The annual epoch of holiday traditions is drawing to a close, and now comes the season's denouement - those sometimes rueful measurements of another year gone by and our humbling New Year's promises to do better. Some say such resolutions are a crock. But I say make them right, and you'll make a big difference in the new year.
New Year's resolutions are generally born in the impulsive heat of an introspective moment that finds us somewhere on the unhappy spectrum of personal shame cornered by our conclusion that we weren't quite all we could have been last year.
And so we vow to fill our calendars' clean slates with something nobler. They're good thoughts but often rashly made and motivated by guilt not desire. They also have a terminal tendency to focus on Life's tougher challenges. In other words, most resolutions come with baggage that dooms them to the dust bin by Valentine's Day.
Here's something better: New Year's Resolutions we all should make not because we've been found lacking but simply because we can and why not? You won't need nicotine patches or bathroom scales for these. They're all small things that can have a very big effect on the year ahead:
Go carless one weekday every week. You'll cut your greenhouse emissions by about a ton in throughout the year. If you ride your bike or walk instead, you'll end the year healthier, too!
Make Your Mondays Meatless. According to the U.N., 18% of all global warming gases are released by livestock. If everyone in America went meat- and cheese-less once per week, it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off the road! Meat production also consumes vast amounts of land, water, and feed that could be better used, making this a resolution that saves more than money.
Buy one LED light bulb per month. LED bulbs are the Next Big Thing. They're mercury-free, use half as much power as former energy-efficient champion CFLs, and last so long you literally may never replace them. But you need a home equity loan to embrace this brighter future - at $10, $40, even $70 a bulb, nobody's buying a 12-pack. But we can buy one a month and slowly transition our homes to these huge Earth- and money-savers.
Read labels. If you haven't started reading the labels of the products you use around your home and family, make this the year that you begin. Look for brands that include a list of ingredients right on the package so you know what you're bringing into your home.
BYOBottled Water. Bottled water is convenient but wastes water: Producing every bottle takes three times more water than is found inside, and only 38% of the 50 billion water bottles we consume annually in the U.S. are recycled. Buy a reusable water bottle and pack a sustainable supply.
Take a weekly walk on the wild side. This simple resolution may supply the biggest benefits of all - when we spend time in nature- whether urban greenspace or national park - our minds slow and our bodies heal as we reconnect with what's most important and recharge our desire to defend it. It's a gift to both ourselves and our world. And take the kids. I guarantee the whole family will be much better off for it. Which will make for a very happy new year indeed!