I try to live mindfully on the earth. I use a commuter mug for coffee when I’m driving, I take the bus or walk to work. Still, I fail to live up to my ideals all the time. In the winter, I take longer showers than I should (just ask my sister). I clean the bathroom with materials I know better than to use. I travel to faraway places for the fun of it – a single plane ride cancels out all the rest.

So with the vow-taking season here, I am hoping a little public shaming might improve my record, even slightly, for next year. I’ve compiled a short, personal list of ways I can, should and hope to do better, and I’m going to share it. You know how when you tell your friends you are on a diet and then you have to stick to it? Here are five – admittedly very small – green goals for 2015:

1) I will stop running so much hot water when I do the dishes. I will get that dishpan I keep talking about.

2) I will make my own house cleaner from vinegar and borax.

3) I will get in the habit of carrying a small container to use as a doggy bag, if necessary, when I dine out. The last time I didn’t finish my meal, it took two Styrofoam containers and a plastic bag to bring my leftovers home.

4) After I wash my hands when I’m out, I will dry them on a handkerchief, not a paper towel, an idea I gleaned years ago when I lived in Japan. While Christmas shopping last week, I bought myself a sturdy cotton handkerchief for this very purpose.

5) I will drive to the Common Ground Fair in Unity next fall in a high-occupancy vehicle.

I jotted down this list, then read it over. Incorporating thoughts of the environment into my daily routine is a way to keep the state of the planet at the front of my mind. Still, compared to the challenges ahead – global warming, overfishing, the population explosion, the sixth mass extinction crisis – my list looked undeniably feeble. Use a handkerchief to save the Earth? That’s all I’ve got? Looking for answers, or maybe just a pep talk, I called Emily Figdor, the director of Environment Maine. Do small personal actions like these, I asked her, actually matter?

“It’s important that people live their lives with integrity and (that they) respect the earth, for sure,” she said. “It’s about using what you need but not more than what you need and being wise in your choices. But certainly just shutting the lights off is not going to fundamentally change the way that we use energy in Maine or in our society.

“The most important way I believe people can have an impact is working to change public policy,” she continued. “When you change a policy, you are changing the way society values the environment. It’s far too often the case that our policies have not valued the environment. To the extent that we start to do that, we really change the fundamental infrastructure that is going to determine whether we stop climate change and can protect so much of our beautiful state in Maine.”

So No. 6 – or better yet, No. 1 – a vow for all readers of Source in 2015, if I may be so bold: Educate ourselves about and advocate for the policies we believe in, whether they pertain to land conservation, public transit, coastal development, solar energy or, alarmingly, a far longer and more daunting list than I have space to enumerate here. For a few ideas, see “In 2015, 5 hopes for a brave new Maine.”