Crowe MacKay Takes the Plastic Free July Challenge

News Story
| 7/28/2020

Crowe MacKay understands the impact businesses have on our environment and is committed to creating a more mindful culture through our Environmental Stewardship pillar. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), set by the United Nations, empower us to continuously educate and act in a way that is beneficial to both people and the planet.

Our team members ”took the challenge” this July, participating in Plastic Free July, a global movement urging millions of people to be part of the plastic pollution solution. At Crowe MacKay, we saw both plastic-reducing veterans and beginners grow as they attempted to live a more plastic-free lifestyle, becoming more aware of our plastic addiction and developing new habits and purchasing behavior.


Why our team members took the challenge and what they learned along the way


Melissa Tester, Administrative Assistance, Edmonton

Melissa went big! She challenged herself to avoid single-use plastic packaging, reuse everything to the best of her ability, avoid take-out food from restaurants that use Styrofoam or single-use plastic containers, continued to use refillable water bottles, and avoided plastic straws and drink containers for the month of July.

I’ve been wanting to lead a more plastic free lifestyle for quite some time now. The world produces millions of tonnes of plastic per year, which does not just miraculously disappear, it is here to stay. I am privileged enough to have the option to take steps towards being plastic free, so why not? I recognize finding plastic free alternatives is challenging when companies have made us quite dependent on plastic, but I know that doing so is not impossible. Plastic Free July prompted me to finally take the next steps to make some changes in my life. Although they are not huge changes, I am hoping to slowly wean out the unnecessary plastics in my life.

I wouldn’t say I am ready to be proud of my efforts, not yet at least, there is a lot of work to be done. I have, however, enjoyed being more of a conscious consumer. Instead of just grabbing something off the shelf at the grocery store I think, “do I really need this? Can I recycle the packaging? Is it essential?” I’ve noticed I’m not only eating a bit better but saving money on the junk food I would buy in the past – but I still have a treat once in a while!

Something I’ve learned is that “about 12%of Canada’s plastic waste is sent outside of North America to be ‘recycled.’ The majority of this exported plastic waste is sent to countries in Southeast Asia, many of which do not have the proper infrastructure to deal with this waste.” (Canada’s plastic problem: Sorting fact from fiction, Rachelle Young)

Unfortunately, we might think we’re doing the right thing by recycling but we don’t actually know where that recycled plastic will go (this doesn’t mean to stop recycling though!) Once it is sent to a country in Southeast Asia it is no longer something for Canada to handle. I think a lot of people are blind to this and like to assume that Canada doesn’t produce as much plastic waste as other countries, which is dangerous to think. This way of thinking takes the onus away from Canada (and countries alike) and puts it onto others, when in reality plastic waste is a global issue.

Melissa Tester Change Toothpaste  Melissa Tester Dish Soap  Melissa Tester Reusable Camping Dishware  Melissa Tester TruEarth


Rohan Jacobs, Manager, Kelowna

Rohan challenged himself to avoid single-use plastic packaging from now on.

Growing up on the coast, my family and I spent a lot of time at the beach and this meant I developed a strong connection with the ocean. From a young age, we were taught about the negative impacts of plastic and other pollutants on our oceans and that has always stuck with me.

To be honest, the vast majority of my plastic-use comes in the form of multi-use products and I very rarely use single-use plastic items. On those rare occasions (perhaps a take-away coffee), I have been more conscious of either bringing my reusable coffee flask or not applying the plastic lid to a take-away coffee.


Natasha Chand, Manager, Vancouver

Natasha challenged herself to avoid single-use plastic packaging all of July.

I joined Crowe MacKay in Plastic Free July because I wanted to be involved in helping reduce the global environmental issue of plastic pollution and become more aware of my own plastic consumption on a daily basis. 

The biggest challenge I faced throughout the month was reducing how much I relied on the use of plastic wrap. My solution, instead, was to uses glass jars as a replacement.


Lisa Kennedy, Partner, Sunshine Coast

Lisa challenged herself to avoid plastic take-away items all of July.Lisa Kennedy Plastic Free Grocery Hall

I decided to participate in Plastic Free July because I thought it was a good opportunity to become more aware of plastic consumption in my home and find where I can eliminate it.

With COVID-19 I can’t bring reusable bags to my local grocery store and that has made this experience a challenge. So, instead, I ask for paper bags and use them at home to put my recycling in. I’ve really enjoyed and am proud of my efforts in eliminating my use of produce bags at the grocery store.


Brittany Pitruniak, Marketing Manager, Firm-wide

Brittany challenged herself to reduce single-use plastic packaging from now on.

I recently moved to the downtown core, and in doing this I’ve made a conscious effort on reducing my environmental footprint. Since moving, I’ve eliminated nearly two hours of commuting each day; and I’ve used this momentum to dive deeper into consciously making environmentally-friendly choices. This has included not purchasing saran wrap; purchasing soaps from a re-fill store using glass bottles; using reusable ziplock bags when necessary; eliminating produce bags and using linen ones; using reusable grocery bags; not purchasing single use water bottles; and opting for bamboo toothbrushes.

I continue to look for new ways to be better for our planet, and I’ve found it’s slowly becoming a competition with myself on how far I can go. I’ve recently purchased wool dryer balls and compostable dish rags, and am loving both. The bonus is I’m able to support local businesses as well when purchasing these products!  


Alexis Troup, Marketing Specialist, Firm-wide

Alexis challenged herself to go completely plastic-free all of July.

Alexis Troup Refill ContainersThe hardest thing has been accessing certain foods or products that simply do not have a plastic-free alternative. My plastic-free commitment did not go over well at the beginning of the month where I had made some purchases online, bought pre-work, when I was on the road and forgot cutlery, etc...

Making so many purchases that have plastic packaging is very out of the norm for me and really took a toll on my happiness. My solution then became asking myself if I needed it. If I do, can I get it from somewhere local, with minimal to no packaging? Or, can I buy the item in large or bulk quantities when a plastic-free option isn’t available? Lastly, can I choose a restaurant that doesn’t require cutlery if I happen to have had forgotten mine?

As hard as going plastic free can be, it is one of the most rewarding activities. It feels so much better to put in the extra effort to find plastic-free options rather than choosing convenience and plastic. I will certainly continue this process, improving the products I buy, and reducing my environmental impact with plastics one day at a time.


Robin Middleton, Director, Education, Training & Development, Firm-wide

Robin challenged herself to avoid single-use plastic packaging all of July. 

I have a strong dislike of plastic, I dislike it’s texture and feel, and also feel strongly about its impact on our environment and in our landfills.

Replacing plastic containers with re-useable glass containers, and replacing plastic wrap with glass containers with lids, were some of the most challenging things I faced in going plastic-free this month. This process helped me achieve something major - no more single use water bottles. I bought myself a Swell and it keeps the water super cold.

I’ve learnt through Plastic Free July that plastic is everywhere - in our landfills, our oceans and beaches, even in molecular form in the air we breathe.

One area plastic consumption can be reduced is with many kids toys. There are many wood replacements such as wooden puzzles, trains, and other toys.


Sara Zacharias, Senior Manager, Sunshine Coast

Sara challenged herself to go plastic-free from now on.

I decided to participate in this initiative because it complements my household’s lifestyle. We are trying to be more environmentally friendly in all aspects of our lives.

Although plastic pollution is a huge, worldwide issue, everyone can focus on their role, even if it is small in the grand scheme of things. Everything from recycling, to reusable bags, to using a cora ball in your laundry makes an impact!


Annette Smith Glass Jar ContainerAnnette Smith, Staff Accountant, Whitehorse

Annette challenged herself to go completely plastic-free in her home all of July.

My plastic consumption is pretty low already; however, I wanted to challenge myself by finding solutions to how I brought and stored the food I take to work on a daily basis. For liquids, I started using canning jars, and for sandwiches and breads I started to use paper towels or waxed paper, a very old school method. Throughout my plastic-free journey, I leaned plastic pollution is everywhere in the environment.


Phoebe Kotulska, Student, Kelowna

Phoebe challenged herself to go completely plastic-free all of July.

My family and I are already considerably waste conscious but going completely plastic free has not really occurred to us as something that is even possible. When our firm invited staff to participate in Plastic Free July it seemed like as good a time as any to see if it was possible.

What’s been the hardest thing I’ve had to find plastic-free? Food. While participating in the challenge it made the amount of plastic everywhere a lot more noticeable. Food comes in bags, inside of boxes. There was even one instance of an orange that had been peeled and then put in a plastic skin. We purchased linen produce bags to place fresh produce into, replacing it’s plastic counter-part. We did find difficulty with items such as granola or tea. We are vegetarian and the plastic wrapped meat wasn’t an issue.

We have a family friend down in Summerland that runs a plastic free store. You’re required to bring your own bags and containers (they must all be reusable) and they sell everything from soap bars to self-serve cereal so it is possible to be plastic free; however, this is the only store of its kind within the region, so you need to drive 45 minutes to get to the store. I question, with such a long commute, does that mitigated the whole point of refilling your container and reducing your plastic waste?

My family and I, as mentioned, are quite aware of our footprint, and, recently, I was greatly surprised to learn about littering still being an acceptable activity. I visited a website where you can look up vehicle license plate numbers in case of an accident. On the site you can leave comments on specific license plates. One comment I saw was that a driver “threw a plastic 2L bottle at a car in oncoming traffic” followed by “why wouldn’t you just throw it in the ditch like a normal person?” This was a massive reality check that a lot of people, to this day, are not waste conscious and continue to litter.


Jennifer Mendes, Senior Manager, Kelowna

Jen Mendes Reusable Water BottlesJennifer challenged herself to avoid single-use plastic packaging from now on.

I have been trying to reduce my single use plastic consumption for a long time and have been slowly making progress.

Reducing the use of plastic grocery bags has been a win. I’m so glad we can now bring our own bags back into the grocery stores!



Wendi Harding, Receptionist, Kelowna

Wendi challenged herself to avoid plastic take-away items all of July.

Working from home during COVID-19 has pushed me to do more online grocery, goods, and pharmacy shopping in order to reduce the amount of times I’m physically in a store. I was shocked at the amount of plastic wrapping that comes with the packages delivered to your door. I have been putting all plastic wraps, bags, and packaging in a separate bag to take to the Recycling Depot rather than throw it in the garbage.

During this process, I’m really proud and happy to have had created less garbage.

Something I realized about plastic pollution is that it’s very difficult to be completely plastic free overnight. This challenge, however, has definitely given me an awareness as to where I can reduce my use of plastic. I also realized that a lot of the “big box” stores need to rethink their packaging and shipping methods, and perhaps we need to voice our concerns to them as well.


Alena Christie, Human Resources Manager, Firm-wide

Alena challenged herself to avoid single-use plastic packaging all of July.

I decided to participate in this initiative to bring more awareness to how much I use single-use plastics in my daily life.

Alena Christie Glass Water BottleThe hardest thing was grocery shopping. I was surprised at how much produce I buy that is wrapped in plastic or comes in a plastic container. My solution has been to buy from local producers and nearby farmers markets where the use of plastics is significantly reduced.

The best part about this initiative are the added benefits I hadn’t anticipated. Because of this challenge, my husband and I have been eating more organic food, spending less on bottled water from the store, and supporting more local farmers and businesses. As a result, we’re impacting the environment, our health, and the economy in a positive way.

Also, my glass water bottle now comes with me everywhere.


Rebecca Speirs, Lead Administrative Assistant, Sechelt

Rebecca challenged herself to avoid single-use plastic packaging all of July.

My family and I have been gradually implementing changes at home to become more plastic-free, and I wanted to extended these efforts to the office.

A road block in this process has been plastic packaging. Certain foods from the grocery store don’t come without a plastic casing. It’s hard because products are substantially more expensive when you buy them individually as opposed to pre-packaged options. It makes budgeting a challenge.

To avoid the plastic packaging, we’ve been exploring farmers markets and bulk stores, searching for items that the grocery store has but comes in plastic packaging. This has been really fun and is something my kids love helping with. It has become a family mission.


About Crowe MacKay LLP

Serving Northern and Western Canada for over 50 years, Crowe MacKay LLP is one of the leading accounting and advisory firms in the country. With a team of 400 across eight offices, we are a vibrant team of trusted advisors. We believe strong relationships are the cornerstone to success and strive to create innovative solutions for our clients in both private and public sectors. We have a passion for quality in the services we deliver to our community and clients from a wide range of industries. A firm focused on people first, Crowe MacKay’s corporate culture is built on maximizing potential for clients and staff. Our belief is that we are truly our best when we invest in our people and communities. Committed to showing we care about the people we serve through our work and actions, we strive to make a difference in the regions we serve.

About Crowe Global

Ranked the eighth largest accounting network in the world, Crowe Global has over 200 independent accounting and advisory firms in 130 countries. For over 100 years, Crowe has made smart decisions for multinational clients working across borders. Our leaders work with governments, regulatory bodies, and industry groups to shape the future of the profession worldwide. Their exceptional knowledge of business, local laws, and customs provide lasting value to clients undertaking international projects. At Crowe, the professionals all share one commitment, to deliver excellence.