Worm Women Promote Vermicomposting in Hawaii


Composting with worms is becoming de rigueur in Hawaii thanks to the work of former state representative Mindy Jaffe. Jaffe founded her company Waikiki Worm Co. a year ago, and has trained over 2,000 people on how to dispose of their organic wastes more... well, organically through the magic of redworms. One of her students is Wendie McClain, the wife of University of Hawaii president David McClain. McClain put a worm composting system (which looks an awful lot like the Can-O-Worms) in her kitchen a year ago; the collection of red wigglers is now a showpiece for visiting guests:

Guests at College Hill may be startled to see the University of Hawaii president's wife feeding worms in the kitchen.

"They're little dainty red worms," said Wendie McClain, scooping up a handful from a bin. "Everybody who comes for dinner, I take them and show them the bin. Some people say we're crazy. Some think it's great." ...

In the beginning, McClain said she had to collect food for the worms because she and her husband are light eaters.

Their housekeeper, Devie Mantanona, who has two sons, would bring food waste for the bin, she said: "She's my worm caretaker. I ask her to water it in the morning.

"We started changing our diet for the worms," McClain said, explaining they like watermelon, vegetables and lemons. "We feel guilty throwing anything out. We bring leftovers home when we eat out."

Caterers that go to College Hill also are asked to save leftovers for the worms. "They peek in," McClain said. "They love it."

Jaffe's membership in the state House's environmental protection committee spurred her interest in vermicomposting, as she heard testimony about the state's waste management practices that "appalled" her. Since then, she's become an advocate for worm composting, even talking the Waianae Elementary Public Charter School into composting all of its school lunch wastes (which will begin next year). A state like Hawaii doesn't want to devote a whole lot of its limited space to landfills, so Jaffe's work can help the Aloha State keep its wastes in check. ::Honolulu Star-Bulletin