Gillian Graham-Crowe with husband Gavin and children Adia, Jonah, Jude.
Gillian Graham-Crowe with husband Gavin and children Adia, Jonah, Jude.

‘You look crazy’: Mum’s challenging month

Working for the state's environment department Gillian Graham-Crowe has always had sustainability on her mind.

But the mother-of-three knew there was plenty more her family could be doing.

Instead of easing into reducing their waste, Mrs Graham-Crowe decided to go cold turkey and get her tribe from Sydney's inner west to do Plastic Free July.

"You get those funny push backs when you're testing the norm," she said.

"You feel a bit awkward (giving them your reusable containers) at first … they tried to talk me into the plastic sushi plastic containers.

"They look at you like you're a bit crazy but I've stood firm and explained I'm reducing plastic.

"It's not insurmountable, just tricky."

Mrs Graham-Crowe has been keeping a diary for the month on what her family's been doing, posting to Facebook to keep herself accountable.

"It's been amazing to see everyone respond to it," she said.

"A lot of people have jumped on board and that's been inspiring and helped me keep going.

"I really don't mean any of this to sound preachy and I don't want people to think we're doing great and they're not. It's just out little journey.

"Across the month I've received over a 100 messages, texts or comments. I definitely think the Plastic Free July movement is gaining a bit of momentum."

Mrs Graham-Crowe said there had been different levels of challenge and ways to overcome them. This is what her family did:

 

 

SUBSCRIPTION WASTE

Getting husband Gavin on board with the toilet paper change was a big deal.

One of the changes the family made was subscribing to Who Gives a Crap, a company that makes 100 per cent recycled toilet paper and donates 50 per cent of profits to build toilets in the developing world.

"I've had to bring hubby on board because it's not as soft as normal toilet paper," Mrs Graham-Crowe said.

But Mrs Graham-Crowe said buying in bulk or through subscription services took the thinking out of going plastic free.

She said the bamboo toothbrushes from Toothcrush they switched to get delivered so her family didn't have to think about going to the supermarket to restock with the plastic ones, millions of which end up on landfill.

"It's been hard breaking up with the washing powder you've used forever or buying bamboo toothbrushes," she said.

"It sounds straight forward but it's a subscription thing again so you're kind of committing to it.

"I've found the subscription thing to be really helpful because it takes the hassle out of it. They were big decisions (the subscription commitments)."

 

Adia, 6, poses with the Who Gives a Crap toilet paper arrival.
Adia, 6, poses with the Who Gives a Crap toilet paper arrival.

 

EVERYDAY PRODUCTS

"My assessment is if I'm organised they're easy but they definitely take a bit of forethought and organisation," Mrs Graham-Crowe said.

"There's been some that have been no-brainers that were easy - the big four - bottles, bags, straws and cups. They're really easy things everyone can do, there's really no excuse for that stuff.

"We've decided that's it and drawn the line under it."

 

 

Mrs Graham-Crowe made general purpose spray — three parts bicarb, two parts water, two parts dish soap and one part white vinegar as part of her Plastic Free July experiment.
Mrs Graham-Crowe made general purpose spray — three parts bicarb, two parts water, two parts dish soap and one part white vinegar as part of her Plastic Free July experiment.

Mrs Graham-Crowe said she had to take a "massive leap of faith" with bathroom and laundry products.

She said one of the best investments she made was the Face Halo reusable make-up wipes which have taken the beauty world by storm.

The microfibre cloth pad removes make-up with just water, reducing the amount of throwaway wipes that go to landfill or clog up our drain pipes.

"They've been the single best change," she said.

"It's so easy and cheaper. It's a no-brainer."

But the product Mrs Graham-Crowe said she had still been struggling with was the Solibar.

The shampoo bar is vegan and cruelty free and handmade from natural ingredients, again reducing the need for plastic shampoo bottles.

"I'm still finding my hair trying to adjust to it," she said.

 

Mrs Graham-Crowe said it was taking a while for her hair to get used to the shampoo bar.
Mrs Graham-Crowe said it was taking a while for her hair to get used to the shampoo bar.

 

Jonah, 4, says ‘no’ to individually wrapped tiny teddy packs.
Jonah, 4, says ‘no’ to individually wrapped tiny teddy packs.

 

The family has started recycling their soft plastics.
The family has started recycling their soft plastics.

She said takeaway containers had been more of an educational process for others.

"It hasn't just been about us making changes as a family, it's been about educating people on the way through," Mrs Graham-Crowe said.

"What we're doing is the tip of the iceberg and there's so much more we could do."

 

 

PARTY PLANNING

Mums know you have to be prepared when it comes to party planning and with birthdays coming up in August, Mrs Graham-Crowe has had to get ready.

With her kids "living for their next birthday party", it's a big deal in their household.

"But this year is going to be different - we're going low waste, plastic-free," she said.

Her plan is no plates, cutlery or cups, with food and treats served on reusable platters and plates from home.

It will be BYO water bottles and Mrs Graham-Crowe said she'd text parents on the day to remind them.

As for party bags she said was "dialling up the creative" and was reusing unwanted paint tin props from her husband's work.

"Inside will be a packet of butterfly seeds, a fireman cookie cutter, fireman tattoo, giant chalk, and lollies wrapped in wax paper," she said.

 

Jude’s party bags will feature goodies in paint tins.
Jude’s party bags will feature goodies in paint tins.

 

The kids have been playing with bubbles instead of balloons this July.
The kids have been playing with bubbles instead of balloons this July.

"Adia will have brown kraft paper bags with awesome 'bee seed bombs', personalised recycled notepads, and twig pencils.

"Jonah's superhero themed favours will see a cupcake and temporary tattoo combo.

"This year, our parties are all 'fiver' parties, whereby the kids can pool their individual gifts of $5 for one big present or experience."

She said the idea behind that was it beat heaps of plastic presents.

There will also be minimal decorations so no balloons, party poppers or plastic decorations.

"I have some fabulous fabric bunting from over the years, and it'll all get a run," she said.

"There will be hessian or kraft paper in lieu of plastic tablecloths and I'll be reminding our party entertainers to be waste and plastic wise."

While the family has made a lot of change, she said there was still a long way to go.

With Jude, 2, still in nappies, she said they haven't quite yet tackled that challenge and but she was looking into making her own baby wipes and buying a composter for the backyard so they could have a "naked" bin with no liner.


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