That Green Thing


#1

The Green Thing

In the line at the store, the young 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 him 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.”

He 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 he 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 he’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?

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


#2

Excellent post.

One more thing, and I specifically refer this to my grandfather’s generation: when people needed something, they made it rather than buy it.

If it broke, they fixed it rather than throw it out and replace it.

And when they were done with it, they gave it to someone who could use it rather than throw it away.

The term “recyling” as it’s used today isn’t recycling at all. It’s reprocessing, perhaps, but true recycling means the thing never gets destroyed and remade. When I lived in Litchfield, the dump built a huge building with benches around the periphery. People who had things that just needed a repair, and people who had things they didn’t want anymore, simply left them in the appropriate area for someone else to use. I’ve repaired old bikes from there and given them to kids who couldn’t afford bikes, I’ve cleaned up and repaired and donated kids things to charitable help organizations, and I myself have gotten a few TVs (that I repaired) and other things. THAT was true recycling, And that’s what my grandparents did.

Signed,
another selfish old person.


#3

When I was a graduate student back in the early 1960s, I rented a room in a house. The landlord and his wife also lived there. The third bedroom was rented to another graduate student. The whole house ran on one 20 ampere fuse in a box on the front porch. The house only had 120 volt service. I’ll grant you that the range was gas and the first year I lived there, the furnace was a hand fired gravity coal furnace. The second year I lived in the house, a forced air gas furnace was installed. We had to change the fuse from a 20 ampere to a slow-blow 20 ampere fuse. However, that fuse never blew. The landlord did have a television, but that was about all the electronic equipment.


#4

JuanPound, did you write this yourself, or did you plagiarize it? It reads like one of those fictitious e-mails that spreads like wildfire, but has no basis in truth. No grocery store cashier would ever say something that rude to an elderly customer.


#5

Boy this brings back memories. And no air conditioning either. I remember during a hot spell, we went down to the hardware store and bought a couple more little fans so everyone had their own fan at night. Everyone had their own huge gardens too for canning and no need for the tax supported community garden plots. I did think we were in hog heaven when my Dad finally paid $10 for a used power lawn mower.


#6

And in that frame of mind I’ve taught my kids and am teaching the grand nephews and niece ( soon to be daghter ).
These kids never even think twice, it’s so roll-off-the-tongue normal, when they tell their friends "let’s take it to Uncle, he can fix anything."
Swapping, trading, and bartering are every day activities.
Outgrown clothes are mindlessly put in the Goodwill bag, never the trash.


#7

A short google search finds it in hamptonroads.com , skinnymoose.com, mainehuntingtoday.com and dozens…um, hundreds of other blogs.
But it is a pass-along and rewrite even then. Most bloggers say it isnt theirs but I’m
still searching for the author. ( not one that I’ve read has cited the author )


#8

All of those principles that are presented here as “older” are present in the contemporary “green thing” - but not really for the average, mainstream person. The full “catch-phrase” of reducing one’s individual impacts is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

I don’t know if recycle was put last on purpose, but that’s where it belongs - as a last resort after reduce and reuse. In fact, recycling should likely be dropped altogether because it likely does more harm than good.

A large reason that Recycle will continue to be at the top of most minds and that “Reduce” and “Reuse” will remain more hidden is that Recycle is consistent with a corporate form of grow-or-die capitalism - which is what we have. Reduce and reuse are much worse for economic growth. You won’t find them plastered all over the labels of plastic water bottles or all over ads for new cars, televisions, phones, etc. “Green marketing” allows people to continue to over-consume on the belief that their conscience is clear.

So yes, people these days are terrible at the reduce and reuse parts.


#9

Many of the things mentioned by the OP you can’t do even if you wanted to.

In upstate NY you can still buy milk in bottle…but I haven’t seen it here in NH or MA.

When was the last time you saw a glass soda bottle.


#10

I’m going to offer some counterpoints to this, just because like all ecomentalist propaganda, they conveniently leave out the downsides.

" 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"

And heavy, and you had double the transportation costs too boot, not quite as green as you’d think.

"We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every
store and office building. "

I don’t recall ever being in an office building that didn’t have an elevator

“We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.”

Many people live more than two blocks from the store. Today’s 300 HP car gets better mileage than the 150 HP car of the 50’s and 60’s and produces about 95% fewer emissions.

“Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the
throw-away kind”

Ever wonder why disposables caught on?

"We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy
gobbling machine burning up 220 volts "

And when it rained…

“got hand-me-down clothes from their
brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.”

Only viable if the siblings are the same size and the same sex

“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”

And how much when adjusted for inflation and such did that one radio or TV cost? It was bloody expensive. In today’s money you can buy several TV’s for the cost of what one cost back then. Poor comparison.

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

Really? Because my grandmothers, had kitchens full of appliances.

“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.”

Old newspaper is still perfectly viable for some items, but Styrofoam and bubble wrap are used for a reason, they simply work better in most cases.

“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”

If you have some tiny 1/4 - 1/2 acre lot a manual reel mower is doable if you have alot of time on your hands. But my grandparents used gas-powered mowers before I was born. More specifically my grandfather on my mom’s side paid someone else to mow his lawn, and my grandfather on my dad’s side had an old Massey Ferguson mower with a transplanted Wisconsin engine to mow his lawn. The mower is still in use today.

“We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on
treadmills that operate on electricity.”

Depends on the job really.

"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

Mmmm tepid water. How refreshing it is to get a mouthful of 99 degree water on a 103 degree day. Very few outdoor water fountains actually chill the water you know.

“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.”

Very few non-urban areas had streetcars or buses. Also kids are into alot more actvities today. I know familes that take one kid to swimming 10 times a week and another to baseball 6 times a week, and another to soccer 6 times a week, plus piano lessons, guitar lessons, etc. There’s no bus schedule than can accomodate that. That scenerio isn’t that rare either.

Moral of the story. How many people would give up the comforts we enjoy today for how it “used to be”. Not I.


#11

It bothers me that the OP posted the item as if it were his/her own, but I do like it. Far, far too many of us simply consider everything disposable, and far too many of us never solve a problem for ourselves, we simply buy something for it or pay someone to do it. People don’t even attampt to repair things, they just throw them away.

“Exchange centers” like we had in Litchfield would be a phenominal way of recycling and reducing waste. It also did wonders to reduce the cost of operating the waste facility. The facility had far less materials to have to have hauled away. And we the residents had lots of stuff we needed free of charge.

I’ve recommended such a building at the recycling facility where I now live, but nobody seems interested.


#12

This is akin to the environmentalist telling me in condescending tones that I need to recycle. I told him I do and I purchase used cars and used houses. He did not say much after that.


#13

While I sometimes pine for the good old days, modern equipment is more environmentally friendly. For instance the old tube type television sets and other electronic equipment drew much more power than solid state equipment. Today’s LCD screen draws even less energy. My 1965 6 cylinder Rambler Classic with overdrive didn’t do as well on mileage as my 1993 Oldsmobile 88 did. The Rambler was a stripped model (no air conditioning, power steering or brakes, manual shift) while the Oldsmobile had every option. I have flourescent bulbs in many of my fixtures and for the equivalent light to a 60 watt incandensant bulb, the flourescent draws about 10 watts. I had the most energy efficient gas furnace available installed when I built a house in 1989. Two years ago, I replaced the furnace. The new design that pulls the combustion air from the outside really saved on my gas bill. The garage where the furnace is placed is much colder with the new furnace, which means more heat is going into the house.
There were some features from earlier times that saved energy but have been ignored. I had an attic fan installed when I built my house in 1989. It pulls the air from the house and exhausts it through the attic. In moderate weather, it saves money over running the air conditioning.


#14

One thing I do miss from the good old days is train travel. When I was in graduate school, I could make the 350 mile trip back to my home using trains in about the same time that it took to drive the distance. I could also study on the train–impossible when driving a car. The cost was not much more than the gasoline to run the car. We live about 180 miles from Chicago. When the Amtrak went through our town, it was about a 4 hour ride to the Loop. The driving time isn’t much different. However, to fly, I would have to drive the other direction 60 miles to an airport, spend 2 hours checking in, arrive at Ohare and then take ground transportation to downtown Chicgo. I save money by driving. However, parking at the hotels is expensive. The train was much more cost effective for me.


#15

This is akin to the environmentalist telling me in condescending tones that I need to recycle. I told him I do and I purchase used cars and used houses. He did not say much after that.

I love it when self-righteous indignation is met with self-righteous indignation. It gives me such hope for reasoned discourse.


#16

“One thing I do miss from the good old days is train travel.”

I miss living in a state (NY) where a bottle bill requires you to pay a deposit on cans and bottles, and if you don’t recycle them, you are throwing away money.


#17

I could also study on the train–impossible when driving a car.

One of my Brothers lives in CT…and works for a company that requires him to travel to NYC 3-5 times a month. When he has to go into NYC he takes the 2hr train ride from CT.

The last 2 cars on the train are reserved for people who want to take a college class on the two hr ride in. Actually you can take 2 classes into NYC…and two classes out of NYC. I forget the college that’s doing it…but it’s a novel concept.


#18

“The last 2 cars on the train are reserved for people who want to take a college class on the two hr ride in. Actually you can take 2 classes into NYC…and two classes out of NYC”.
Mike, this is a great way for people to commute and earn college credit. Maybe it will spread to bus travel as well: “It is so pleasant to take the bus, and leaving the teaching to us”.


#19

“It is so pleasant to take the bus, and leaving the teaching to us”.

Its GREAT if-and-only-if you have public transportation available…and if it is?? - is it worth it?

I can take public transportation to work…But it’s not direct…Have to go into Boston first…One way … 2-3 hours. And I MUST leave work before 8:30 or I’ll NEVER get home that night. And probably the same for 90% of people who live north of Boston.


#20

Jacksonville, FL has city buses, but if you want to make this trip on a bus, http://classic.mapquest.com/mq/4-86fsRpeN , you have to go way out of your way by taking a bus downtown, and then get on another bus to your destination, and you end up taking a trip that looks like this http://classic.mapquest.com/mq/8-R2x17FUeX_L1 .

Oh well. That’s what you get in a conservative military town that is run by the Baptist Church.