Julie Boulton

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I saw a sea of plastic... 

It was at my kids school and the "use once then trash" mentality was strong. For everyone. We seemed to have forgotten that all things come from somewhere and there are costs (environmental, social and economic). My children didn't know what their things were made of either and, really, neither did I. So we started investigating!


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my books


Ever wanted to know where things or come from or had young people ask these questions of you constantly? Well, these books are designed to help you out! Part fact, part not, the books  feature Bella, Lulu and Zoe and seek to uncover where undies come from (it's not a tree), where the water goes when you empty the bath, what goes into growing your food why you don't need to buy new, (with a little imagination, a hot glue gun and some scissors, you can create the disco dress of your dreams). 

Illustrations all my own (made from upcycled paper - no new paper was harmed).


donate to water.org


After researching lots of water facts for my book, "Where did the water go?", I thought it would be a very good thing to donate to an organisation working directly in the field of clean water and sanitation. I am now super excited to announce that a percentage of sales from my book are being donated to water.org. Look them up. I think they are great!


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the greening of

"The Greening Of" is my weekly (Wednesday) newsletter where I muse about a particular greening issue that is plaguing me or I discuss something that I have just learnt about and really need to share. It covers all sorts of things like people, products, businesses, ideas, sad facts, happy facts and new ideas. Go on, take a look!



latest newsletter

cabbage patch kids and the great pacific garbage patch

  my interpretation of a clean ocean

my interpretation of a clean ocean

When I was in Grade 4 (way back in 1985) all I wanted was a Cabbage Patch Kid, and big hair (big hair, however, is not relevant to this story). Cabbage Patch Kids came with a birth certificate and a birthmark on their bottom and were, obviously, highly sought after. They were also hugely expensive. Like ridiculously so. At the time I could not understand why my parents were so against them. Now, with three children of my own, I get it. But I must have whinged a lot about it at the time as consolation came in the form of receiving the Flower Kid, a cheaper and, perhaps a replica, of the Cabbage Patch Kid. Solace also came from the brilliant Paul Jennings story about eight-year-old Chris finding a baby in his family’s cabbage patch. It was spectacular in its weirdness. The only thing that could be weirder would be finding a garbage path in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Oh, wait, that actually exists. Its official name is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and it doesn’t come with birth certificate.

In 2010, Boyan Slat, then a Dutch 16-year-old,(he is still Dutch but is now 24 and is, therefore,way too young to remember Cabbage Patch Kids), decided that a floating island of garbage in the ocean — that is the size of Queensland and growing — was not fantastic and he started investigating ways to rid the ocean of this scourge. He started The Ocean Cleanup with 300 euros of his pocket money and, by March 2013, things started to get exciting: his 2012 TEDx video (first link below) was picked up by several news sites and spread to hundreds of thousands of people, leading to the first USD $90,000 injection of funds, (raised via crowdfunding) and the project began in earnest. A volunteer team of close to 100 scientists and engineers spent a year completing the 528-page feasibility study, published on June 3, 2014. That led to more crowdfunding — 38,000 funders from 160 countries contributed over USD $2 million in 100 days — so more work could be done on the prototype and a lot of trial and error.

The past five years have involved a lot of super smart people and a whole lot of testing. Finally, just two weeks ago, on 8 September, the first system (System 001) left San Francisco and is, right now, making its way towards the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located halfway between Hawaii and California. If this works, The Ocean Cleanup is hoping to launch an additional 59 systems over the next two years. The recovered plastic will be bought back to shore, recycled and sold to businesses, who will use the recycled plastic in products to sell to consumers like you and me (it is envisaged that this part of The Ocean Cleanup’s business model will assist in funding The Ocean Cleanup deploying additional systems to more garbage patches (sadly, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not the only one (if only that had been the case with the Cabbage Patch kids).

Having followed Boyan, and the Ocean CleanUp, since 2015, I feel a little connected to the launch, and I’m both excited and nervous about the next few months. Given I am almost as far removed from the project as one can be, my nervousness levels must be nothing compared to how Boyan and his team must be feeling right now. Their incredible dedication to the cause and the rigorous experimenting and testing that forms the backbone of the launch — 273 scale model tests, six at-sea prototypes, a comprehensive mapping of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with 30 vessels and an airplane, and several technology iterations — is extraordinary. There are certainly risks ahead, (Boyan’s video below documenting the anticipated risks clearly sets out the challenges that lie ahead), but I so hope it works, not just for the Ocean Cleanup team but for the health of our oceans and the future of our world (not to stress anyone out even more but our world desperately needs a clean ocean).

The Ocean Cleanup estimates that, with a full fleet, (60 systems), half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can be removed within the next five years. This is an interesting statistic. Does this mean that in 10 years all the rubbish will be gone or, at least, gone from at least one of the garbage patches? Last year, Boyan and his team flew a plane over the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 2017 to see if they could work out exactly how much rubbish lives inside the patches. What they found was scary. As Boyan explains, the rubbish spotters plan was to work just as they do for marine life spotting expeditions — one spots, announces and describes and one records the finding along with the location. However, the team was forced to deviate from this process pretty early on, turning to cameras only because there was too much debris to record. From this aerial survey, (and countless other expeditions from other organisations), we know there is a lot of trash in our oceans and clearing even half of it within five years could be ambitious. What is even scarier than that very sad fact however, is that clearing any of our ocean trash will be impossible if plastic continues leeching into our oceans. As Boyan states: “For 60 years, mankind has been putting plastic into the oceans.” Do we have any guarantee that this pollution is about to stop?

The Story of Stuff, another awesome organisation trying its best to combat our age of plastic, calculates that over 8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans each year. They are intent on identifying the origin of the plastic they find. From 10–16 September this year, the organisation ran a global week of action in co-ordination with the #breakfreefromplastic movement, encouraging smaller organisations right down to the individual level to run rubbish “brand audits.” This is where you collect the rubbish and sort it according to brand, like, this afternoon, I collected five Coca-Cola plastic bottles from Lake Burley Griffin. The Story of Stuff wants to know where the plastic has come from because they believe that the companies who produce, use and sell single-use plastic, bear the ultimate responsibility for the waste in our oceans — not the individuals who use the plastic or the countries who don’t have the necessary waste infrastructure in place to stop plastic from entering our waterways.

The brand audit is kind-of like showing off the birth certificate you got when you purchased your Cabbage Patch Kid, assuming you were allowed to purchase one that is. That birth certificate was a really big deal in Grade 4. You had to bring it into school with you when you came in with your Cabbage Patch Kid to prove to everyone it really was yours and not your sister’s. My sister wasn’t allowed one either so I tried to use my real birth certificate for my fake Cabbage Patch Kid, which I stole from Dad’s filing cabinet when, in an angry child moment, I was convinced I was adopted and went searching for it. It didn’t work. The girls in Grade Four saw through my ruse and refused to let me play with them. They were onto something though — if you can work out the origin of the product then maybe you can go right to the source and stop more from appearing.

The Story of Stuff says:

“These multinational corporations are the real litterbugs that need to be held accountable.”

Ultimately, the clearing of our oceans should be seen as a giant puzzle to solve (and not a Cabbage Patch Kid). Setting up Ocean Cleanup systems is a great start (and one that should be paid for by some of the big polluters, not donations from concerned citizens). Citizens cleaning, collecting and documenting plastic is also incredibly useful. As are recycling systems that are properly run and that are, actually, recycling. But these efforts amount to nothing if, at the same time we are diligently emptying, we continue to fill. We’re only going to solve this problem if we stop filling altogether and to do this, we have to reduce, and hopefully eliminate altogether, plastic production. Here is a scary figure: 322 million metric tons of plastic were produced in 2015, and that number is expected to double by 2025! Can we stop that? If we re-think and re-design what we produce and consume — moving away from single use pastics to a circular economy — then, maybe, we have a chance of ridding the world of the garbage patches in our oceans. In some twisted logic, I feel that it seems only fair that if I didn’t get a Cabbage Patch Kid then my kids should not get to experience the Great Pacific Garabage Patch! No-one should.



this year's campaigns


waging war on disposable coffee cups

Some people don't know that a disposable coffee cup is not recycled. It may be recyclable - able to be recycled  - but it very rarely is. I have been waging war against the ridiculous single use items for some time now and I am determined to see the items taken out of circulation. No small task given Australians use 2,700,000 million of them per day!



a year of buying no clothes

1 January 2018 until 1 January 2019. No clothes. None. Not even second hand. Can I do it? I don't think so. I'm halfway through and I am struggling. I'm trying to break a 20 year habit here and it is a little hard. But when you stop and think about where your clothes came from, who made them and the environmental impact of buying new, and buying all the time, you kind of feel you have to try. 

All illustrations and photos are my own

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Illustrations are made from left over bits of wrapping, cut up magazines, birthday invitations, christmas cards, junk mail in the letterbox, newspapers, candy wrappers, chip packets - basically anything that I find!


The Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity
— United Nations Development Programme

17 goals, 169 targets, 232 indicators

My favourite targets

TARGET 4.7: By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development


TARGET 12.5:By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse

Teach sustainability

Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world
— Nelson Mandela

ideas for teaching sustainability

Anything and everything can have a sustainability focus  


Make art from what you find in your trash can, write about sustainability in creative writing (topics could incude: what would happen if we never recycled anything?), learn about the letter R (refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, recycle), focus on systems and incorporate the life cycle in design class. The options to introduce sustainability concepts early on are endless!

Classes I have taught...

  • the letter "R" (refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, recycle)

  • trash as art

  • the water cycle as a system (use an environmental issue to highlight systems thinking - cutting down trees affects our water system) 

  • creative writing and sustainability

  • non-fiction and sustainability

  • the sustainability - or not - of everyday objects - meet Pete the Plastic Bottle (why is it important to refuse and bring your own)

  • the life cycle of design - kids design own object and apply an enviornmental life cycle lens to their product (from beginning to end)


Examples of art made from trash