Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Green Thing

I subscribe to a food activism listserve; this was posted on it a couple days ago. I wish I could credit the author, but I don't actually know who wrote it.

In the line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.

The woman apologized to her and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

The clerk responded, "That's our problem today.  Your generation did not care enough to save our environment."

She was right—our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.  So they really were recycled.

But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw-away kind.  We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts—wind and solar power really did dry the clothes.  Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right; we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house—not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana .

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us.

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.  We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she's right; we didn't have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.

We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service.

We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.  And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?


bikelovejones said...

This is one of your most enlightening posts ever.
More stuff like this, please!

Liz Schwartz said...

Well, i wish I could take credit for it, but actually it was posted on the COMFOOD list a couple days ago. I just forgot to credit it...

Still, it's a good thing to disseminate, whoever wrote it.

Steve said...

Ah the good old days, when we didn't have a label for good environmental behaviors because they were the norm.

Uncle Yascha said...

This is really good, and true.

Mitch's Monthly Mix said...

I love the cadence of wizened old-soul pushback that both honors the less circumspect comment that started the responsive litany on non-green commonsense practices (like returning milk bottles for re-use and washing diapers rather than tossing between the tracks at Tri-Met stations where they obscure the carefully arranged geological layers of cigarette butts) and also honors discussion. This would make a marvelous ballad in the youthful old-soul Dylan tradition of "It's A Hard Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall." I'd tone down the 'nothing new under the sun' angle though to illustrate we always have much to learn from looking backward as well as forward with 'that vision thing.' Thanks for the post, sing it, sister!

Michael said...

Wise things to remember. And many of the things that were done in the "olden days" can still be done today, if we choose to take the time and make the effort to do them.

Unknown said...

Yea. HOw I long for those days. Sheesh. It's amazing how fast things changed. Can we ever go back?

Unknown said...
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