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New Year’s resolutions forgotten already? Easy, little things can add up to something important: Effie Caldarola

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A woman holds water bottles next to a trash can under the St. Peter's Square colonnade at the Vatican July 16, 2019. A Vatican official said the Vatican is collecting 22 pounds of plastic a day from trash containers under the colonnade. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

At a New Year’s Eve party, someone asked everyone about their 2020 resolutions. Talk about deflating a celebration. Some people said they didn’t make resolutions, and others came up with weak responses like “Drink more water.”

Effie Caldarola
Effie Caldarola writes for the Catholic News Service column “For the Journey.” (CNS photo)

That seemed like such an easy resolution that I’ve started drinking more water myself. Finally, a resolution at which I can succeed!

Seriously, though, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. But I do find it helpful during January to review important areas of my life. This year, I was inspired by internet exchanges about what people are doing or plan to do for the environment.

So, here are some of my environmental successes and “needs improvement.” As the Benedictines say, “Always we begin again.”

My neighborhood is outside city limits and not covered by city trash and recycling services. So, we pay for our trash pickup and more to choose the recycling option. It pains me to see how few people on our street pay for a recycling box. But we see it as part of our environmental stewardship.

On the other hand, I often forget to take my canvas bags to the grocery in lieu of plastic. Supposedly it was Albert Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So, to do things differently, I’ve put a little sign on my car radio — “Bags?” Perhaps by doing this, I will develop a new habit.

A change I made this past year: After reading about the decimation of Canadian boreal forests by most of the toilet paper industry, I’ve started buying only 100% recycled toilet paper. At www.greenmatters.com, I’ve read about which brands get an A and which an F for sustainability.

In 2019, I joined my parish’s Creation Care team, which cooperates with a composting company to collect all food waste and paper from parish dinners for composting soil. By recycling and composting, we aim to bring parish events to near zero waste to the landfill. Parish education on the environment is part of our commitment. Our parishes, in response to Pope Francis, should all have efforts like this.

The Atlantic recently ran an article about how much better people sleep in a cold bedroom. I was happy to see this, as I love a cold bedroom and our thermostat is always turned to 60 degrees at night. We try to remember to turn down the daytime heat when we will be gone, but we can do better there.

This winter, I attended a seminar on “Creating a Biodiverse Garden.” Our yard has a way to go in being environmentally sustainable. But we will incorporate a list of new plants for our garden — native grasses, coneflowers, milkweed — that will help encourage birds and the right kind of insects.

I’ve become a dedicated secondhand shopper. In my town, we have an upscale boutique that sells secondhand clothing to support a residence for homeless pregnant women. I can support a good cause while cutting back on new clothing, a major source of pollution and waste in today’s world.

Knowing that meat production accounts for about 4% of greenhouse gas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, I’d like to continue one meatless day a week, at least.

Writing to companies — like those big toilet paper companies that dominate the industry — is something I can do. It doesn’t take long, and it costs only a stamp.

Every day I make choices — consumption, purchases, gas mileage — that affect the environment. May my choices in 2020 be prayerful and respectful of our Mother Earth under siege.