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Worm Return: Nurturing Sustainability Through Innovative Composting Solutions

In the heart of Pittsburgh's south hilltop neighborhoods, woman-owned organic material diversion company Worm Return is making significant strides in environmental and community sustainability through food scrap reclamation. Specializing in composting using the unique red wiggler worms, this company has not only garnered attention for its innovative approach to composting but was also selected as the winner of the first Penguins and FNB Small Business Development Boot Camp in 2023!

Their initiatives extend beyond traditional composting, including unique projects like collecting used living Christmas trees for Allegheny Goatscape and preventing them from ending up in landfills.

Here's how founder and President Laura Totin Codori and her team do it:

Red Wigglers: Nature's Super Composters

Worm Return utilizes red wigglers, a species of earthworm known for their voracious appetite. These worms outperform typical earthworms in the composting process, consuming more organic material and creating nutrient- and microbial-rich compost. The worms are inherently top-dwelling and can only be used in indoor or climate controlled composting bins.

Landfill Diversion Initiatives and Food Scrap Reclamation

Worm Return has a message for us all: Organic material + Landfills = Greenhouse Gasses. That's bad. In response, the company has successfully reclaimed 10,000 pounds of food scraps just from the city markets alone, and an impressive half a million pounds overall. You can find Worm Return at three city farmers markets (Northside, Larimer, and Squirrel Hill) to drop off food scraps at no charge. Residents and businesses can sign up for Worm Return services, which include weekly or bi-weekly food scrap pickups. Worm Return logs and quantifies the impact of each contribution, allowing you to see the impact of everyone's hard work.

Transforming Contaminated Lots Into Thriving Spaces

Worm Return collaborates with Anthony Stewart of Deco Resources on vacant lots throughout Beltzhoover that are deemed unsafe due to lead contamination. Through composting and innovative methods, they have transformed these lots into thriving community spaces, supporting local agriculture and revitalizing the environment.

Green Collar Cooperative and Future Plans

Worm Return is gearing up to become a Warrington Ave business at 416 Warrington, with plans to open the Green Collar Cooperative, which has a projected grand opening of Earth Day 2025. This cooperative aims to be a hub for environmental workers, hosting businesses like Pitt Moss, Commonwealth Carbon, Soil Sisters, and more.

They have also coined a new national holiday: Green Collar Worker Day on January 3rd, which was just celebrated this January!

Worm Return stands as a beacon of innovation, community collaboration, and environmental stewardship. Their commitment to sustainable practices, unique initiatives, and plans for a Green Collar Cooperative make them a transformative force in Pittsburgh's environmental landscape. Worm Return is not just a composting company – they are a part of a movement in the Hilltop for positive change and community empowerment surrounding food.

To learn more or get involved, visit their website at Worm Return.

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