24 August 2011

The "green thing"

OK - so this post isn't really about travel, but it does put a bit of perspective on my life's journey! I received an email from a dear friend tonight, which got me thinking about how life has changed in so many ways, some good - and some are just changes that have crept up on us. Here's what her email said.

Checking out at the supermarket, the young cashier suggested to the 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 in my earlier days."

The cashier responded, "That's the 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" when we were young. Back then, we returned milk bottles, soft drink and beer bottles to the shop. The shop sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilised and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. 

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 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 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 220 volts - 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 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 state of SA. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric gadgets 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; brown paper and string, not plastic padded envelopes. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn fuel 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 (or even a hose) 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 (does anyone remember ink monitors?) instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the 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 then. Back then, people took a bus and kids 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. We used a telephone directory and a map. Or cooked at home.

So to all you young ones out there - something to remember: don't make older people mad. We don't like being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to piss us off!

My friend then went on to tell me how her local tip (renamed a "resource centre") has been bought out by a private company, which has stopped making piles of old timber and potentially recyclable building materials being available to crafty, resourceful citizens. Now everything has to go into bins to be crushed and used as landfill. How sad. No more old timber recycled into quaint chook sheds or old windows being used as cold frames to raise seedlings in the cold climate where my friend lives.  

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