A Publication of WTVP

One Brimfield educator has taken her job to new levels.

In addition to Lonye Gilles’ roles as healthcare supervisor, recycling coor-dinator and character education instructor at Brimfield High School, she’s also become the “worm gal” around town.

While attending a ‘green living’ seminar at Illinois Central College taught by Peoria County Recycling Educator Rebecca Cottrell, Gilles became acquainted with a new way to live even greener: composting with worms, a process known as vermicomposting.

Armed with the information from Cottrell and some helpful websites, Gilles soon began vermicomposting at her home. What began as one bin quickly multiplied. “I have five now,” she said, “because I just got so excited about it.”

When friends and family saw what she was doing, they wanted their own bins, a request which Gilles happily filled. After giving away several ready-to-compost bins, she thought, “There really might be an outlet for these.” Now, after a year and a half of vermicomposting and making bins for others, she has created what she calls “Wiggle Rooms.”

Gilles’ Wiggle Rooms are self-contained indoor vermicomposting systems. The bins come complete with organic bedding and composting worms, are available in two sizes, and are ready to use immediately. “All you have to do is start adding food,” explained Gilles. “You take them home, throw an apple in there, and you’re starting to compost.”

But Gilles recognizes that not everyone will feel comfortable composting with worms. That’s why she offers another option: “Poo Brew,” a liquid fertilizer made from soaking the worm castings—the scientific word for worm excrement—in rainwater, and drying the harvested castings. Staying true to her earth-friendly goals, she stores the fertilizer in recycled bottles.

Gilles is convinced that these two types of fertilizer are the best you can get. “It’s fully organic,” she noted. “It’s just all vegetable and fruit scraps…so what comes from the earth is going back to the earth. There are no chemicals of any kind.” Since she began using the concoction on her Christmas cacti, she said, they’ve bloomed every four to six weeks, rather than just a few times a year. “I notice a huge difference.”

While the fertilizer works its magic on flowers, gardens and home-grown produce, Gilles’ original motivation remains in helping the planet. “When we think of landfills, we usually think about garbage, but we don’t really think about food waste,” she explained. “Thirty million tons of food waste go into our landfills every year. That [waste] produces methane gas…which is really bad for the atmosphere. I really don’t think people put the whole picture together.”

In her own small town, Gilles sees a lot of people who don’t recycle, but she is encouraged that many are starting to make a greater effort to live greener lives. After receiving two of Gilles’ vermicomposting bins, Brimfield High’s agriculture teacher made sure to request ample space in the new school building to house 10 bins for composting scraps from the cafeteria. “I can’t wait,” she exclaimed.

Gilles is patient and ready to do her part. “I’m just so passionate and excited about [this],” she said. “I would really like to see more people get involved.”

And that is her biggest dream for her Wiggle Rooms. “As much as I’d like to say, ‘One day I’d like to be this huge business,’ I would be happy if I could get people as interested in it as I am.” iBi

For more information on wiggle rooms or vermicomposting, send an email to [email protected].