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Climate Change»How About 'Earth Day Resolutions'?

»Friday, April 23,2010

Leading up to the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day there are signs of collective and individual action, but most change thus far has come from the planet. After forty years of rallying and teaching and, at times, fighting for a better way of life, most Americans still cling to the same habits they had before Earth Day existed.

Previous Earth Days have been like a Saint's Day — say, Christmas. Everybody gets together and does a good deed because it's the right thing to do, and because the holiday demands it. People choose to do something really out of the ordinary, maybe even get down on their knees and plant a tree; but even sympathetic people who wish this kind of behavior were the norm and not the exception acknowledge that life has to go on. You can't celebrate Earth Day every day any more than you can celebrate Christmas every day.

This year, treat the run-up to Earth Day like New Year's Eve: Make this year the beginning of something bigger. In a study reported by the Wall Street Journal and conducted by John Norcross, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, just 4 percent of 282 people who wanted to make a specific change in their lives and thought about doing it without making a specific commitment actually succeeded. Compare this with the 46 percent of people who did make a concrete resolution, complete with mental and physical preparation for the change, who held on.

Take a look at these ideas for reducing your personal carbon footprint: Pick your hot-spots, and if you follow these simple but important tips there's no reason in the world you can't take the first step toward saving the planet:

Don't bite off more than you can chew. Whether it's eating less red meat or refitting your house for sustainable living, you have a better chance of long-lasting success if you take small, practical action instead of reaching for the stars. Filling your refrigerator with vegetables is not going to help if you don't have a clue how to prepare a balanced vegetarian dish you enjoy. Start by taking the time to learn new recipes two or three times a week, and eventually you'll have the ingredients and knowledge necessary for bigger changes.

Get by with a little help from your friends. In a perfect world we would all do what was right even if no one was looking; but nobody is perfect. It's important to share your commitment with loved-ones and friends, not only to cheer your successes but to witness your setbacks and help you to continue. Better still, find someone who has the same goal you do and keep each other on track.

Be proud, say it loud! You are doing something courageous, so keep people informed of your progress. Chart or in some way track your efforts and find a group with whom you'd like to share them. And don't be shy when the subject comes up; you may inspire more than just yourself.

Know thyself. You're not just moving into a new way of living, but leaving an old one. It's important to have an accurate idea of how your old lifestyle worked (or fell short) so you can replace what sustained you as you help sustain the planet. If you used your solitary commute to work as your quiet time, and you're now car-pooling or utilizing public transportation, consider taking walks after meals to replace that outlet. Making a resolution work is in large part an exercise in figuring out how you work.

Expect the unexpected. There will certainly be set-backs, sometimes long ones, but preparing for these is the key to persevere. There may be obstacles that pop up out of the blue, but expecting the unexpected will help you to work around them. While resolving to recycle more, you may find that your community does not recycle glass; but with a little digging, you may find a glass recycling drop-off near your local organic bakery!

Be prepared: Change can be sweet.

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