Eco-minded Resolutions for the New Year

William Patenaude

Back in 2008, I wrote a column about why I was a lousy environmentalist. For months after its publication, I heard a lot from folks who enjoyed hearing about my failures. And so I figured, 10 years on, why not do it again.

In that column, I checked through a list of my eco-shortcomings — too lazy for reusable shopping bags, too self-centered to use less electricity — and while I’m happy to say that I’ve made progress (I now do use reusable shopping bags and I’m better at the fuel-consumption thing), I have a way to go.

And so with a new year before me, I have a few resolutions to become a better steward of God’s creation, and better in general at allowing God’s grace to help.

First, the practical: I want to set up a real compost bin. For years now I’ve been saying that I don’t want to throw out food wastes and I don’t want my town to haul away yard wastes — especially because my small lawn and gardens are fed and treated with organic products.

Similarly, I want to set up rain barrels. And I want to shop locally more (and less on Amazon) — especially for my produce.

Now that my house has been sealed and stuffed with insulation, I want to explore solar panels. There are a number of easy ways to do that in Rhode Island (check out, but I suspect that my roof style and tree proximity will make solar not much of an option. But I want to have a professional determine that.

And if that doesn’t work, there’s always the fallback purchase of green energy.

Lastly, I want to encourage more people around me — my supermarkets, my neighbors — to follow suit. After all, sometimes it takes just one person to change the way things are done.

But … I will need help to do all this. I’ll need to call on experts and invest in compost bins and rain barrels. I’ll need to invest more time, too, which is always tough to find.

Most importantly, I’ll need to grow spiritually if I want to live virtuously and prudently.

I want to say the Rosary more and find fewer excuses to forego receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. More frequent daily Mass wouldn’t hurt, either. And, following the excellent advice of Cardinal Robert Sarah in his book “The Power of Silence” (Ignatius Press), I want to spend more time in solitude and allow God to fill it, and me, as he will.

After all, how can any of us expect to grow and live better lifestyles without God’s presence working within us?

I hope that a year from now I can look back and say, “Yep, I did that.” Or at least say that I tried.

So I hope to report back on my resolutions, and feel free to think about how yours can take into account the goodness of creation. Maybe together, we can all rise to the challenge of living the lessons of Pope Francis’s eco-encyclical “Laudato Si’,” as well as all the teachings that the Church graciously offers to bring about a better world and the salvation of souls.

May Mary, the Mother of God, pray for us all. And a happy and blessed New Year to you and yours!

William Patenaude, M.A., KHS, serves on the diocesan pastoral council, is an engineer with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and is a parishioner of St. Joseph Parish, West Warwick.