Who Are We?

The Department of Public Worms is a student-funded, student-run organization at UCSB who manages on-campus composting programs, maintains the three Edible Campus Projects, and educates the community about sustainable gardening practices, composting, and reducing food waste. This website has been designed to be an informational resource about our campus/community involvement and our learned information on composting and growing food. 

We’re always happy to help, so please contact us if you have any questions!

Why We Care About Compost?

There are several reasons why compost is important to the student staff at the Department of Public Worms.

Food waste comprises 30-40% of the waste stream in the U.S. (USDA). This food waste can be diverted from landfills by waste reduction and alternatives like composting your food scraps.  Thinking about what went into growing and transporting that produce goes to waste when it is just thrown away.

We focus our efforts on diverting food waste because it is the primary trash component that leads to methane emissions from landfills. As the waste is continuously deposited and covered with soil, oxygen is sealed off from the trash, creating an anaerobic environment where microbes digest foods and create methane. Methane has a global warming potential 72 times stronger than just carbon dioxide on a 20 year time scale according to the IPCC. Since methane only stays in the atmosphere for about 12 years, there is a huge opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and see results quickly. By feeding worms we avoid virtually all emissions, and hot composting only emits small amounts of carbon dioxide, which is still the preferable alternative to methane.

One main goal at DPW is creating a closed-loop food system, which means we recycle all the nutrients from food waste into compost in order to grow more food for students.  Composting processes foods back into basic components that plants need to thrive, and worm castings are an even finer grade of compost can digest everything except hard seeds. Healthy soils are critical to growing plants for abundant produce, and when paired with alternative gardening methods like companion planting we can get even better produce with less chemical fertilizers and pesticides.