I made a resolution to reduce my family’s waste. Here’s how

We all know the jig is up with the environment. Even if you don’t believe in man-made climate change,why wouldn’t you want to protect nature and the resources all us humans rely on,on this floating blue orb we share? So I’ve been thinking – like a lot of us – about the earth.

I grew up with a mother who always played her part;reworking,reusing,and recycling. In retrospect,she was ahead of her time,but as a teenager,I couldn’t see it. I was just embarrassed by her insistence,for example,that we bring home our glad wrap from our school sandwiches,so she could reuse it. (Seriously,she would reuse it for five days straight,till it barely had any “cling” left to it.) I also couldn’t believe that she would save wrapping paper from gifts to reuse on other presents.

Kate Langbroek:I’ve been rethinking sustainability and attempting to reduce and reinvent my family’s waste in a more creative way.

Kate Langbroek:I’ve been rethinking sustainability and attempting to reduce and reinvent my family’s waste in a more creative way.Supplied

Fast-forward to a sobering parallel:I am in lockdown with my family over in Italy. Six of us are confined to our apartment;space to empty our bins into the communal ones outside is limited. I walk into the kitchen one morning to be confronted by our mountain of plastic refuse. Empty water bottles;food packaging. It is terrible. Also,this is just for one family. Our family. It prompted some deeper thinking from me about how we consume.

And I couldn’t shake the thought;if everyone else in the world is doing a similar thing – admittedly to varying degrees – then we are all going to be in trouble. It was a Pandora’s box moment,but the thought-bees that came buzzing out were about excessive consumption,plastic landfill,mountains of disposable fashion. (And,to add to this newfound eco-anxiety,literal bees are themselves under threat in some parts of the world.)

Guilt sometimes has its place. It can be a great motivator. But when it becomes a soul-eating,stultifying end-unto-itself,it’s not helpful. I had to remind myself – an important point for me personally – that I am not capable of doing everything. Still,I made a resolution:if the chance to do something ecologically responsible presented itself,I would take that opportunity and run with it. So I’ve been rethinking sustainability and attempting to reduce and reinvent my family’s waste in a more creative way. (There are,of course,obvious and brilliant solutions,like worm farms – which we have – or compost heaps. But there are also myriad opportunities to make less waste that are also fun and off the beaten path.)

Make the broken beautiful

I have this collection of op-shop crockery;chipped,and in pieces from being vigorously used in the course of our family life. Not wanting to throw it away,my youngest sons and I are planning to turn it into a mosaic;a tabletop,or a plaque to hang in their grandparents’ garden. This,as well as a cute nod to Italian art,is part of a broader notion I have learned from our time in that magnificent nation:Italians look to create beauty everywhere. Also,they respect the old – in people,and in things.

Unwind your wool

Growing up I witnessed all sorts of salvage opportunities,thanks to mum. (Now,of course,we would call this upcycling. Back then,we called it “weird”.). She would,and still does,take old jumpers – good ones,made of wool – and unravel them,spooling the untwisted wool until it is a ball of yarn again. She doesn’t knit but,trust me,she will make it her life’s mission to track down a friend who does and gift it to them. Quality wool is hard to find,and it always seems to be gratefully received. If not,it makes a great cat toy.

Conscious cooking

This sounds like a pretentious Gwyneth Paltrow concept,but really it just means I try to cook as much as possible. Mostly,this is because I love to eat. But I’ve also noticed that getting sustainable in the kitchen isn’t just about reducing waste by turning leftovers or old veg into a fried rice dish or soup.

The closer my family and I stay connected to what we’re eating through the life-art of cooking,the more conscious of the contents of our meals we become. We try to ensure our produce is from Australian farmers;that we are not eating oranges imported from America,or frozen veg from China. Also,I know what needs to be used and when. I waste less:we eat more wholesomely,and we save money. Cooking,for me,is a basic building block of sustainable living. It is also a triple-threat.

Get the kids to take charge

Kids love to make a difference. Also,unlike their weary parents,they have all the time in the world. My two youngest boys are properly mad for theWonder Recycling Rewards program in schools. They’ve been collecting the soft plastic bread (and wrap) bags from home and taking them to school,where they’ll get turned into school play equipment. The kids like the sense of competition. They love that it’s a program they can take ownership of. And I love that they are running the show on this. Another great way to get the kids thinking about the environment is to get them outdoors amongst it. If I had all the time in the world,I would love to grow my own garden. Thankfully for us not so green thumbs,community gardens are popping up all over the place. Let the kids run amuck and get their hands in the dirt without committing to a fully-fledged home project. And an added bonus ... the outdoor action tires them out!

Kate Langbroek is a comedian,TV and radio personality and mother of four. She is an ambassador for the Wonder Recycling Rewards program.

Make the most of your health,relationships,fitness and nutrition with our Live Well newsletter. Get it in your inbox every Monday.

Most Viewed in Lifestyle