Big worm bin helps Fremont Sikh temple compost

The Fremont Sikh Gurdwara serves free vegetarian meals morning, noon and night Most of that food, donated by members, w...

Compost1 (64K)
Daniel Acosta, 18, tends to the worm garden during a work session of the Veggielution youth program on May 6, 2010 at Emma Prusch Farm Park in San Jose. The food scraps and worms eventually turn into compost. Inner city high school students, grade 9-12, spend their after school hours to learn how to grow their own food through the program sponsored by the Veggielution community farm. This eight-week program teaches them the basics of growing their own food and empowers them to help create a sustainable food system in the heart of an urban center. (Gary Reyes/Mercury News)

FREMONT CA -- A little-known fact about the Fremont Sikh Gurdwara is that it serves free vegetarian meals morning, noon and night as part of Sikh custom.

Most of that food, donated by members, was going into the stomachs of worshipers, but every week about 400 pounds of raw food scraps like onion peels and carrot tops were going into the trash.

Now, most of that food is going to the worms.

Late last year, the gurdwara, just off Mission Boulevard near the Union City border, began a composting program using one of the larger worm bins on the market.

The 120-square-foot bin holds 75 to 150 pounds of organic waste per day. Inside, about 50,000 worms devour the food scraps and leave behind what amounts to compost, which the gurdwara plans to give to members for their home gardens.

"The compost project is working," said Jaswinder Gill, treasurer at the gurdwara, which sometimes draws as many as 2,000 visitors on weekends.

Gill hopes the program will help the gurdwara reduce its garbage bill of nearly $1,400 a month.

The project was spearheaded last year by Sarita Rathi, a Hindu with a doctorate in waste management, who saw the potential after a friend took her to a service at the gurdwara.

"I saw they were producing a lot of food waste, and all of it was going into the trash," she said.

Rathi, who took a master composter class through Alameda County's, got gurdwara Advertisement officials interested in using a worm bin, and then helped the gurdwara get a $12,000 grant from the Altamont Education Advisory Board.

The grant paid for the worm bin, compost training and administrative support.

Rathi also suggested a worm bin for the Fremont Hindu Temple, but said temple leaders weren't interested. She said the gurdwara could do even more composting if it buys a separate system for leftover prepared food.

"I want to take it to the next step," she said. "I think it would be nice to have the gurdwara become a zero-waste community."


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