A monthly column in the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Few Green New Year's Resolutions

Some goal-setting ideas for a verdant 2011

Take a kid outside this year!
            Whether we make them or break them, New Year’s resolutions are – at the very least – a good annual exercise in setting goals.
            There are the standard resolutions: Lose a few pounds, have more patience … that sort of thing. But in case you’re thinking about a few resolutions of the outdoor/environmental variety, here’s a few to consider.

            Take a kid outdoors. It might be your own child or grandchild, or maybe a friend’s, but help lead them outside. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Fund found that young people between 8 and 18 years old spend more than 7½ hours a day on smart phones, computers and TV – 53 hours a week – an amount that’s on the rise. The lack of exercise, poor nutrition and little outdoors-time is contributing to the epidemic of childhood obesity – also on the rise.
            You can help reverse the trend by taking a kid outside. The possibilities are endless: Help him build a snowman. Take her for a hike. Get a small group of kids together and have a treasure hunt. For ideas, visit

            Help a cause. There are scores of ways to help improve our natural world on the policy front. You don’t need to jump into politics. But you can always write a letter to your elected official, attend a hearing and make your voice heard.
            What’s most important to you? What gets you worked up? The lack of state funds for land protection? The Gulf oil spill? The need for clean energy? Climate change? Maybe a local project? Go ahead and speak up!

            Explore your local places. Instead of taking your outdoor exertions on a road trip, go somewhere nearby. Is there a hill you always wanted to check out but never found the time? Do it this year. It may not have the great views that you get from Monadnock or the Presidentials, but you’ll better understand your own habitat. Pick a few places and make a list; have fun checking it off.

            Learn something. Wish you knew those animal tracks in the snow? Learn them this year. Get a field guide and test yourself. Become the expert!
            Want a few ideas? How about learning those wildflowers? Birds or bird songs. Tree species. Insects. Learn how to tell the weather by observing the sky.
            My wife and I have a running New Year’s resolution. Every year we resolve to learn the constellations, just a few, no more than 10. And every year, we gaze at those stars, look at a star chart or a book … and promptly forget everything. Not this year, though. This is the year we learn our constellations!

            Volunteer. Help an organization with its mission, whether it’s a local land trust or a national group. Almost all organizations offer ways you can help. If you want to volunteer but you’re concerned you might get sucked in, set some limits. One day a month. A few days a year. Whatever you’re comfortable with.
            If you can’t volunteer, is there another way you can support an organization that’s important to you? Can you increase your annual giving, if only by a few dollars?

            Save energy. Start with your own home. Have you switched all your bulbs to energy-saving compact fluorescents, the “squiggly bulbs?” They use one-fourth the energy of an ordinary incandescent. And that saves money for you. Turn down your refrigerator or water heater, even a little. Weatherize. Insulate.
            Energy savings helps you and collectively helps us all. As they say, the cheapest new source of clean energy is the kilowatt that’s not being consumed.

            Eat local and organic. Compared with the truck-farm produce that comes from hundreds or thousands of miles away, local and organic food is healthier and better for the environment in many ways. Local organics are easier on soils, use less transportation energy and taste way better than the stuff that comes from faraway factory farms. Plus, you’re supporting local farmers.
            One of the easiest ways to enjoy local food is to join a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm. There are about a dozen in this area. You can find information on local CSAs on websites for the N.H. Department of Agriculture and UNH Cooperative Extension Service.

            Have fun out there. If this doesn’t seem like a New Year’s resolution, think about it this way: Is there something you need that’ll help you enjoy the great outdoors? How about a new outer shell? Or better under-layers or hiking boots? If you need something in particular, treat yourself … or drop a hint.
The more you enjoy the outdoors, the more likely you’ll take care of it. Have fun!