Earth Day

Part of Earth Week

Today we are very lucky to have a guest post from Rhona Cowan who is PhD Student in the School of Chemistry at University of Edinburgh.

This week is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!

This gives us a chance to stop and think about our impact on the planet.

When we think about our impact on the Earth it is useful to think of the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. These make us aware of what we are using, where to cut back and what we can recycle. People are not always very good at recycling, unlike nature, where nothing goes to waste!

In Spring Week we looked at how trees change over the seasons. When trees lose their leaves in autumn they are gone by summer, so where do they go?

Nature uses insects and bacteria to breakdown the leaves so that the plants can use the nutrients to grow. The plants use the leaves as a source of food and energy in the spring and summer. In autumn, when plants don’t need leaves, they fall to the ground and feed the insects and bacteria that make food for plants! The plant food made from leaves is called compost. Compost gives lots of healthy nutrients for the plant to grow big and strong, like fruit and vegetables do for us humans.

Lots of people use nature to help reduce their waste by making their own compost heap or for smaller homes and gardens a wormery. A wormery is where worms eat all the leftover food and make compost which can also be called worm castings! Worms are great at eating, they can eat half their body weight in one day. The composts they make can then be put into your garden to make the plants healthy! Worm compost is sometimes called “black gold” because it is one of the best composts to keep your plants well fed.

There are two types of worms that are used in wormeries the tiger worm or the dendras worm. Wormeries come in all shapes and sizes, here is an example of a big one!

The top layer is where you find worms and food waste like banana peels, apple cores and even egg shells! The worms eat this up and make compost which falls through holes into the second layer. Worms can be picky and they don’t want any unwelcome visitors so they don’t eat greasy food, meat, citrus fruit, garlic or onion! Most worms like to stay close to their food so when more kitchen waste is added the hungry worms will move up towards it staying close to the top. When the second layer is full and empty of worms it can be taken away and used in your garden. At the bottom is a collecting layer for liquid which can come from the kitchen waste or the worms! Some fancy wormeries have a tap so you can easily take the liquid out, this can also be used as plant food!

Here is a useful link for details on the different types of wormeries and how to make and care for one from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS):

Follow our simple Make Your Own Sun Catcher Guide to show how you can be good at recycling, just like a worm.

Rhona Cowan (STEM Ambassador, University of Edinburgh)
Rhona Cowan
PhD Student, School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh

"Initially come from a biology background. My interests then moved into analysis by studying Pharmaceutical analysis. I then worked in a Pharmaceutical company to analyse various medicines. After ~ 10 months I moved to start my PhD in which I work with a company to make modifications on their plant based material using enzymes to make green materials. A few examples of the applications are that the material can be added to paint and concrete to improve the quality but it can also be used on its own as a waterproof film on takeaway cups to make them biodegradable."

"Besides academia, I have previously been a girl guiding leader arranging science nights and from this I understand how to appeal to a wide range of skills and knowledge."

Rhona is a first year PhD student in the School of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh studying biocatalysts. Specifically Rhona is working on sustainable methods using enzymes for modifying cellulose.

Earth Day Quiz
You can check your Answers here.

Make Your Own Sun Catcher

This page is part of the Earth Week information.

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