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EcoIsland

A kitchen island featuring an odor-free vermicomposter and a grey water tank.

Photo of Adeline Cohen
18 19

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Why the EcoIsland

Food was never meant to be a waste. In ecological systems, waste of one specie is food for another. The Ecoisland illustrates this principle at the center of each home, so we can be humbled everyday by the natural process of scraps becoming a rich plant nutrient.

Social science demonstrates that human tend to be more concerned by issues that are close to home. When we toss our food waste, it is out of our sight and out of our mind. Our team believes that entering the process of vermicomposting, if it is made easy and odor-less, can be a vector for a stronger connection to ecological principles, and more conscious food purchases.

Product description

We are aiming to build a kitchen island that is affordable and that can adapt to various size of kitchens. The vermicomposter will be hidden inside the piece of furniture and will feature an opening from the countertop to dispose of food waste such as fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells and coffee grind, soiled paper and garden leaves. Once the food waste is in the bin, worms start eating through it. The food waste will go through several stages of composting, inside the vermicomposter, to be collected as worm casting through the bottom of the composter. The final compost can be used for indoor and outdoor gardens to enrich the soil. 

The kitchen island will also feature a grey water container. Nothing too fancy, just a container that can be filled with water collected from washing fruits and vegetables and a faucet at the bottom to fill a watering can for your garden. 


What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We need to find a way to design an enclosed vermicomposter that can contain food waste odor. To do so, we decided to “hack” an existing piece of furniture, found at a reasonable price. We will spend the next few weeks experimenting with worms. One of us is familiar with backyard composting but we have never done vermicomposting. We hear it is odor-less when well-done, and that worm tend to live their environment if they are not happy, so we need to create a cosy environment for them to stay in.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Vermi-composting advice would be great, as well as feedback on our early design.
We also would like to better understand if there is enough demand for such a product on the market. We hear a lot of people turned off by the idea of having worms in their home, but could there be enough demand to crowdsource the production of this object at the right price point? What business model should this idea follow? Would YOU use this kitchen island?

Tell us about your work experience:

We are a team of two friends living in Toronto, Canada. Adeline is an agricultural engineer and a member of a design an innovation shop within a Toronto research hospital. She has experience with feasibility study and user-centered research. Felix is an architect by day and likes to work on creative projects in his free time. He builds furniture too.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

How far along is your idea?

  • It’s just been created! It’s existed for 1 day - 1 month

18 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Eli Park
Team

Hello, Adeline Cohen I WOULD use that kitchen island. I have looked into creating a worm composting system on my own as well. I have found that one thing a lot of people get eeek!-ed about it was having bugs living in their home. My idea was to create a fully enclosed (with breathable areas)compartments that ensures the worms won't run off. However, I'm not sure how much of odor this might create within my 1 bedroom apartment.

Photo of Adeline Cohen
Team

Awesome Eli, how far are you in your idea? We should absolutely keep each other posted! Do you have feedback on my pictures? I'm not sure how to attach the mesh onto the plastic box. How would you do it? 

Photo of Eli Park
Team

Adeline Cohen I was thinking of using a glue gun for prototyping. The sketch is awesome! I guess after a brainstorm or two, next sketch would be the details of the each compartment. 

Photo of Michael Kurz
Team

Great idea

Photo of Angel Landeros
Team

Adeline, it's a great idea.  Have you looked at this proposal - https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/food-waste/ideas/composting-insink-garbage-disposal -  Maybe you could find some good points to consider such as facilitating composting with ground up food.  There's also an interesting sketch of an in-sink composter here: http://www.conceptkitchen2025.com/

You could also consider "hacking" a food dehydrator or something like it to heat up the process and make it faster and efficient (not sure if this would work with worms)

Photo of Mitul Sarkar
Team

I am actually not too sure of that "in-sink" garbage disposal idea. With the amount of water that'll be passing through it, the odors are likely to get "loud" and the worms might not like too much water.

Photo of Mitul Sarkar
Team

While I support the idea of having the composting option in sight (so that it doesn't go out of mind), my concern is that the top (lead/first) container might fill up faster than the worms can process it. So, any such kitchen island may need to be supplemented with old fashioned buckets for "outside the kitchen island" vermicomposting, too.

Photo of Adeline Cohen
Team

Thanks Mitul. I live on my own, so I thought the volume of the bins would work. I will start testing next weekend and keep you posted. Do you have an idea of how much 1 pound of worms consume?

Photo of Mitul Sarkar
Team

Sorry, I haven't researched vermicomposting in detail yet. But you mentioned an expert you were getting the worms from... :-)

Photo of kady
Team

I love the idea and would use it. The things I am thinking about is space in my kitchen to add new furniture. I have done communal vermiculture in an office setting and it was fine. Once in a while there was a flare up. Too moist = smell and fruit flies. So training, experimentation and tolerance for some yuckyness is really important. Also one thing with vermiculture is you need someone to watch it if you are away. Good luck!

Photo of Adeline Cohen
Team

Kady! Thanks for the tips. I'm getting my worms next week from our local worm advocate Cathy Nesbitt (http://www.cathyscomposters.com/).  

Photo of Julie Fineman
Team

I think this is a brilliant idea.  If you build it and it goes to market, I want to buy one!  

Photo of Howard Abrams
Team

Great idea Adeline. I think there is a market for "cottage country" or wherever wildlife like bears prevent outdoor composting or even collection.  Maybe also cities like Toronto with its raccoon gangs chewing through the plastic food waste recycling bins. I love it !!!

Photo of Adeline Cohen
Team

Thank. I think we have our first customer! Let's see if there are more people like us wanting to conveniently practice vermiculture. 

Photo of Angel Landeros
Team

I saw this today, and thought you might find it interesting:
http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/08/12/489748719/the-power-of-worm-poop

Photo of Adeline Cohen
Team

Good read. I guess we're into something with small scale vermiculture, since large scale is not very easy apparently. Thanks for sharing!

Photo of Kendra
Team

A great idea Adeline!  Although Toronto has a wonderful Green Bin system, I much prefer to compost fruit and vegetable scarps to use in my garden.  However, my outdoor compost bin attracts many unwelcome visitors.  Your idea allows me to continue my composting without attracting rats and raccoons to my backyard.

Photo of Adeline Cohen
Team

Thanks Kendra. The green bin program in Toronto is great, indeed. I realize when I travel that there aren't many cities collecting organic waste. There could be applications outside of Canada.  Thanks for your feedback!