Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Green Thing

I am always amused when I go to a store and they charge me for those cheap little plastic bags. Once I mentioned something to the effect of it being a "bag tax." The cashier seemed quite offended, claiming it was good for the environment.

Now I am all in favour of doing my little part in protecting the environment, but sometimes I think we still haven't got this whole "Green thing" figured out quite right yet.

They charge me a "bag tax" in part because they want to discourage me from using their bags (implying that I should bring my own reusable bags) and thus reduce the number of bags going into the landfills.

In a perhaps ironic twist, I would argue that putting those little cheap bags into the landfills is actually better for the environment. How so, you ask? Because I reuse those bags for all my household garbage, thus eliminating the need for me to buy and use those big heavy black garbage bags, which I might add, are bound to decompose an awful lot slower than the little thin grocery bags that they want you and me to stop using. Somehow this just seems illogical to me. But then again, big business (of which the "Green Thing" is one) doesn't always make sense.

To illustrate this point, I quite like the following story. I have no idea where it originated or whom to give credit to for it, as I received it in an email from someone. But it begs the question, though we are perhaps officially doing the "Green Thing," in how many countless ways aren't we really very "un-Green," at least in comparison to previous generations?

Checking out at the store, 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 young clerk 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, 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 over and over. So they really were truly recycled.

But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn't do the green thing back then.

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 diaper because we didn't have the throwaway 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 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger 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?

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
Story Source: Unknown

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