Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Green Thing

I have been sent the chain email below a few times now, so thought it was worth an airing on the blog. Original source unknown.
Checking out at the supermarket, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own shopping 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 cashier 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, pop bottles and beer bottles to the shop. The shop 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. 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 in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the grocers and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two hundred yards.

But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby's nappies because we didn't have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 2 KiloWatts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Children 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 county of Yorkshire. 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 post, 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 petrol just to cut the grass. 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 water from a fountain or a tap when we were thirsty instead of demanding a plastic bottle flown in from another country. We accepted that a lot of food was seasonal and didn’t expect that to be bucked by flying it thousands of air miles around the world. We actually cooked food that didn’t come out of a packet, tin or plastic wrap and we could even wash our own vegetables and chop our own salad.

But we didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the tram or a bus, and pupils rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mothers 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?


  1. And back then we did not have "supermarkets" with prepacked items grossly overwrapped; and the assistant would have been sacked on the spot for being so damned lippy.

  2. And bread, milk and coal were delivered by horse and cart, and you could scoop up the dung to put round your roses, instead of buying fertilizer.

  3. One electrical outlet in a room? What, every room? What luxury!

    The house I grew up in had one 'electrical outlet' - it was a 5 amp 2-pin socket - in one room in the entire house!

    We had electric light in two downstairs rooms - but not the scullery/kitchen - and in one bedroom, the hallway and landing. All the other rooms were gas lit - except the outside toilet, of course, which didn't have any lighting at all!

  4. Love the post - although I'm pretty sure *most* young people don't blame the old!

  5. And we had windows with only had one pane of glass in them, not two.

    And we had window frames made from wood, not expensively produced extruded alumunium.

    And we had runny noses all and every winter because the frames leaked. And no disposable tissues.

    And re-cycled newspaper in the ourside loo.

    But did we complain? Too bloody right we did, but only between sneezes.

    1. My mother has made similar comments, oh Portly One. Are you one of her contemporaries?

  6. Patsy Whiteside1:05 pm, May 10, 2012

    A few weeks ago my cousin asked me the secret of my energy (I will be 65 in August and still working 4 full days a week in my daughter's shop, with an hour's drive each way, plus all the usual housewife stuff, Chair of Relate North East London, avid theatregoing etc.) I said that I put it down to my organic diet, not ingesting all those chemicals.

    She scoffed (what a lovely Victorian word) and replied: that's nonsense. Look at Granny Evans (our mutual great grandmother). She ate whatever she liked and lived to be 94.

    Yes, that's true. But Granny Evans was born in 1868 and the intensive farming which uses agrochemicals to intervene in almost every natural plant and animal process was in very little use before WW2. She was working class i.e. poor and her diet included a lot of (fresh, sesonal, locally grown) vegetables, lots of fish (still cheap in her lifetime, caught the previous day and brought to London by train) and very little meat. Pig's trotters and a sheep's head were her favourites. Chicken was a rare luxury - we only had chicken on Christmas day when I was a child - and it had spent its life pecking around in a farmyard.

    So, taking my cousin's advice and looking at my great grandmother's diet, I will continue as before.

  7. The Portly One3:57 pm, May 10, 2012

    No Morris, one of your contemporaries. Whilst life is more comfortable these days and distance has partially glamourised "The Good Old Days" there's no real nostalgia, only imagined. Mind you I would take a certain pleasure recycling the Daily Mail if out door loos were to return.

  8. Have the younger generation ever eaten rabbit? When I was a boy there used to be a line of rabbits hanging in the butcher's shop. Tasty and very cheap. Where have all the rabbits gone?

  9. This is a great post! Although I suspect the point of view is supposed to be someone who is older than me, I can still relate to much of this.

  10. The butchers in Wanstead sells very nice rabbit