An Angry Post: “Green Values”

by gaasedal

NOTE: This showed up on my Facebook timeline; came from a friend’s mother’s friend (got that?) †She’s obviously resentful but is she also right? Please comment on this one – it’s a conversation worth having. † Cindy

Checking out at the supermarket recently, the young cashier suggested I should bring my own bags because plastic bags werenít good for the environment. I apologized and explained, ďWe didnít have this green thing back in my earlier daysď.

The clerk responded, ďThatís our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generationsď.

She was right about one thingĖour generation didnít have the green thing in ďOurĒ day. So what did we have back then? After some reflection and soul-searching on ďOurĒ day, hereís what I remembered we did haveÖ.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop 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 repeatedly. So they really were recycled. But we didnít have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didnít have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didnít climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didnít have the green thing in our day.

Cloth diapers and clothes lines

Back then, we washed the babyís nappies because we didnít have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 240 volts ó wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didnít have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house ó 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 Wales. In the kitchen, we blended & stirred by hand because we didnít 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 it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didnít fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didnít need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But sheís right. We didnít have the green thing back then.

Bottled water and new razor blades

We drank from a water 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 didnít have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums 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 didnít 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 isnít it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didnít have the green thing back then?

Please post this on your Facebook profile so another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smarty-pants young person can add to this.


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Your DVR Wastes More Energy Than Your Refrigerator


Green bottles from jamescridland, Cloth diapers from alamosbasement via flickr


Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago


Nicholas C.
Nick Charrette6 years ago

The author describes the world her generation grew up in, not the world her generation created. She doesn't realize that her generation is blamed with dropping all the green practices she mentions. It was her generation that made the shift to a disposable rather than reusable and recycling culture. It is the current generation that is attempting to undo the corruptions the previous generations committed. She must keep in mind that a generation is judged by how they lived in the world, how they changed it, and how they left it to the next generation, not how they inherited it.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe6 years ago

I think your friend’s mother’s friend is so right. They did do all that stuff back then.

I remember my grandmother taking a box with her to the store to put the things she bought in. There were no plastic bags, only paper and most of the stuff she bought was heavy, so she brought her own box.

SeattleAnn S.
Ann S6 years ago

She makes several damn good points.

Karen Baker
Karen Baker6 years ago

This artical brings back so many memories of simpler times without so many gadgets.

Meris M.
Meris M.6 years ago

Nor, 50 years ago, did we have all the pollutants that we have today, many petroleum-based. We didn't change our cell phone or iPod or iPad every time a new model came out - we didn't even have these back then. Today's non-green modern life - nuclear energy, electronics, plastics, chemical-based products, industrial agriculture etc. is generating enormous amounts of toxic waste; air, water and soil pollution, and rising numbers of persons with chronic diseases plus a great deal of stress.

Stephen Greg
Jason T6 years ago

Many of the "green actions" you listed were done not for the sake of of the environment, but because you didn't have the technology we had. For instance, you didn't have the tech to manufacture many nappies cheaply. So they weren't green at all, the older generations just didn't have the potential to be as environmentally destructive as we do. Clearly looking at the world today, the previous generations did not do enough.

the Other RobertO
Robert O6 years ago

Boomers were raised by those Depression era folks. In the 60's, my mother and grandmother made only one trip to the city each week. The hardware store, the supermarket, the coin-op laundry, and haircuts were the usual business. The wash went on the line when we got home.

Distance to the city - 6 miles/10 minutes. This was done sparingly to avoid wastefulness.

Sadly, a lot of nasty chemicals have entered the market during the last 50 years, and the human population has soared.

Robyn B.
Robyn Brice6 years ago

Those were the day. :-) But I remember taking glass bottle back to the corner shop for a 5c refund. We walked everywhere and only took the car for long journeys. I used to ride my horse to the shop when I lived on a farm and we only had one tv and a couple of radios. Life was simpler back then but to be fair, we really were not that eco minded and people for the most part did not care about the environment. I remember once watching a documentary that was made in the fifties. A family were traveling around Australia and I watched in horror as they smashed open turtle eggs on the beach, killed the wildlife and generally caused mayhem all the while making this nature film. It is good to see that people care for the environment and while I think past generations should shoulder some of the blame, we should not have to shoulder all of it.

Jayna Sheats
Jayna Sheats6 years ago

The clerk's implicit equation of plastic bags with "saving the environment" is simplistic, but so is the analysis. For example, the car that she did get into (perhaps less frequently, perhaps not) got about 8 miles per gallon instead of the 30 that even the average non-SUV gets today. And in my own rural Colorado experience, I did not see much of the assiduous bottle-recycling that she claims; most people paid not attention to the return deposit. During this period of history the mining, logging and industrial processing industries were horrifyingly (by modern standards) polluting. The plastic bags and bottles that did exist (and they certainly did) were several times thicker, and hence consumed that much more material. And so on.

So to be sure, we have a long ways to go before society on the average becomes as environmentally conscious as it should be, and we need to consume a lot less. But the "good old days" were not good for the environment, unless you want to go back about 50,000 years.