By Barbara Kessler

Worms. These lower invertebrates have gotten such a bad rap. No one really gives them a thought, except that organic gardeners know they’ve got good soil when they see plenty of worms at work aerating and fertilizing it.

For the uninitiated, worms can be your best friend when it comes to reducing household trash. Just toss your organic kitchen scraps into a bin of worms; check back later and they’ve turned the trash into a rich compost for your garden. Now that is recycling.

For a top-of-the-line worm composting kit, check out this model from The Worm Lady, aka Mary Appelhof, the woman who wrote Worms Eat My Garbage, a seminal work in composting lit. You get the bin, the book and a starter bag of Red Wiggler worms (would you want any other kind?) for $79 or $92, depending on the size of the bin. This is a great project, too, for the science classroom. See this article from The Worm Digest on worm raising for kids.

Now to put your fears to rest, we’ve heard that this composting method is not smelly if handled correctly and we’ve got friends who will verify this. That’s why you hire the experts, the worms. They can eat up to half their weight in waste every day.

This type of composting also can help you get rid of old newspapers. Yes, newspapers can be sent out for recycling. But they also can be turned to compost. The worms, in fact, require newspapers or other paper products as bedding in their compost bins. We’re not sure what the worms get from newspapers nutritionally — maybe they just like keeping up with all the dirt?