While the Instagram world is brimming with reels related to fashion, travel, film numbers, and memes, 62-year-old Vani Murthy is riding the ‘reel wave’ by sharing her life experiences centred around composting and waste management. Murthy, who also goes by the name ‘Worm Rani’, is an Instagram sensation who gained popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic. With three lakh followers on Instagram, Worm Rani is all about advocating sustainability through simple lifestyle practices – right from using your own steel cups and plates to composting vegetable peels and producing organic matter.
Although the social media platform has transformed her into a composting influencer, she was a regular homemaker who hardly stepped out of her house. She first joined the Malleswaram Resident Welfare Association and began to spearhead campaigns around cleanliness and greenery in the neighbourhood. She also started ‘Wealth Out of Waste’ (WOW), a campaign that focused on spreading awareness about waste segregation. But the trigger point for Murthy was her visit to a landfill site at Mavallipura in 2010 when she realised how waste is polluting the environment.
It was then that Murthy decided to compost her waste. In fact, she also helmed a campaign called ‘My Waste My Responsibility’, through which she advocated the need to compost one’s own waste in the backyard of one’s home, rather than sending it to a landfill and adding to pollution.
“Sixty-five per cent of waste generated is through the kitchen, i.e., wet waste. When I first started composting the waste, I failed terribly. But I learned over time and the process of composting in itself gave me a daily high. I was making tonnes of compost and conducting workshops on the terrace. The workshops focused on spreading awareness on different composting solutions, waste segregation, kinds of containers, and other sustainable solutions,” says Murthy.
She spearheaded most of her composting campaigns in public parks and other outdoor places. However, in 2010, she tapped into social media for the first time through Facebook. Cut to 2020, she made her debut on Instagram with about 2,000 followers. In three years, she managed to clock three lakh followers who are now looking up to Murthy for waging war against disposables.
“I never work on creating content. I just continue to do my chores and have a sustainable life, which the camera captures,” says Murthy with a chuckle. “I believe in sharing my life practices and not in creating content. I am just living my life… Ninety per cent of my followers are less than 30 years old. I feel happy that I am triggering sensibilities related to the environment in a completely different generation,” adds Murthy.
Besides churning out reels on composting, Murthy also shares recipes, sustainable travel hacks, lifestyle hacks, awareness on caterpillars, growing vegetables, zero-waste weddings, and solutions for plastic-free gift wrapping, among others.
Enter Murthy’s home and one feels like entering a ‘green zone’. “I have a steel bank consisting of 1,500 steel cups, plates which I would lend when someone wants to get rid of disposables. My drawing room is very green and filled with plants. On my balcony, I grow tomatoes, basil, and veggies… My kitchen does not have tissues, I use cloth napkins instead. To wash utensils, I use natural cleaners and not chemicals. My quest is to go low waste and become the least burden for the planet,” says Murthy.
For starters, Murthy believes that composting should have a long-term sustainable goal. “There are two reasons one should start composting – first, to send the waste where it belongs, i.e., the soil and not to the landfill. It is the organic matter that makes the soil fertile to grow our food. Another reason is to prevent pollution. Dumping waste in landfill means that organic matter starts to break down anaerobically, thus emanating methane out in the air. It is a very harmful gas that is dangerous to the planet,” says Murthy, adding that one can go for vermicomposting using earthworms only when they are growing food, otherwise one can stick to the conventional composting method using dry leaves.
“The energy that I get from being in my space is what keeps me going in life. It is fulfilling and there is so much to learn… I am currently enjoying being in the business of transformation by adopting a lifestyle that is pro-earth rather than against the earth,” says Murthy.