By Gerald F. Schnepf, Executive Director, Keep Iowa Beautiful

Many people will wait to plan their 2016 resolutions until after the New Year starts. Rather than waiting – let’s use this month to start laying out the plans for how you can help improve your home, neighborhood, community and Iowa.
Consider tackling small projects that are relatively easy to achieve thereby enabling you to be successful and fuel the fire to do more. It becomes too easy to put off any resolution, however, one to help improve your area can pay back large dividends on your investment.
Your success on these projects makes you feel good about doing the project and making a difference, but also, provides an outstanding example to others (younger and older). Additionally, it builds a sense of pride– not just for you, but, for all those that benefit from or see the results of your efforts.
Samples of the types of projects you might consider are:

-Planting a tree or shrub on your property
-Planting flowers in an area that needs improvement
-Fixing a fence that is in disrepair
-Painting the garage, out building, fence or house
-Volunteering on a local improvement committee
-Helping improve a public park or facility by painting or planting
-Working with the school on a school garden
-Helping your teachers explore new opportunities like Teachers Going Green (KIB Website)
-Working to clean up and / or fix public property
-Improving the entryway to your community
-Helping to support recycling efforts
-Picking up litter on the streets, parks, parking areas and trails
-Assisting in a community service project with youth from the school

Those are just a few examples of how each of us can plan for the New Year and make a resolution to help improve our communities and the State of Iowa. Each small project makes a difference and helps. In many ways and without your knowing, it can influence people’s lives and encourage them to make their “gift back” to the area.
My resolution is to increase my level of volunteering to projects that improve Iowa. I have a history of community service but there is more to do and frankly it gives me sense of pride and accomplishment.
Your Keep Iowa Beautiful resolution (along with the actual follow through) is one way to give back or in today’s vernacular – “pay forward.” Not a bad gift for the season.
Maybe it will become habit-forming!