Thoughts on Being Green

 

Subritzkys General Store
Subritzkys General Store (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have seen this circulated in emails several times now (sometimes called “The Green Thing”) and after seeing it again on list serve last week, I wanted to share it with all of our Green Dandelion readers. Technology helps to advance us in many ways, but were some things better off (environmentally) before modern “improvements” were made? I think this can help the younger generation see the point of view this generation and maybe young and old alike can stop pointing fingers and work together to solve the problems we are faced with today.

 

THOUGHTS ON BEING GREEN

Author Unknown

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

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.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

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 throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young 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 wadded up old newspapers 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 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger 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?

11 Replies to “Thoughts on Being Green”

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  2. Being Green / XOEarth version

    Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

    The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”

    The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Corporations without environmental ethics or humanitarian ethics were established in your generation. Their abuse of our planet and people made it obvious that those corporations did not care about future generations then. But you bought their stuff and that made them more powerful and destructive.

    Many of those companies and many new companies from my generation still don’t care, but most of us still keep buying their products, therefore endorsing their ethos, and that has allowed them to become even more ruthless, heartless and destructive to people and other life forms.”

    She was right — our generation didn’t have a commitment to the ‘green thing’ in our 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. When the companies gave us single serving containers, we did not object or protest or boycott, we bought into it, just as you have.

    We didn’t protect the “green thing” back in our day.

    Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings.
    Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. When the companies gave us flimsy plastic bags that would only be useful once or twice, we did not object, we bought into it, just as the current generation has.

    Too bad we didn’t defend the “green thing” back then.

    We walked up stairs. When the companies put in escalator in every store and office building, we didn’t say anything, nor have you. We walked to the grocery store. When the companies advertised flashy 300-horsepower machines, we did not protest, we took out a loan to buy one just like you do today, and use them to go two blocks, just like you do. After all, when you are paying payments on those rapidly depreciating beasts, we gotta use it, right? Even if it is only two blocks.

    She was right, we didn’t stand up for the “green thing” in our day.

    Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers. When the companies offered the throwaway kind, we bought them right away, just like you youngsters do. We dried clothes on a line. When the companies pitched the energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts to us, well, just had to have that too. I mean, we had already sold out anyway. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days, and, hmmm, I think they still can. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters. When the companies shipped their clothing manufacturing overseas to be made by cheap labor and very polluting companies, we stopped fixing the holes in our clothes and just bought brand-new clothing, just like you kiddies do.

    That young lady is right, we didn’t understand the “green thing” was important in our day.

    Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house. When the companies made them cheaper, we put a TV in every room, just like you whipper snappers today. The TV used to have a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?). When the companies said bigger is better, so just like you, we got the one’s with 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. Then we bought the companies power appliances. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it. When the companies said buy Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap instead, we did, and you pip squeaks do too. We used a push mower that ran on human power. When the companies said fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn, we did, you weaklings do it too. Back then, we exercised by working. When the companies said we needed a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity, we did, so why wouldn’t you.

    She’s right, we didn’t honor the “green thing” back then.

    We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty. When the companies said use a throw away cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water, we were already corporate addicts, so why not, so you may be imitating us. We refilled writing pens with ink. When the companies said buy new pens every time, we said sure thing. We replaced the razor blades in a razor. When the companies said throw away the whole razor just because the blade got dull, we loved it, and now you love it with us.

    We didn’t reward the “green thing” companies back then.

    Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked. When the companies starting saying the “new real moms are 24-hour taxi service in the family’s $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house”, we know why you take the bait. We would if we were you. We had one electrical outlet in a room. When the companies offered an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances, we cheered, just like you do. When the companies said we should need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint, we said that’s stupid, we said we hate computers. So you’ll never see us using one, but if you use one to help us find a store, we won’t pee our pants.

    Isn’t it sad the current generation laments how we old folks didn’t have a “green” bone in our back then to stop the companies, yet they have shown no “green” bone in their own back?

    Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartass young person…

    We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off… especially from a tattooed, multiple pierced smartass who can’t make change without the cash register telling them how much… and who won’t be able to get us out of this mess that we helped got them into, because it is probably too hard and too late for your green thing to stop those big companies from destroying everything, right? Yeah, just give up and party like it 1969. XOEarth.org / Stele

  3. A ban on plastic shopping bags is like “spitting in the wind”. Let’s all have a reality check folks! I am all for cleaning up our environment. However, singling out one source of plastic waste is absurd! All of you out there that are standing on your “soapboxes” calling for the ban of plastic shopping bags have no clue what effect that would have on the hard working Americans that produce these bags including the pyramid of suppliers and companies that support the manufacturers. The next time you are at the checkout line or strolling through the aisles of your local supermarket or convenience store, just stop for moment and take notice of all the items, wrapped, packed, stacked and labeled with plastic. I would have to make very an un-scientific guess that maybe 80% of all items you are putting into your “demonized” plastic shopping bags contain or are solely protected/packaged by plastic. This includes items packaged within a paper box. Think about it. There is FAR MORE processed plastic products going INTO your shopping bag, then there is contained within the shopping bag itself. Let’s not forget that we throw this all out into a big black heavy garbage bag. A plastic shopping bag ban is a total waste of time! The only sane option should be an enforceable plastic bag recycling program. ALL PLASTIC! Thank you for taking the time to read my post. For anyone that is in need of recyclable plastic bags, paper bags, grocery bags or reusable shopping bags, please visit http://www.isellpackaging.com Global Packaging Solutions manufactures and sells a wide variety of environmentally friendly retail packaging products. All which are recyclable.

  4. Maybe old people should just be allowed to buy groceries without being attacked by Simon and the other little snot at the checkout.

  5. And as the old woman drove home, she contemplated her generation; the fact that they oversaw the post-war economic boom, the rampant consumerism that came with it, the obsessive keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, the rapid, massive adoption of oil-based materials and the economic and environmental catastrophe it has ultimately caused, the abandonment of domestic manufacturers in favour of cheap products from Asia and the ultimate collapse of the British industrial sector, the longer working hours and higher stress that is now demanded of everyone (and the near-necessity of labour-saving devices like washing machines), the inevitable communication demands of the ever shrinking world and the technology required to maintain a normal social life in such a world, the landfill, plastic marine debris, atmospheric destruction and climate change that have been created as direct result of the waste, environmental ignorance, greed and excess of her generation, and she thought to herself…

    …maybe I should have brought my own bag and not been such a cow about it.

  6. I love the sentiments in this piece. I do use cloth bags whenever I do the shopping, I don’t drink bottled water and I repair or fix things until there is no hope.

    I live in a location that allows me to bicycle and walk to most destinations. I don’t mind a 20-30 mile ride on my bicycle and refuse to drive, unless absolutely necessary.

    That said, I’d like to point out a few erroneous comments in the original piece. As much as I love the idea of re-using the glass bottles, the net result of returning them, washing them, sterilizing them and inspecting them has other environmental issues that doesn’t necessarily make it that much better than the current situation. I haven’t researched it in detail, but the recycled plastic can also be put to good use and may actually be better environmentally. The glass recycle activity may ultimately be better, but not by as big a margin as it might appear.

    Studies have shown (this is from memory, but I have seen them over the years) that the brown paper bag may actually be more harmful to the environment than the plastic ones. As for covering books, in an age where the eBooks are eliminating the print books, that may be an even better solution to elimination of cutting down trees. Of course, cutting down trees supplies jobs, so somebody loses in this equation somewhere.

    I agree with the walking up stairs vs. escalator statement. I’m retired, but I always took the stairs where I worked, even though we had elevators. I relished the exercise and it was often faster. In my book, Three Hundred Zeroes, I had some fun with this issue in Vermont. I was hiking the Appalachian Trail and in one town there was a restaurant that was only accessible by stairway. As I waited at the bottom of the stairs for a friend to arrive, I saw numerous “possible’ patrons turn away because the stairway proved too much of a challenge to get to the feeding trough. It proved to be an effective weight-loss program.

    We also wash our clothes and hang them on the line to dry. We do have a dryer, and use it when the weather is severe, but only then. The original article here is in error though, one doesn’t “Burn up 220 volts.” I can assure you, being an electrical engineer, that the 220 volts is actually more efficient than the standard 110 volt equipment. It’s the “watts” that matter, and 220 volt distribution is more efficient than 110 volts. Of course, the best efficiency is to hang the clothes on the line to dry.

    I don’t watch television, so I’m really green in that respect. However, once again, technology can improve efficiencies. Those old televisions with the screen the size of a handkerchief were terribly inefficient. They used hundreds of watts and most of that power was wasted in just heating the vacuum tubes. Today’s sets are far more efficient, although having a half-dozen of them around the house does defeat the efficiency.

    I use hand tools in the kitchen as opposed to electric ones whenever possible. The writer is correct there. However, once again, technology has improved: microwave ovens are far more efficient than the old electric ovens. Newspaper does make great packing material, unfortunately, print newspapers are dying. I hate the thought of all that Styrofoam ending up in the oceans and environment, the writer is dead on there.

    As a culture, we need to get out of the automobiles and start walking and biking. Kids did bike and walk to local schools years ago, and took school buses when there was no alternative. The system tried to have more (and smaller) schools, located near where the students were located, we really should look into that once again. Just because a school is large, doesn’t mean it is great.

    Having “one outlet” in a room, isn’t that great an idea. It forced people to use a bunch of extension cords to power everything, which led to many house fires over the years. Having many outlets in a room is actually a good thing, it doesn’t use any power, and makes things much safer. The writer is incorrect there.

    Thanks for the inspiration, I did enjoy the piece and it did provoke me to think about how things have changed.

  7. Thanks for the comments! I like to periodically look back on this as a reminder that sometimes the answer can actually be to take a step backwards rather than progressing forward.

  8. Nice blog! Really, if somebody wants to be green, then he should always try to use eco-friendly and recyclable products. He should cloth bag in place of poly bags, can use glass bottles for milk in place of plastic bottles. He can use waste as fertilizer to fertilize the plants. There are many other ways, which are helpful to become green.

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