Reduce waste and save on groceries

Use vermicompost and preserve the fall harvest

Compost Winnipeg (an initiative of the Green Action Centre) also offers a collection service.

Photo by Daniel Crump

Winnipeggers aren’t great at reusing their kitchen scraps. According to Teresa Looy, compost program coordinator at the Green Action Centre, 60 per cent of Winnipeg households in 2011 composted yard waste, in comparison to 72 per cent Canada-wide. Only 24 per cent of Winnipeggers composted kitchen waste, nearly half of the 45 per cent among Canadians.

This discrepancy may be due in part to Winnipeg’s bitter winters.

“It’s cold outside, and it’s harder to get yourself to shovel a path to the compost out in the garden,” Looy says. She suggests vermicomposting as a solution. Contained in a plastic receptacle, red wriggler worms chew through the material and help it to decompose faster.

“The finished product is called castings. It’s a very concentrated fertilizer due to the work of the worms, and it also includes less carbon-based material (than regular compost),” Looy explains. The bins are compact, usually about 11L, which she says makes them easy to keep in the cupboard beneath the kitchen sink.

Vermicomposting is also convenient for year-round use in apartments or anywhere that doesn’t have a yard big enough for a compost.

“The worms will not escape. They’re happy in the compost. They’ve got food and friends there,” Looy says. She suggests that anyone feeling squeamish about the worms can wear rubber gloves when dealing with the compost.

However, Looy believes that composting should be the last resort for produce. Instead, if the fall harvest is too much to handle, recreational gardener Margaret Côté suggests canning, blanching or freezing extra crops.

“Nothing gets wasted that way,” she explains.

Côté’s mother taught her to buy seasonal items in bulk and preserve them for the wintertime.

“Raspberries are my favorite. You can have that fresh berry taste all winter long!” she says, mentioning this also helps save on the sky-high cost of midwinter supermarket berries.

Chronic food wasters can cut the problem at the source by planning meals and shopping with a grocery list.

“It all depends on what you buy and how you store it,” Looy explains.

“You should only cook what your family will eat,” Côté agrees. “You never know if produce will be good when you buy it at the store. If you buy less, you waste less.”

Produce deemed unworthy of direct consumption can often be repurposed.

“You can put carrot tops and many different stems and peels in a smoothie, and you won’t even notice,” Looy says. Or add vegetable scraps to your regular broth recipe.

“We’ve got a ways to go still,” Looy admits. She suggests that those who choose not to compost can reduce their carbon footprint in other ways, such as carpooling or by taking less frequent trips to the grocery store.

Information on vermicomposting is available at

Published in Volume 72, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 28, 2017)

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