Being Green

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 truely 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?

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

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

7 thoughts

  1. Interesting to read. We also used brown paper bags to cover school books (which belonged to the school). We used glass milk bottles which were picked up with the next delivery, etc. etc. Fast food outlets did not exist, eating out was rare for families and children usually had a baby sitter – you never saw them in restaurants. We recycled. 100% My mother kept paper bags, string and other useful things in a drawer in the kitchen. My parents were already married (1927) during the depression in 1929 so they endured hardships of that and also the second world war that people today barely know about. We had one TV and still do – obviously a lot bigger and different, one vehicle, we recycle wherever we can. It can be done. It should not have to be thought about, it should be automatic. Don’t even get me started about Fracking! (Hydraulic Fracturing) of rock to get gas? out of the ground and ruining the water supplies whereever it is being carried out.

  2. Apparently her parents didn’t give very much thought to the problem of over-population, from which all our current problems stem. But good for her for never missing a chance to be sanctimonious. Harsh? Yeah. Sick of self-righteous, ignorant rudeness? Yeah, also that.

  3. Ha, ha – great post.

    I’m of an age where I remember covering my schoolbooks in brown paper to protect them!

    When we went shopping we took our own shopping bags and had a string bag for the greengrocers where vegetables went straight into the bag with fruit placed on top. There was very little packaging – the weekly refuse for the entire family of 6 fitted into one galvanised-steel dustbin – no bin liners.

Leave a Reply