In November 2011 Nicole Klement (Academy teacher) and Terri Rutty (YMCA environmental coordinator) met to discuss ways in which The YMCA Academy could become more sustainable. Of main concern was the waste management system at the Central YMCA, the school’s new location. Because the Central YMCA is not a residence, green bin pickup is not currently available. It appears that most schools, businesses and condominiums in the city of Toronto have the same problem. The Academy wanted to find a solution to divert our compostable waste. The search began and started with a wide variety of options:

  • outdoor composters
  • indoor composters
  • private pick up, etc

Academy students had seen the worm composters at the Evergreen Brickwork’s office space and thought it may be easy to start composting inside the school cafeteria. The Academy began leaning toward implementing its own worm compost system (also know as vermi-composting). Once research on vermi-composting began all referrals pointed towards Cathy Nesbitt from Cathy’s Crawly Composters.  Cathy is well known in Toronto for her vast knowledge of worms and worm composting.  Nicole and Terri contacted her for suggestions and to see whether composting at the Academy was an option and it seemed to be the perfect solution.

Next Nicole and Terri went in search of funds to put towards the infrastructure (training, bins, collection bins, paper waste, maintenance, etc).  Thanks to SAFE- Sustainable Action for the Environment for their generous grant! They have allowed us to pilot the worm composting system at the Academy.

Once funds were secured The Academy’s first thought was to build the composter units. This can be done successfully. However, the composter’s location was to be in a communal space. An easy to assemble, easy to use, clean and aesthetically pleasing system needed to be implemented. Cathy Nesbit suggested the WORM CHALET (Academy students call it a WORM CONDO) which met the school’s needs perfectly.

Project Purpose:

  • Composting: Creating a sustainable composting program to be used at the YMCA Academy, the Family Development Childcare centre with the potential of learning shared with  the Central YMCA Centre of Community and a group of Cree youth visiting from northern Quebec
  • Environmental Stewardship: Bringing, designing and implementing an achievable environmental initiative to children and youth.
  •  Cross-Cultural Environmental awareness: The project is intended as collaboration between YMCA Academy students and their exchange students from an aboriginal community in northern Quebec.

On May 1st, 2012 in the midst of hosting a group of students from Northern Quebec, The YMCA Academy invited Cathy to facilitate a worm composting workshop.  The school also hoped to engage the children from the childcare centre and the staff, members and volunteers from the health fitness and recreation centre.

Cathy’s 1/2 day workshop at the school was a huge success.  Here’s a link to the school’s blog about the day of the workshop.

We purchased/prepared all materials from Cathy’s Crawly Composters on-line catalog. Here’s what The Academy started with:
1) Two worm chalets with multiple levels to house compost for a full year. This will allow us access to high quality compost for our outdoor space and freshly created edible garden.

Edible Garden Before
Edible Garden After
Worm Chalet

Apart from the chalets, you can either purchase or create build your own simpler version with an amended “green bin” or any re-purposed plastic bin of the same size. Cathy has a video on-line describing how to make your own unit.


Green bin used as composting unit

2) We purchased five Sure-Close containers – these containers are used to collect your compostable waste (worm food).  We have one for the school’s cafeteria and four were placed in the childcare rooms to gather food waste.

3) 2 lbs of Red Wigglers – This particular species of worm are ideal for indoor worm composting. These worms will not survive in a backyard.

4) Multiple Bricks of Coconut Coir, a natural moisture retainer and bedding to start the composting process.

5) One or two handfuls of soil.  This soil must be from outside to ensure that you begin with microorganisms that are imperative to the composting process.  Store bought soil is sterilized.

6) One zip-lock sized bag worth of waste for your worm’s first meal!

7) One bin sized box full of shredded paper and/or egg cartons or any other natural paper fibered material to start.  You will need to add this amount every month. We were in luck since our school generates a lot of shredded paper and this was another reason the worm system was appealing to us.



The workshop taught us how to maintain our worm chalets and how to build a system of our own for home. The basics are below, for more detailed information Click Here.

Lay down newspaper
Mix soaked coconut coir, soil, & worms. Then don't forget to feed the worms!

At the end of the workshop Cathy left us with some great resources, “SQUIRM” the movie and her phone number just in case we need help in the future.

Future plans

This compost system is easily replicable, and our hope is that we can demonstrate how simple and easy this is so that all of the YMCA Childcare Centres and other YMCA sites will want a worm-composter of their own.

We have already introduced the preschoolers from the Family Development Centre to the system. They spent a morning giggling and learning about worms, compost and how gently hold a worm.

It has now been almost 2 months that our composters functioning. They are still housed in the cafeteria. We have had no incidents of smell, fungus, or other such garbage related issue. There is the gentle scent of dirt. The Family development Centre’s childcare director and our school’s principal are open to continuing to increase the number of worm chalets on the premises.


Jun 12th, 2012 – Worm Composting Pilot Project