Mindy Jaffe, 2006

Since 1990 I have lived in a 14' x 16' ground floor studio apartment on Ohua Ave. - between Ala Wai Boulevard and Kuhio Avenue - across the street from the Waikiki Banyan.  It's a two-story lava rock walk-up, circa 1957 (the Waikiki jungle years), surrounded by highrises.

My refrigerator broke in 2004 and I couldn't scrape up the money to replace it. I was inspired by the perfect puka (hole) to get a worm bin. After a year when I had refrigeration again, the bin moved along a wall. It was such a pleasure to have this cool kitchen worm colony to deal with my food waste that I thought others would want to do the same, and that I could make a living providing worms, bins, and instruction. So in January of 2005, I started Waikiki Worm Co.

So far, I have taught close to 1,400 people how to do worm composting.  Many of these have been teachers who have SPREAD THE WORM to their classrooms and schools. Even three-year-olds at the Fern Elementary Headstart in Kalihi are vermicomposting successfully. All you do is feed them garbage and keep them moist.

Worms eat their weight a day, so if you have three pounds of worms, they'll eat three pounds a day.  It is really astounding to see them grind through so much food so fast.  My colony is 8,000 (1 lb. = 1,000 worms), and I take in several neighbors' garbage as well to keep them satisfied.


O'ahu generates 50,000 tons of food waste each year. This waste is:

1) either grinded by garbage disposals (using eight gallons of water per gallon of food) and sent into an overburdened sewer system to be dumped into the ocean;

2) thrown into the trash to be hauled by a fossil-fuel burning truck to the landfill in Nanakuli where it stinks up the neighborhood and is buried forever; or

3) thrown into the trash to be hauled by another fossil-fuel burning truck to H-Power, where it decreases the efficiency of the furnace and gunks up the works because food waste is wet. 

In all three cases, the resource is destroyed.

By vermicomposting, you manage household organic waste on-site, saving fuel, water, money, and landfill space. There is no odor whatsoever, no noise, no bugs. On-site vermicomposting is the most direct, simple, efficient, and easiest way to handle 34% of our waste that is comprised of food and other organic material..

By vermicomposting, you recover valuable plant nutrients and recycle them to the soil where they can be used again by plants. We generate enough nutrients in our waste stream on O'ahu to eliminate the thousands of tons of chemical fertilizers we import (costing money, fuel, etc.) to support local agriculture and green up golf courses, landscaping, and lawns.  Most home vermicomposters use their vermicast (the worm's product) on their garden, yards, and houseplants.  I package mine to sell ($8-$15/pound) and also give it to all my gardener friends for Christmas.