Saving the whole stinkin’ planet

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Girl picking up rubbish.

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While we may be their teachers, there are also lessons we can learn from our children which is the hope of Lee Constable.

The host of Network Ten’s science show Scope hopes her new book How To Save the Whole Stinkin’ Planet will empower young people to know how to make simple changes in their homes and schools about waste and recycling and then share them with their families.

Released this week to coincide with World Environment Day and coincidentally with the introduction of NSW water restrictions, the quirky young scientist said young people are very worried about their environment and she hopes the book will empower them to take positive action.

With a focus on giving children an understanding of what actually happens to rubbish when you throw it away, this book highlights the importance of reducing our household garbage as well as recycling and proper waste management.

“The clock is ticking on the planet and we all have to do our bit to protect it,” she said.

“Now more than ever, children are facing the effects of climate change and they are worried about their environment and feel helpless about what they can do about it.

“One of the most common questions kids ask me is ‘what can I do as a child to make a difference? So hopefully the book will empower them with the knowledge to feel confident to act.

“It can be quite scary for a kid to hear about what’s happening to the planet and more recently the need for water restrictions and not know what to do about it.

Lee Constable

“I hope my book explains in a fun and entertaining way practical eco-friendly activities for kids, teaching them about waste and recycling and in turn making a difference.”

Growing up on her family’s sheep farm in NSW, Lee has lived through droughts and seen the toll it’s taken on farmers, not only financially but mentally, so is painfully aware of the need to do what we can.

She said she has been in the situation where she has looked out her windows and seen a dry field and been consumed by the helplessness of the situation, so has made it her own personal crusade to make change.

“As a population we already have many of the answers needed around climate change, it’s now just a matter of getting politicians, scientists and other leaders to all communicate with each other and do something about it,” she said.

“So if that means making the kids the teachers and encouraging them to educate adults about what needs to be done, I’m right behind it.

“Now more than ever, children are facing the effects of climate change and it will be their generation who will have to deal with the issues so we need to start now.

“Young people are very passionate about the planet and great at holding adults accountable for their actions.”

10 Family-Focused Things you can do to Save the Whole Stinkin’ Planet!

There are lots of great ways to nurture family and community connectedness while also taking steps toward saving the whole (stinkin’) planet. It can be a great bonding experience and open up family discussions in new ways!

This list is a start and will hopefully inspire you to find something the whole family can enjoy.

1. A hike or beach day with an enviro twist
Getting out and about and enjoying nature together is a great thing to do as a family so why not pick up litter as you hike or plan your beach trip near an area that needs a clean-up? A simple challenge like the initiative ‘Take Three for the Sea’ asks beach goers to always find 3 pieces of litter to put in the bin before leaving the beach. It doesn’t need to be Clean Up Australia Day to pick up litter and this simple act can make the whole family more observant of the things we leave behind. Take a reusable bag with you to carry any trash you find on your family walks.

2. Citizen science
Find out if there are any citizen science outings in your area that the family can do. From frog ID, to water quality testing, there are lots of different things your family can do to get involved in conservation and environmental science. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to meet scientists and other conservationists in a community setting. There are even great citizen science apps your family can download to log and identify species as you find them and help with ecological studies.

3. Clothing Swaps
Clothing swaps are a great way for the whole family to refresh the wardrobe while giving unwanted clothing a new home. Fast fashion is leading to a lot of clothing ending up in landfill and overwhelming second-hand stores. Make it a fun event with other families. Do you know a family with older kids who may have clothing they’ve grown out of that your kids would love? Or do you know families with kids who are the same age and size? Swapping clothing within a friendship group is a wonderful way to encourage sharing while reducing everyone’s wish list. Bonus: Does your school have a costume day each year? Start a costume pool where kids can share their costumes with each other instead of trying to find new costumes.

4. Enviro Movie Nights
There are some phenomenal documentaries with environmental messages that would make for a great night out (or in!) with the family and open up plenty of discussion. A popular favourite out now is 2040, a film that explores what your family’s future could look like in 2040 and how we can make a positive future a reality together. Keep an eye out for other community screenings of environmental movies or even find some to watch at home.

5. Mission compostable
Where does your family food waste come from? Where does it go? Most of the household waste that goes to landfill is food waste and it’s that waste that creates greenhouse gases like methane while it’s there. The best way to avoid this is by composting! Making a compost heap together or even a mini composter is a great way to turn your food waste into a feast for microbes and a great activity to do with kids. You can make it a weekend routine to mix or turn the compost over and see how everything is breaking down. Is anything breaking down slower or quicker? Why? Bonus: worm farms are loads of fun to create and care for!

6. Grow green thumbs
Home gardening together is a fun family activity (especially if you can use your own compost to help those vegies thrive and close that food waste loop). Whether it’s a small herb garden or a community tree planting day, this is a wonderful opportunity to do something for the planet as a family. It’s also a point of pride to sit down to a family meal and talk about something on the plate that came from the garden. How far away would that lettuce have had to travel if we bought it at the store? How many food miles have we saved together?

7. Garage sales
Does your family accumulate too much stuff? Combining family spring cleaning with a garage sale is a great way to see your things get a new life and making some pocket money as a family. The Garage Sale Trail is a wonderful yearly event that allows you to register and advertise your family garage sale and maximise the number of pre-loved items that leave the lawn on the day. Why not make the Garage Sale Trail a family outing day? You can plan your route and make a wish list as a family!

8. Trashy tours
See if your local landfill or recycling sorting facility does tours. This is a really good way to get up close to the end destination for your family’s waste and ask those tricky trash questions. It’s also something that can open up family discussions and make members of the family more mindful when the time comes to throw things away.

9. Pre-loved treasure hunts
Family outings to second-hand stores can be a lot of fun for everyone. Close the loop by not just donating but buying from second-hand stores. There is a lot of excitement, wonder and even adventure scouring the shelves for gems to take home whether it’s clothing, décor or your next craft project. See how many of the things from the family wish list can be sourced second hand and find your new favourite second-hand stores to frequent.

10. Tree planting
Tree planting is a classic environmental community activity and community environmental groups often run tree planting days that are open to the public or you could organise your own!