The 12 Do’s of Christmas: A Season to Commit to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle to Minimize Waste [Interview][Transcript]

Brad_Gray_Planet_Ark_Environmental_FoundationGuest: Brad Gray
Presenter: Henry Acosta
Guest Bio: Brad Gray trained and worked as a history and geography teacher before moving into the health education sector for 14 years. With a strong passion for human environments, Brad started with Planet Ark in 2007 as Recycling Programs Manager before taking up the role of Head of Campaigns in 2010. Brad works with every team in the organisation to create positive and action-based programs designed to engage Australians with the environment.

Segment overview: The giving and receiving of gifts during the Christmas season generates recyclable material that most people have minimal disposal knowledge. Gifts like computers, printers, mobile phones, clothes, furniture, and glasses are often discarded. The 12 Do’s of Christmas Campaign aims to educate and encourage people to reconsider their purchasing behaviour to help minimise waste during this season.

Health Professional Radio – The 12 Do’s of Christmas



Henry Acosta: Hello I’m Henry and welcome to Health Professional Radio. On-board with us today is Brad Gray of Planet Ark Environmental Foundation. Brad trained and worked as a History and Geography teacher before getting into and working in the Health and Environment Education Sector. His passion for our surroundings and for nurturing our environment led him to starting the Planet Ark Environmental Foundation back in 2007. Planet Ark Environmental Foundation’s aim is to help unite people, businesses, and governments through positive environmental actions. This December they have a campaign called the ‘12 Do’s of Christmas.’ Today Brad is with us in studio to talk about the 12 Do’s of Christmas, their current campaign. Hi Brad, welcome to the show, I’m glad to have you on-board.

Brad Gray: Good day, how are you going?

H: And for first question, can you tell us little bit more about yourself and what you do?

G: Yes. Planet Ark is an environmental organization, so we have been running for about 21 years and what we focus on is encouraging people to take positive actions in their daily lives. So really what that’s about is giving people strategies for reducing their impact in terms of the waste that they generate or encourage them to get in contact with nature which has both environmental and importantly health outcomes and also encouraging people to switch to low carbon lifestyles so things like solar panels or energy efficiency. And all of which are very much focus on the environment but one of things the way absolutely recognize is that a healthy environment creates a healthy people as well.

H: And what inspired you into getting into this line of work?

G: I’ve always had a bit of interest in it. So as you said before, I used to work in the health sector for a long time and it’s about 14 years, I worked at the … for New South Wales in the education area of the organization. I suppose over the last few years there, I was kind of seeing that the environment had direct links to health and I’ve always been interested in the environment, so it’s kind of a natural progression from human health, individual human health, so it’s kind environmental health in bit of a link between the two of those – it’s what kind of really interests me.

H: And with your campaign for this December, how do you come up with the ‘12 Do’s of Christmas’?

G: Yes. So one of the reasons we came up with this campaign and this is the fourth year we’ve run it, we came up with this campaign because essentially what we did is that we looked around, we’re doing a lot of recycling information and recycling education and what we noticed is that at the Christmas Period people buy more, eat more, drink more, and party more than any other time of the year and each one of those actions has a negative environmental outcome associated with it and that is basically increased waste. So at this period of time, there’s so much extra waste being generated that waste in garbage and recycling bins become increasingly full. Recycling companies usually need to put on extra shifts to be able to deal with the waste that’s coming through their systems. So essentially what we’re encouraging for people to do over this period and look for ways that they can reduce that and if they can’t reduce it, to make sure they’re dealing with it properly so sending it to the appropriate recycling systems or doing the right thing with it so if it can’t be recycled then putting it in the right bins so it gets disposed of correctly.

H: And can you give us a quick rundown on what the 12 Do’s of Christmas are?

G: First of all a couple are kind of grouped around making sure you’re buying good quality Christmas decoration, so either making Christmas decorations yourself or buying good quality ones that you use year after year. If you buy cheap plastic ones that break in the first year, they’ll end up in landfill and that’s no good for anybody – so that’s Do number 1. And that’s similar to Do number 4 which was actually about kind of wrapping paper. So if you’re giving gifts, give them in either reusable things such as bags they can use year after year or look for something that you know is recyclable, so wrapping paper, so actual paper is recyclable in every council in Australia and they’re probably the same in other places as well. But the plastic wrapper or foil wrapping paper is not recyclable, so we encourage people not to buy that stuff, to buy the paper stuff that you know you can actually recycle it. And things like keeping ribbons and bows out of the recycling bins because they actually get caught in the recycling machine. So that’s Do’s number 1 and 4. Number 2 is really about your work Christmas party, if you’re having that most workplaces now recycle pretty well. At the work Christmas party if there’s anything going on there, the recycling tends to kind of fall down a little bit, so we’ve got signage and information to encourage people to set-up proper recycling bins for the bottles and cans and other things they used there, get recycled properly. Another one is the really important one is food waste, so Australians over the Christmas period will spend about 19 billion dollars on food and a lot of that stuff goes to waste. So we encourage people to shop with a list, so you buy what is listed, avoid impulse purchases and also really think about whether you need to be catering as much as you do and this is really interesting the thing called the ‘Christmas Calorie Heat Map.’ It maps how many calories that people in different countries around the world consume over the Christmas period and in the United States, France, and the UK eat the most calories, so that in more 3,500 calories over the Christmas period and they’re also throwing a lot of food out. Interestingly, Japan comes way down the list, that probably they celebrate Christmas in the same way, not being a country with a Christian background. But what’s happened in Japan over the last 20 years is KFC, people go to KFC at Christmas Day and they get a kind of a boxed meal at Christmas Day and unusually, what that actually means is they’re eating less calories than most public places because that’s common pretty much they’re kind of focused on. Australia is kind of in this second tier of countries eating between 2,500 – 3,000 calories in the day of Christmas and countries like Lithuania, actually the best, actually they’ve got the lowest calorie intake about 1,500 calories over Christmas Day and they actually don’t tend to eat their Christmas Day meal on Christmas Day, they do it on Christmas eve and they have fish, no dessert and no alcohol. So you can see that even in that kind of respect, what you see is Christmas is celebrated very differently in different places and in terms of what we consume see over the Christmas Period, they can vary vastly and also what we end up throwing out varies vastly as well, so encourage people to cater … don’t go overboard. If you bought your 6 pack of chips for example or 3 pack of the … pies or all that kind of stuff, put one or two of them out at the go and when people finish it and then put more out. In that way you’re kind of feeding people what’s there, the chips don’t go stale and soggy over the day and you don’t have to throw them out. It means you’ve got them for the next day and then you not wasting the money that goes into buying those things as well. A couple of the other Do’s revolve around technologies so we give them the number 8 and Number 9 where they’re very much about technology. Increasingly over the last decade or so technology has become much more common gift, so new mobile phones, new computers, and things like printers, that kind of stuff and things that need batteries, like toys or other gadgets that need batteries and what we encourage people to do is to make sure that they’re recycling those things whatever they can so there’s a free program for mobile phones, from mobile muster in Australia about the industry, there’s an organization called ‘Techcollect Provider’ computer and television industry and they can recycle TVs and computers for free. And what that actually means is that the toxic materials in phones, in TVs, in computers actually get collected and recycled properly and safely in those facilities and they don’t end up in our environment and importantly they don’t end up getting exported overseas to countries that don’t have such strong environmental standards and when that happens it has huge and significantly impacts on the local population because the toxins end up leaking into the environment. So we encourage you to check out things in our website, which is and that will tell you where you can recycle those things like computers, TVs, printer cartridges. And in terms of batteries, what we encourage is you’re actually giving a present that involves a battery and buy battery charger as well because well that actually means is you end up using a lot less batteries over the life of the present, you throw out a lot less batteries and it cost a lot less money. It costs that 1 cent to recharge battery compared to 3 dollars to buy a new one. At Christmas, we encourage you to do things like if you’ve got tires, make sure the car’s tuned, empty the car with anything’s that doesn’t need to go with it because what that actually means is your car will run much more efficiently and reduce a lot less carbon dioxide then using a lot less fuel over their journeys as well. So they’re of kind of the 12 Do’s of Christmas, the things we want people to focus on, little planning at the beginning of the process, you’re being responsible when you’re actually serving food and that kind of stuff and then making sure you’re recycling or disposing of the things that become inevitable waste at the end of process and enjoy your Christmas, that’s really what it’s all about.

H: Alright and since you guys have a lot of campaigns during the year, how do you come up with the ideas of making new campaigns during the year?

G: Look we’ve got three areas where we work and one of those is Resource Reduction, so using resources effectively… we kind of look around and see where there are resources that are not being used efficiently, so we’re currently working on a program for example to increase coffee ground recycling. Coffee grounds have got a lot of valuable materials in it, they can be turned into oil, so you can actually generate oil from coffee grounds, it can be used for compost, it can be used to grow mushrooms. And in most cases the coffee grounds are actually separated out independent of all the other waste, so it means it’s easy to process because it’s already separated. So we look at things like that, at what’s actually happening, is where you can tap into a resource. We also look at things that are important and our National Tree Day is one of our biggest campaign. And this really an interesting one, it’s been running for 21 years and for the last 5 years, we’ve been looking at how the campaign runs and 8 years to be mostly or almost entirely about putting trees in the ground and particularly native trees in the ground and that was really important and remains important. But what we also discovered is that there are health benefits for kids in particular, but for everyone more generally of being outside and in contact with nature. It reduces stress, it reduces anxiety, it reduces the ADHD. People in hospitals who can see trees from their hospital bed recover more quickly than people who can’t. Kids who can see trees or have more plants in the classroom learn better than kids that don’t. And so essentially what we then look to do is develop a campaign around encouraging people to have more contact with nature as well for their environmental benefit. If the kid is outside, they appreciate the nature that’s there so when they grow up they want to look after it and also that actually means they’ll grow up healthier because they’re in contact with nature. So that’s kind of how we do it, we look around and see what’s going on in society, what needs to be addressed.

H: And can you tell us a little bit more about your campaigns, which are the successful ones and which are the most popular ones?

G: Yes. So we got a few, it’s all about Cartridges for Planet Ark Programmers, it’s probably one of the most successful campaign actually and basically what it’s about is most workplaces and most homes have printers or photo copier and they need to change the cartridges fairly regularly and those cartridges are mostly made up of plastic which means if they go to landfill, they’ll sit there for many many years, 400 years up to a thousand years and that’s not good for the environment. And what we actually do is we’ve got together with some of the biggest cartridge manufactures so Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, Konica Minolta and Kyocera and worked with them to fund a program which means all of the cartridges that they produce can be brought back to a central location and recycled into new and useful products. And we’ve got about 30,000 workplaces across the country that are involved in that program and it’s about 4,000 retail collection points. And basically what that means is anybody who has printer cartridges can actually find somewhere where they can recycle them. So that’s the one of our most successful campaigns, Tree Day is obviously one of them a successful campaigns. It’s about 250,000 school kids and about 50,000 general public participate in Tree Day every year. So that’s many, many hours of people outside and getting involved in nature, looking after the natural environment. So they’re probably 2 of our most successful campaigns, actually they have huge involvement across the country so it’s very important.

H: With regards to the main take away message that you want our audience to hear, what would that be?

G: The main message we encourage people to hear is that you can actually make changes in your own life. So a lot of the environmental campaign is actually about protecting places somewhere else, so protecting rainforests, protecting the great barrier reefs, protecting a particular animal, and those campaigns are actually really really important. We encourage them to get involved with those and that actually what you do in your own life and you can do a lot in your own lives, you can recycle properly, you can reduce buying products if you don’t need them, you can go outside and volunteer for an organization that plants trees and looks after them. You can choose to buy better environmental products like recycled office paper, recycled toilet papers. So in your own life, you can make changes that have positive environmental benefits. That’s what our campaigns are all about, encouraging people to look at the way you’re doing at time of work or at school, making couple of changes and improving your impact on the environment.

H: And for our last question, how can anyone who’s interested in volunteering and helping support your cause reach you guys and probably talk to you?

G: So the best thing that you can do is actually check at our website, our general website is and that links us to all of our individual campaigns, so do check that one out. you’d be able to find all of our campaigns, what you need to do with them, recycling information and our contact details there. Anyone who got any questions, we’re more than happy to respond to them.

H: Awesome. Well that’s all our questions for today, thank you for being on the show Brad.

B: Thank you very much.

H: And that was Brad Gray, Founder and the Head of Campaigns of Planet Ark Environmental Foundation. We just finished talking about how to help save the environment and the 12 Do’s of Christmas and also the Christmas Calorie Heat Map. I’m Henry and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio. If you want to listen to this interview again, you can go on or You can also hit the subscribe button and find us on Soundcloud and iTunes. And thank you Brad, we appreciate it.