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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Green Thing

The story begins with the cashier at a store admonishing an older woman to "care more about the environment" and buy a reusable bag instead of using plastic bags.

The older woman said, "Sorry, my dear. We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

The cashier responded, "And that's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough about the environment."

That cheeky girl was partly right. Our generation didn't have the green thing.

We returned glass milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store; to be collected at the supplier's next delivery; to be washed and sterilized and refilled. We used those bottles over and over. The entire container was recycled, not just its material.

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

We used stairs because there wasn't an escalator in most stores and office buildings. We walked to stores located in a downtown located close to where we lived. We did not live in a suburb which required us to drive a car to stores in distant shopping malls; and we didn't need a 300-horsepower machine to travel a few blocks.

So it was true. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

We washed cloth diapers because no disposable kind had been invented and marketed to increase the maker's sales. We dried clothes on a line, not in a machine operating on 220 volts. We used wind and solar "power" to dry our clothes, quite literally.

Children wore clothes handed down from brothers or sisters or cousins. To get a brand-new pair of Levis the start of the school year was a big event.

But that old lady was right; we didn't have the green thing back in her day.

We had one TV - maybe just a radio - in our home; not a TV in every room; and our sole TV had a screen the size of a handkerchief, not the size of the state of Montana.

In the kitchen we mashed potatoes and we stirred the batter and we washed the dishes and we scoured the pans - all by hand. We didn't have energy-consuming machines to do our chores for us.

When we packaged a fragile item for mailing, we used wadded-up newspapers to cushion it, not styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

To cut the lawn – if we had a lawn - we didn't plug in or fire up a machine. We pushed a machine that ran on human power.

We got exercise from physical labor from walking. We didn't join a health club and run on energy-consuming treadmills to be fit.

But, again, the lady was right; we didn't have the green thing back then.

We drank water from a fountain instead of a paper or a plastic cup or a bottle designed to be thrown "away".

(Anyone noticed the shrinking number of "aways" . . . you know, those places of land or water; where we can dump what we don't want and not have to see it or smell it?)

We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen when the ink ran out. We replaced the blade and kept the razor instead of throwing away the razor because the blade became dull; even as some purists chided us for not using and stropping a straight razor.

But, even then, we didn't really have the green thing.

Most of us made our homes where we could walk to a streetcar or bus stop to go shopping or to get to work. Our children pedaled bikes to school, or walked, instead of using mom's taxi service.

So, some of the current generation may think we old folks were wasteful because we didn't have the green thing.

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