„I have found a solution for the worlds styrofoam problem – my worms eat it and turn it into organic earth. I will start with the surf industry, turn surfboards into fertile soil and use the coolness factor of that niche to spread the vibe amongst bigger industries. Kids today shall learn that it’s cool to take care about our environment. I want to inspire and educate people to take on a more holistic approach to managing our footprint on this planet.“
On first steps
„The path does not exist until one takes the first step. A lot of people let fear stop them from taking that first step. They might see the path, but they don’t want to give up their comforts and find excuses instead of opportunities. Have faith in yourself, put fear in the passenger seat and enjoy the ride.“
pro-athlete, surfer, nature experimentalist and owner of styrofoam-eating worms
Eddy Garcia tells a story about living a life subsistence in harmony with nature. Due to his close relationship with nature and his lifelong dedication to learning and observation, Eddy discovered a certain type of worm. They eat styrofoam and turn it into organic soil and thus have the potential to solve one of the biggest environmental issues of our time. My close friend Alan Lilienthal introduced me to Eddy and during my one-month-stay in Southern California, we had met a couple of times. The better I got to know him, the more he inspired me. Not only with his project Living Earth Systems or his homegrown Zucchinis of one meter length. But with his whole lifestyle.
Eddy dropped out of school after 5th grade
„When I was supposed to be in school, I was mostly out on a boat fishing and observing nature. That caused me a lot of troubles, but for me it felt like the right thing to do“, Eddy tells about his childhood. Born on a sailboat off the coast of Florida, Eddy has been on his own since his early teens and lived in a remote valley on a small Hawaiian island close to Maui. His exotic lifestyle is deeply rooted. By the age of 12 he was done with the conventional ways of education and dropped out of school. A few years later, Eddy was taken in by a Hawaiian family: „I had my space in a little house on the property of my Hanai Family and just did my own thing. I hunted for wild goats and deer, went fishing and diving and surfed some of the best waves in the world. Being immersed in this pristine environment allowed me to develop this huge respect for nature.“
„I was able to entertain a different school of thought – with nature as my teacher.“
Whenever Eddy observed nature – which he did a lot – he felt one thing: „Perfection“, he tells. „I noticed, that the life-circles of nature always work in perfect harmony – unless it was interrupted by humans. I tried to mimic the examples I saw and utilized what I learned.“ Eddy found a mentor – the genuine and pure spirit of his environment. Amongst other things, his observations made him understand how animals break down material into fertilizers. He started experimenting with it. He observed, learned and planted the seed that should grow into the discovery of these worms, „that have the potential to change the world.“
Eddy sounds confident – and he has all the reason to be!
In the middle of Southern California’s hilly drylands lies a small town called Fallbrook. In this scenic landscape is one of Eddy’s „bat caves“, as he calls the different places he lives in. Amongst thousands of other plants, he grows squashes of the size of a baby and Zucchinis as tall as a small child. I didn’t know that such monster-vegetables even exist. „I studied the symbiotic relationships in nature“, Eddy explains, „I learned about the essential work of earth worms and fungus cultures and how to use it for farming. That was a lot of trial and error and it inspired me to seek solutions that may already be around us, yet often remain undiscovered.“
Enhancing the idea of a world community
Best-practice: fish poop and the perfect circles of nature In Eddy’s swimming pool swim fish. Their poop fertilizes the plants, that grow next to the pool edge, outside of the water. These plants again enrich the water with oxygen, which the fish like a lot. As fish food function insects, which Eddy attracts with a light bulb at night. A perfect circle. That not only makes for the most natural swimming pool possible, but also provides Eddy with fish to eat and fertilizer for land and water. Eddy: „Why the heck shall we throw chemicals in our environment? The universities hand out advices on conventional agriculture to the farmers on Hawaii. They gave up their ancient understanding of farming and started using petroleum fertilizers. That fertilizes the plants, indeed, but it destroys the soil!“
Inspiring A-celebrities with kayaks, kites and surfboards
Eddy Garcia is a „child of the ocean“, as he states. He went surfing a lot with three-times windsurfing world champion Robby Seeger, who pioneered the legendary reef break „Jaws“. They had been amongst the first surfers who rode the 20-meter-waves at the notorious North Shore on Maui. As a professional athlete living in a secluded paradise on a small Hawaiian island, Eddy has interacted with many celebrities and hence countless stories to tell. Here are some: „I took Patagonia-founder Yvon Shinard on a 7-day kayaking trip. On the 6th day he broke his arm. I had to paddle out at night into some of the most treacherous waters of the world to call an emergency helicopter via satellite phone. Woody Harrelson crossed the channel between Maui and Moloka´i with me on a kiteboard a few times and I taught him how to climb coconut trees.“ He also took Pearl Jam frontman Eddy Vedder, actor Robin Williams and surf legends like Rell Sun or Kelly Slater on tours around the islands. Eddy: „They all came to check out that paradise and left with new ideas on how to grow, catch and respect their food.“
worms + surf-industry = revolution?
It’s been ten years since Eddy’s experiments led him to see a worm eating styrofoam for the first time: „I couldn’t believe what I saw but realized pretty soon, that this can solve one of nature’s biggest problems of our time: getting rid of styrofoam, that would otherwise stay in our environment forever.“ But the innovation was still in its early stage – the worms were eating only tiny amounts. Eddy continued his efforts: „I experimented with all different darkling beetles that I could find, that took me years. Three years ago, I found a different worm. Its eating habits were much more efficient.“
Most surfboards are made out of styrofoam
Eddy’s history as a pro-athlete connected him to the surf industry. Around the globe kids and young adults follow the lead of „the coolest industry on the planet“, as Eddy puts it. „People wear board-shorts and surfer brands, they celebrate the hang-loose-lifestyle, although they’ve never surfed a wave.“ This coolness factor can certainly make an impact on many young people when connected with something sustainable like Eddy’s project. „Right now, they are pressing old surfboards into something else, but the styrofoam will always remain somewhere. The recycling process doesn’t solve the problem, it just postpones it.“
Starting with the surf-industry, then spreading out
The strategy is simple, but effective: If Eddy’s worms can eat surfboards, they might as well eat a whole lot of other stuff too: „Once we have succeeded in testing it in the relatively small surfing industry, it will be easy to bring it on to larger industries and municipalities“, Eddy tells with confidence. „The worms take out all the toxicity and turn then styrofoam into compost. That’s a fact. Now it’s all about applying and upscaling it.“
How to do this? The practical approach
Eddy has already been offered money by private investors. He is close to having the whole project financed but remains open for new supporters. „The more options on the table, the better.“ Together with his team, Eddy shoots a video right now to present his project to a broader audience. His first partners are already – literally – on board: „In four months we will set up the first factories with some large players of the industry. Our full-circle-systems will be implemented in surfboard production facilities in Australia and possibly Thailand. We are trying to set the standard for a green approach and are currently dealing with the CEO of Firewire surfboards“, Eddy tells. That’s the company of surf superstar Kelly Slater.