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Knowledge to Grow by Karen Weiland - Natural Resollutions

It’s that time again, time when we reflect on the past year and plan to make improvements for the coming year. This year, resolve to do something for our planet and for our local environment.

Resolutions are like goals: they should be specific, achievable and measurable. “I resolve to recycle” sounds good, but is one trip to the recycling bins for the year good enough? How about “I resolve to recycle all my newspapers for January”? That’s much more concrete, and you can probably do it, because you can tell yourself “It’s only for one month. . . “ but at the end of the month, you can feel good that you fulfilled one promise, and by then it will have become a habit and you’ll find it easy to keep going, even if it’s not your resolution any more.

An easy resolution would be to resolve to join at least one conservation organization this year. You could start with your local “Friends of the Parks” group, or join the National Wildlife Federation, the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, ACRES Land Trust, the Arbor Day Foundation, or any of the other groups that promote a clean environment and habitat for native plants and animals. If you’re already a member, resolve to volunteer in at least two of the group’s projects this year. If you are unable to volunteer, then resolve to donate to one their drives.

You could resolve to participate in a citizen science project. You can count birds at your feeder and report the results, do a frog census, report hummingbird sightings. Just look up “citizen science” on the Internet—there are hundreds of things you can participate in, often at no cost and with little or no special training.

How about resolving to use reusable bags when grocery shopping? It took me a long time to remember to take them out of the trunk and into the store, but eventually it became a habit. The World Wildlife Fund says that the average American uses 350 bags each year, many of which end up in streams, rivers, and oceans, and there they become responsible for needless deaths of marine life. They also tangle in trees and make our landscape look trashy.

Of course, most resolutions are aimed at self-improvement. Make a resolution to learn something about our natural world this year. “By the end of the year, I will be able to identify 10 trees I can’t identify now.” “I will read at least two books having to do with nature and our environment.” (That’s too easy for me because I’m in a nature book club and we read and discuss one each month!) Or you could resolve to learn to identify a certain number of wildflowers, or to learn to identify five additional bird species, or . . . What’s your interest? Use that and build on it.

As you probably have come to expect, I would encourage you to resolve to get outside more. Could you resolve to visit each of our county parks at least once during the coming year? What about seeing our local nature preserves? They are under-utilized, too. You could resolve to dox number of errands by bicycle instead of using your car in the coming year. Include your family in your resolution. Resolve to hike or bike with a family member. Assuming that family member is like-minded, she or he will enjoy spending the time with you, and time is often the greatest gift you can give a person. Resolve to visit at least one state park you’ve never visited before, or hike one new trail, or attend a park program like “Breakfast with the Birds” at Maple Wood in LaGrange or “Riverfest” in Middlebury at River Bend Park.

Well, enough of me suggesting what you should do; it’s time for me to work on my own resolutions for 2014. Don’t forget the First Day Hikes at our state parks on Jan. 1.

Happy New Year!