Good Natured in St. Charles: Sharing 4 attainable resolutions for 2024

Perhaps 2024 will be the year you resolve to become a better birder.

Now that the Christmas cookies and Hanukkah latkes are gone, the Kwanzaa candles have burned low, and the Festivus Feats of Strength are but a memory, it’s time to get down to some serious business: proclaiming our New Year’s Resolutions for 2024.

Unlike previous years where I’ve resolved to eat less or work out more and then failed miserably, this year I’ve actually put together a few perfectly attainable goals, along with ways to meet them. Then as I was looking them over, I had a thought: Why not share?

These pursuits are far from unique; in fact, there’s a good chance that as a Good Natured reader, you might have similar aspirations. Let’s have a look at these resolutions, or what I like to think of as Four for ’24:

Say No to To-Go: I tend to eat at home most of the time, and compost all the food scraps I can. But for those occasional meals out, I needed a packable, reusable container I could bring along for leftovers. Last year, my friend Terri gave me the perfect gift: a collapsible silicone bowl, complete with lid. It holds about four cups, and I tell you, it’s just the dandiest thing for bringing home leftovers. Restaurants appreciate not having to supply a to-go container, and I feel better not using one.

The issue, though, has been having the bowl with me when I need it. Just like when we had to train ourselves to remember our reusable shopping bags when heading to the store, I’m still training myself to remember the bowl.

For the new year, I have two solutions: 1. Buy a few more bowls so surely one will be in the right place at the right time; and 2. Swap my current handbag for a slightly larger one I retired a few years ago. The bigger bag can hold at least one bowl (measuring 6 inches across and 1 inch deep), and there might even be room for a second, to share with a friend. Problem solved!

Wear More Natural Fibers: For years, I was a huge advocate of fleece. I bought fleece pullovers, fleece jackets, fleece gloves, fleece ear warmers. There’s no doubt the material is warm, and, aside from attracting every strand my furry roommates shed, the fleece is pretty easy to maintain.

Over time though, I’ve noticed these thick, warm clothes are neither as thick nor as warm as they used to be. And now that I know why, I’m appalled. These synthetic fabrics shed tiny fibers with every washing. Many are so small they float right through water treatment plants and end up in our waterways. There, these microfibers make their way into aquatic food chains and, eventually, inside the bodies of fish-eating humans. That’s bad news for all of us!

But you know what doesn’t foul up food chains? Cotton. Wool. Silk. With my fleeces looking pretty ratty anyway, these are the materials I’ll be wearing a lot more of this coming year.

Get Better at Identifying Plants: I’ve been fortunate throughout my naturalist career to always have a plant expert or two I could contact when a puzzling leaf or flower popped up. But it’s time to step up and start making some identifications of my own.

I already have some of the necessary tools – a 10x loupe, or hand lens, for looking at teensy parts, and a copy of “Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide” (copyright 1989, the best version). I’m also going to choose an app on my phone, perhaps Seek or Picture This, to jump-start the process. (Full disclosure: I want to get more experience using these apps so I can see how accurate or inaccurate they are. Though they continue to improve, it’s always good to double-check their suggestions against other references.)

Get Better at Birding: I know I’ll never be perfect, but I’d like to upgrade my C+ skills to, say, a solid B. Again, I’ve got much of what’s needed gear wise, including all the major field guides (Peterson’s, Golden, Audubon, Sibley’s eastern version) and decent binoculars, Eagle Optics Ranger 8x42s. (Speaking of binocs, if you’re thinking of buying, check out National Audubon’s most excellent guide at

I’ve also got the free Merlin app on my phone, which is fun to use – especially for identifying bird calls and songs. The thing is, it’s subject to the same foibles as the aforementioned apps.

That’s where it’s nice to have expert birders to verify and learn from. Here in St. Charles, we have a wonderful resource in Kane County Audubon. This group’s monthly meetings and weekly outings are a great way to grow your skills and make new friends. (If you’re not in Kane County, find your local chapter at

There you have it, folks, four Good Natured resolutions for me and for you. Happy New Year, and all the best in 2024!

• Pam Otto is the outreach ambassador for the St. Charles Park District. She can be reached at