The Green Thing

While checking out, 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 then.” “That’s our problem today,” the clerk said, “You people didn’t care enough to save the environment for future generations.”

She was right. Our generation didn’t have the ‘green thing’ in its day. Back then, we returned milk, soda and beer bottles to the store which sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. Grocery stores put our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for many things, besides household garbage bags, like covers for our schoolbooks. 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 building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. Back then we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried laundry on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine, so wind and solar power really did dry them, and kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, instead of 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 wall-sized TV in every room. 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 not styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap to cushion it. 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. We refilled pens with ink instead of buying a new one, and we replaced the blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole thing when the blade got dull. Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into 24-hour taxi services in the family’s $45,000 SUV, 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 in space to find the nearest burger joint. But isn’t it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were because we didn’t have the “green thing” back then? They should be green with envy we lived so simply and follow our lead.

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