The campus is now knee deep in the green business of worm feces.
The Associated Students Dept. of Public Worms is currently housing hundreds of pounds of worms on campus and in Isla Vista in order to transform biodegradable waste into fertilizer. The worms consume food waste such as vegetable peelings, coffee grounds and cornstarch-based products. Then, the worms produce carbon- and nitrogen-rich fecal matter, which makes for high-quality fertilizer.
The red wiggle worms can eat half their body weight in food each day and produce roughly an equal amount of fecal matter. This fecal fertilizer, called castings, can then sell for as much as $3 per pound.
The worms are currently located in large bins at People’s Park, the eucalyptus grove, Ellison Hall and Bren Hall. Students employed by A.S. Recycling, as well as other volunteers, typically meet on Fridays to collect castings from the bins.
According to the director of the ASDPW Ryan Kintz, fertilizer produced naturally by worms is one of the most desirable options for gardeners available.
“If you put this on an apple tree from the start, the fruit just wouldn’t compare,” Kintz, a UCSB alumni, said. “It would be so sweet and delicious.”
The ASDPW feeds the worms with food collected from UCSB dining commons, as well as local businesses. All food waste is pre-consumer, which means it was created during food production, but never reached a consumer’s plate.
Kintz said he believes worm fertilizer is a marketable product, and he noted that ASDPW has already sold worm fertilizer to 20 customers, including Island Seed and Feed, a local gardening products store.
Although the program is still too young to generate money, Kintz said profit is not the central objective of the ASDPW.
“It’s a couple of years away from being self-sustainable,” Kintz said. “We don’t want to make money, we want to educate people as much as possible.”
While the ASDPW may have reached only 20 customers, students at A.S. Recycling believe composting organic trash is part of a broader example of eco-friendliness advocated by students at UCSB.
Whitney Walberg, a fourth-year environmental studies major, said recycling efforts such as worm composting are part of the wave of the future.
“Recycling is not the [only] answer to our huge consumption problem,” Walberg said. “[Eco-friendliness is] a lifestyle. Everyone could have a worm composting bin at their place of residence.”
Melody Zhang, an undeclared freshman and vermicompost coordinator with ASDPW, said working for ASDPW has fueled her interest in field of macro-environmental biology.
“Since I started working here I’ve become more focused on the bigger picture, like the environment as a whole,” Zhang said.