The following story appears in quite few places online, and in somewhat varying forms. (A less-snarky version is sometimes attributed to a "Jim Knowles.") For many of those spreading the story, it is enlisted to ridicule young people who are trying to be "green." But the really interesting thing about it is that it shows how - and when - we shifted to our current uber-consumption economy. Check it out:
Checking out at the supermarket recently, the young cashier suggested I should bring my own bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. I apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days“.
The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations“.
She was right about one thing–our generation didn’t have the green thing in “Our” day. So what did we have back then? After some reflection and soul-searching on “Our” day, here’s what I remembered we did have….
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 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 240 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 Wales. In the kitchen, we blended & 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 to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.
Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gas 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 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 didn’t 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 moms 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?
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.
The age of the speaker isn't totally clear, but to cover all of the points mentioned, he or she must be pretty old. So the mistake of the young cashier was one of not knowing history. Let's check out when some of these changes happened - but all of them happened after World War II.
Glass milk bottles and pop bottles that get reused. I remember these from the 1960s. Cardboard milk containers were common by the 1970s (with the demise of the milkman that delivered), with plastic milk jugs and soda bottles a more recent thing.
Walking to the grocery store, taking the bus, kids riding bikes to school. Car-oriented suburbs first appeared in significant numbers in the 1950s, and pretty much grew like crazy up until our recent housing crash, but the most significant growth was in the 1960s. Up through the 1940s, most folks lived in cities or small towns where you could walk to things. There were no shopping malls or big-box retailers with giant parking lots.
Disposable diapers. These were invented in the late '40s, began to be commercialized in the '50s, and became more popular in the '60s.
Clothes dryers and electric blenders and mixers. More post-WWII developments. These were all very common by the 1960s.
Styrofoam packing and bubble wrap. Bubble wrap was invented in 1960, but took a few years to catch on for packaging. Both of these were common by the 1970s.
Refillable pens. Ball point pens are not refillable (but you can replace the ink cartridge), so this is probably a reference to fountain pens. Ball point pens were invented in the 1940s, and became very common by the 1960s. Disposable ball point pens were just a little bit later.
Disposable razors. This is a new one - they were introduced in 1975 (although the disposable blade had been around since 1903).
So, given when these changes occurred, what generation was responsible for them? The Baby Boomers were just being born from the late '40s through the '50s, so most of this stuff started to change when they were still kids. (Although they might have happily continued with these changes in the '70s and '80s.) People who died in the '40s and '50s could not have been too involved in these changes. It looks like the main generation driving these changes is the generation of the speaker, who must be old enough to remember pre-WWII stuff, but young enough to still be out shopping.
If we want to play the "blame the generation" game, it looks like the speaker is the loser of this one. Isn't it sad that they knew how to live with less waste, but did not help us continue to live that way? Now we need to learn "the green thing" all over again.