My adventure with worms started when I wanted to write a story about buying weird stuff on Craigslist.


Staring at the search bar. Hmmm, I thought, let’s try “Skeleton”. Bingo - a page with a sketchy camera-phone shot of a skeleton sitting on someones' sofa. $500 dollars, apparently real and not a plaster casting. No head though. There’s probably a story in that detail alone; maybe some other journalist asked a touchy question. Next word. Let’s try “worms”.

Two days later I was standing on the front porch of Kate's eastside home. A youthful and cheerful presence, Kate, despite selling worms occasionally, described herself as “not a hippie - I have a desk job.” She got into worms after hearing about how easy it was to use them for vermicomposting, which is using worms to eat organic waste and turn it into good, highly-productive soil. Because the worms eat all her organic waste, the worms have a big ecological benefit: they are a zero cost waste diversion strategy. With no organic waste going to the curb, less gas is used by the city’s garbage trucks. These worms, which live in a small sealed box beneath the sink, eat so much _______(around ____) that they divert ____ of waste a year. If every household used them, that’s _______ tonnes of waste - and that would save the city a lot of money. Toronto might also have way nicer gardens, as the only by-product from the worms is soil - and more worms. When they reproduce enough she gives half of them away.

All her friends have them now. Even her mom has them. Her mom was the hardest to convince. It's gross. One worry. Well, you don't actually see the worms, they live in a sealed box beneath your sink. You just put waste in there. Ok, so that's not very gross. But won't it smell? Another worry. Kate told me to try for myself. I smelled the bucket. Remarkably, it smelled of nothing. Trying again, now with my nose deep inside the bucket, there was only a hint of an earthy smell, it was remarkably blank. “They make no odor.” she said. They are also super easy to _________. “I learned all this and got the worms from _____, who's basically a crazy old worm lady.” The worms arent just your garden variety (sorry). They are a type of South American worm that eats much faster than others. (Fact: I learned that even the common earthworms you see ambling on the sidewalk on rainy days are invasive species. They never used to be in North American soil.) Seeing that she had extra, Kate gave me a bucket filled with dirt and worms to take with me.

I dragged this worm bucket around with me for the rest of the day. It was easier than bringing around a skeleton. I my worm bucket to the newspaper office. I took it to a restaurant, where I didnt draw any attention to it. it came with me to the park. And then I carried it home via the blue night bus, where I and most everyone was a bit tipsy. The contents of the bucket surprised a few bleary eyed passengers.

Because the worms dont like light, I had covered the bucket with my notebook, and I left it on top overnight when I got. Well, the worms ate it. By the next morning my notebook was a soggy, worm-bitten mess, and I even lost some of the notes for this story. The worms are now happily installed in a sealed box under the kitchen sink, they eat what my family eats - or rather, what we didnt: whatever is left over after dinner, or the rinds from fruit or the skins of onions or even eggshells; if it's organic it gets scraped into the bin. And they love it, I think, because they eat through the food very quickly, almost anything. The only exception is meat, which we don't put into the bin, because these worms are a vegetarian species. Kate told me she thinks strawberries are their favourite. The waste diversion is good, my favourite part is having a silent and mysterious world under my sink, where hundreds enjoy my cooking.

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  • Subtitle: Or, why worms might just save this city a whole lot of money
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