A few days ago, a friend sent me an email, the subject of which was “The Green Thing”―it was an anecdote about the generation gap when it comes to the subject of living “earth friendly.” I thought it was worth passing on. The tone is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but you’ll understand why as you read.
An elderly woman was checking out at the store, when the young cashier suggested that the woman should bring her own grocery bags the next time, “because plastic bags are not good for the environment.” The old woman apologized to the young girl and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my younger days.” The young clerk pointed at her and intoned, “That’s the problem today. Your generation didn’t care enough to save the environment for future generations.”
The older lady took a deep breath and replied, “Let me explain something to you. You’re right; our generation didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. Then 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, you see, they really were recycled. But, of course, we didn’t have the ‘green thing’ back in our day.
“Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused in numerous ways. Most memorable, besides their use as household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books. That was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) were not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bag covers. 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 you’re 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 clothesline, not in an energy-gobbling machine that burned 220 volts of electricity. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in those early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, rather than always having brand-new clothing. But you’re right, young lady, back then we didn’t have the ‘green thing.'”
(By now, the clerk was blushing, but the old lady continued.)
“Back then, we had only one TV, or one radio, in the house―not a TV or radio 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, in the kitchen, we blended and stirred foods 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 the item, 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 operated on electricity. But you’re 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 wanted a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink, instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the blade in a shaving 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 mom into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the ‘green thing.’ 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.”
The young clerk concluded the transaction and watched in silence as the old woman wheeled her cart out of the store. One can only imagine what thoughts were going through her head.
Isn’t it sad the way the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks (yes, I’m one of them) were―just because we didn’t have the “green thing” back in the old days? What do you think? I’d love to hear what you have to say.