nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,

I recycle a reply to a meme about past ecological virtue

The meme, found on facebook:

Checking out at the grocery store recently, the young cashier suggested I should bring my own grocery 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, soda 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 diapers 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 Montana. 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 to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. 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 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 streetcar or a 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. We did as we were asked BECAUSE WE RESPECTED OUR PARENTS 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...

I'm not sure when or where the ranter is talking about.

Here's what I remember from the 60s (I was born in '53), growing up in a middle class suburban family.

Paper grocery bags, which were thrown away. Milk (at least for the earlier part of my childhood) was delivered by a milkman to an insulated box by the house. I think he picked up empty milk bottles.

My family didn't use beer, and very little soda, so I don't know what policy would have been.

We *still* don't have escalators in every business and commercial building, and claiming that we do moves the meme towards "get off my lawn" territory. Elevators were probably less common, but a lot of that is accommodating people who have physical problems. As I recall, where I lived, buildings were pretty flat. There were stairs at school, and commonly used.

Clothes were dried on a clothes line, and I'll note that wind-dried sheets smell better than drier-dried. However, not everyone has as much room as you get in a suburb, nor do I think treating people's time as worthless is a good heuristic.

I rode a bus to school. I was carpooled to activities. A car was used to get groceries-- walking would have been possible, but annoying for getting substantial amounts of groceries.

One tv in the house, with what I'd call a medium-sized screen. I think the meme writer is talking about some time which is considerably earlier. We had more than one radio.

There was a blender and mixer in the kitchen, but I think no other powered appliances. Using them wasn't common, but it wasn't a moral issue either.

I don't remember shipping fragile items, but newspaper is a reasonable guess. Of course, these days, fewer people get newspapers at all. Also, plastic bags full of air are more commonly used than styrofoam peanuts or bubble wrap, and a good thing, too. Those peanuts are hard to corral.

Electric lawn mower, though one of the neighbors had an engineless mower.

Not everyone did physical work as part of their job. My dad was a CPA, and it's not like he was the only person at the time with a sedentary job.

Fair point about the water bottles.

Back in the day, we used the phone book to find things. Mostly a less efficient method (see also driving around to find stuff rather than looking it up on line). I admit that phone books are distributed to people who don't use them, and that's something of an ecological fail, but I can't make it into a moral issue about the general public. Perhaps I should try harder.

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