Photo, of Fuertes Observatory, courtesy of Cornell Astronomical Society's Facebook page

ITHACA, N.Y. — Happy New Year!

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We hope you had a blast heralding the arrival of 2016 … whether at the Rongo in Trumansburg, or with Big Mean Sound Machine at Lot 10, or just at home with close friends and family.

We wanted to talk about Ithaca area New Year’s resolutions today, and so here are 10 suggestions — tailored for the Tompkins resident — for the new year.

Do any of the following resolutions catch your eye? If so, let us know by voting in the poll below.

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Also: Did we miss a good Ithaca-area New Year’s resolution? Email me at jstein@ithacavoice.com so I can add it to the story.


1 — Commit to hiking all of Ithaca’s illustrious gorge trails

What: Given our endless natural trails for exploration, it’s almost criminal that more Ithaca residents don’t take routine advantage of the miles and miles of gorge trail that snake through our county.

How: Learn about the 150 waterfalls flowing through our 10 square miles by going to the Visitors’ Bureau website here: http://www.visitithaca.com/attractions/waterfalls.html.

Why: Exercise, peace of mind, getting closer to nature, supporting one of Ithaca’s key natural resources.

Resolution: Print out the list of gorge trails (at the link above) and cross each one off the list once you’ve hiked it.

2 — Help our hungry by volunteering at the Loaves & Fishes soup kitchen, food bank

What: The Loaves & Fishes soup kitchen in downtown Ithaca serves thousands of people every month — but often needs help finding volunteers. Similarly, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier is also often looking for help via donations or volunteers.

How: Both Loaves & Fishes and the Food Bank have volunteer opportunities listed on their websites.

Loaves & Fishes: http://www.loaves.org/volunteers.htm

Food bank: http://www.foodbankst.org/index.asp?pageId=155

Why: A story we did last year noted that there’s been a 30 percent rise in food insecurity for a broad swath of the Southern Tier. One in four people in the region — which encompasses Steuben, Chemung, Tioga, Broome, Schuyler and Tompkins counties — receives some form of assistance from the food bank.

Help those organizations help those who need it most.

Resolution: Volunteer at one of these places for at least 5 hours every month.

3 — Take in free, mind-blowing lectures at Cornell

MSNBC host and political commentator Melissa Harris-Perry speaks at Cornell about racial inequality

What: Though few take advantage of it, Cornell University offers frequent guest lectures — often completely free and open to the public — from some of the best minds around the world.

Just this month, for instance, Cornell will be hosting a book talk from the chief economic adviser to the Indian government, a seminar on broccoli production and a conversation about Islam in West Africa.

How: Follow Cornell’s lectures by going here: https://events.cornell.edu/calendar/month?order=rating (The list is a little thin right now because Cornell is on winter break.)

More lectures can be found here: http://theuniversityfaculty.cornell.edu/lectures/spring_16.html

Why: Going to a free lecture at Cornell is a great way to expose yourself to new ideas and learn about the world beyond Ithaca.

Resolution: Go to at least one free lecture by an expert at Cornell every month.

4 — Lend a helping hand to Ithaca’s sick, disabled, elderly

The Cayuga Birthplace at the Cayuga Medical Center. The hospital offers opportunities for volunteers who want to help

What: There are many, many ways for those with some spare time on their hands to help the sick, disabled and elderly populations of Ithaca.

How: You can volunteer at a number of health providers in the area, including (with links to volunteer opportunities):

— The Cayuga Medical Center;

— The Ithaca Health Alliance;

— Tompkins County FISH;

— Ithaca’s Longview;

— The Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Why: It’s easy to take one’s health for granted. Use your spare time to help those on the front-lines of caring for some of the area’s least healthy residents.

Resolution: Spend at least 5 hours every day helping the sick, disabled and elderly through these volunteer opportunities in the Ithaca area.

5 — Explore the galaxy by becoming an amateur astronomer with help of Cornell, Sciencenter

Photo, of Fuertes Observatory, courtesy of Cornell Astronomical Society’s Facebook page

What: With its former connection to legendary professor Carl Sagan and current connections to Mars rover missions, Ithaca is an ideal place to become an amateur astronomer and explore the mysteries of the galaxy.

How: One way to get involved in amateur astronomy in Ithaca is by going to the Open House Nights at the Fuertes Observatory on Cornell’s North Campus. Those are held every Friday night when school is in session.

You can also learn more by finding contact information here: http://coursewiki.astro.cornell.edu/Fuertes/CornellAstronomicalSociety

The other great local resource for those interested in astronomical exploration is the Sciencenter, which operates the Sagan Planet Walk and offers guided tours narrated by Cornell graduate Bill Nye.

Why: Because Earth is for chumps!

And because there’s noting more surreal than seeing a twinkling planet from the Fuertes Observatory on a clear Ithaca night. Great for families with young children, too.

Resolution: Commit to taking the Sagan Planet Walk and to two open nights at the Fuertes Observatory on Cornell’s campus every month.

6 — Help your city by volunteering with local government, youth bureau, library

Image courtesy of Form Ithaca

What: Ithaca runs on the efforts of officials and volunteers who work long hours for little to no pay. You can help your city function by signing up for a position with city or county government, or by giving your time to help at one of many non-profits with public missions.

How: See if a City of Ithaca committee or board catches your interest by looking at this list: http://www.cityofithaca.org/339/Boards-Committees

A highly incomplete list of non-profits seeking volunteers include:

— The Greater Ithaca Activities Center;

— The Ithaca Youth Bureau;

— The Downtown Ithaca Alliance;

— The Ithaca Childrens’ Garden;

— The SPCA of Tompkins County.

Related: Here are 5 ways to help spruce up the holiday for Tompkins’ less fortunate

Why: Deepen your connection to Ithaca, help yourself by helping others, ensure that important services reach people in need, build your city.

Resolution: Pick one of these organizations to spend 5 hours with every month.

7 — Reconnect with your spiritual side through Ithaca’s places of worship, world-renowned monastery

The Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca. (Kyle Friend/Ithaca Voice)

What: The North American Seat of the Dalai Lama, Ithaca’s renowned Namgyal Monastery offers extensive teaching sessions, retreats and events for the general public.

Tompkins County also has a thriving Christian church life, an active Jewish community and several mosques for Muslims that are easy to connect with.

How:  Here’s links to some of the places you can sign up to connect with Ithaca’s places of worship:

— Namygal Monastery;

— Catalyst Vineyard Church;

— Congregation Tikkun v’Or (Ithaca Reform Temple);

— Al-Huda Islamic Center of the Finger Lakes.

Resolution: Commit to at least one meditation or prayer service a week at an Ithaca-area place of worship.

8 — Support thriving Ithaca art & culture scene

Photo courtesy of the State Theatre of Ithaca’s Facebook page

What: Given its size, Ithaca offers a stunning number of independent movie theaters, playhouses, music venues and independent bookstores.

Make a commitment to support some facet of the thriving, local art and culture scene here in Ithaca.

How:  Here’s an incomplete list of some of the ways you can make a tangible New Year’s resolution to supporting Ithaca’s local arts & culture scene:

— Become a member of Ithaca’s Cinemapolis;

— Join the State Theatre of Ithaca;

— Buy package deals at the Kitchen Theatre of Ithaca;

— Become an owner at Buffalo Street Books;

— Get a subscription for the Hangar Theatre of Ithaca;

— Join the Fine Arts Booster Group.

Why: Your own self-interest!

Ithaca’s arts, music and theaters offer productions that are routinely of higher quality than the national chains, but they often simply don’t have the bandwidth to compete with multination companies with huge marketing arms.

Consciously deciding to support local arts and music can give your neighbors a big boost while also helping you enjoy your free time.

Resolution: Go to at least three locally-run events in the Ithaca area to support our thriving arts & culture scene.

9 — Bolster Tompkins-area agriculture, eat better by buying locally-produced groceries

Get your groceries locally produced at Indian Creek Farm, 3 minutes from downtown Ithaca. Photo courtesy of VisitIthaca.com

What: A long-growing locavore market in Ithaca allows residents to buy fresh fruits, veggies and other groceries from their neighbors, thus helping the local economy while reducing your carbon footprint.

How: One easy way to ensure you’re supporting local agriculture is buy signing up for a “CSA” (Community Supported Agriculture), which connect consumers with local farmers.

Here are some of the area’s CSA’s (more can be found here):

— The Piggery;

— Indian Creek Farm;

— Early Morning Farm;

— Ithaca Organics;

— The Full Plate Farm.

Of course, GreenStar cooperative and Ithaca Farmers’ Market are also great ways for Ithaca area residents to buy from local farmers.

Why: Joining a CSA will allow you to help local farmers while gaining access to fresh products at a single, flat rate.

Here’s how the benefits of joining a CSA are explained by the Cornell Cooperative Extension: “The consumer pays for a crop ‘share’ in advance, guaranteeing producers a market for their goods. In return, growers commit themselves to supplying fresh, quality produce to shareholders on a weekly basis throughout the growing season … Shareholders are guaranteed a supply of fresh, quality produce during the growing season, and possibly longer.”

Resolution: Spend an additional $200/month on a local CSA or with other local agriculture producers.

10 — Read the Ithaca Voice

What: Find out what’s going on in Ithaca and Tompkins County by making it a habit to read the Ithaca Voice.

How: Make IthacaVoice.com your homepage, follow our Facebook and Twitter feeds, and sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Why: Reading the Ithaca Voice will help you learn the latest about your community, find out how your taxes are being used, and see how the Ithaca you know and love is changing.

We’ve also heard that reading the Ithaca Voice everday can dramatically improve your looks, extend your life expectancy by several years, and measurably enhance your sexual libido.

Resolution: Read the Ithaca Voice for at least 30 minutes every day.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.