the space with the worms.
Worm Cozies are designed to help humans feel more comfortable hosting worms in their homes. Based on the concept of appliance cozies, which were originally created as a way to hide the sight of garish machines inside the domestic space of the kitchen, these worm cozies similarly function as a softening interface that will help us get used to the idea of living with worm ecosystems.
Teddy Bear Worm Tamer
Worm Cozy Fuzzy Plant Stand
Composting worms are excellent co-habitants that can help us reduce our greenhouse gas output by eating waste paper and food scraps that would otherwise be sent to landfills, which generate methane. Local, in-home worms can transform domestic organic waste into a rich, nutritious fertilizer that can be fed to houseplants, food gardens, trees or lawns. Worm ecosystems are odor-free, silent and thrive in dark, moist places with food, so they will not want to leave their worm cozy. I understand that some people are squeamish about the idea of living with worms, which is why these cozies are designed to be friendly, fuzzy, and discrete.
Working Paper Shredder Worm Cozy
Worm Cozy Cook Pots
These pieces are on display in the Vermiculture Makers Club Exhibition in Louisville, Kentucky.
I’ve made instructions on how to make the plant stand cozy so you can build your own.
Designed for urban agriculture, indoor and outdoor growing of herbs, leafy greens, house plants and ornamentals. Outdoors they are attached to rainwater barrels, collecting roof runoff and automatically watered with timers. The Cascading Growbags Vermiponic Wormbag uses live worms to convert organic compost into nutrients which are then fed back to the plants through the watering system. Using the Vermiponic Wormbag in this system allows the worms to create organic worm castings from your kitchen scraps, which then becomes worm tea in the rain-barrels. This nutrient rich water is then fed to the plants through the watering system which allows for fully organic growth of healthy food.
– more info and purchase info on Cascading Growbags site.
This interactive installation offers human participants an opportunity to tune into – and bodily experience – the vibrations made by tiny, soil-dwelling beings. Humans continue to be interested in detecting signals of extra-terrestrial life in outer space, but have overlooked the intra-terrestrial signals of life – the worms and insects that sustain our own terrestrial existence. This highly amplified environment allows humans a chance to appreciate these extraordinary life forms through live, amplified sounds and infrared video. Hopefully this experience will give a viewer/participant a different sense of the life inside the earth; one that goes beyond the scientific and instead approaches something more akin to fellowship, communion or appreciation.
by Amy M. Youngs
An ecosystem of worms, sowbugs, plants and bacteria live and eat at this table. They are a part of the digestive system that starts with a person discarding food leftovers and shredded paper into the portal at the top. The bacteria and sowbugs begin breaking down the waste and the worms soon join in to further digest it into a rich compost that sprinkles out of the bottom of the fabric bag that hangs beneath the table. This compost is used as a fertilizer for plants, such as those at the base of the table.
The human plays an important part at the table by eating, feeding the food waste to the worms, feeding the resulting fertilizer to the plants, or by simply sitting and appreciating the living ecosystem she/he is a part of. A cross-section of the activity inside the top 9 inches of the compost is made visible using an infrared security camera connected to an LCD screen built into the table. On the screen, viewers can see the live movements of the worms and sowbugs inside.
By Amy M. Youngs