Being Green: The Past and Present

Society is now embracing and openly discussing “being/going green,” when in the past this term was not readily used. Our planet and resources are being degraded at a fast rate due to a multitude of factors, mostly human induced. Young people these days may find it easy to blame our elders for “ruining” the planet from the get-go …but this article may change your mind.

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“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 diapers 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.”

You can’t blame the way people on the planet lived in the past for all the world environmental problems today. Although there is some blame that stems from the past and actions and their unknown horrible environmentally consequences; it’s what we are doing today that we can better the planet that REALLY matters.

We can’t change the past- so let’s make the future SO MUCH BETTER for future generations. It all starts with YOU. What are going to do today to be more green


  1. Those same folks who did all the things that make sense for our planet back then, also were part of the generation who created plastic, built gas guzzling SUVs, started factory farms and initiated our toxic dependence on oil. It was not the “good old days”. Back then when they returned their milk bottles it was also a world where racism, sexism, and homophobia were part of life. There does need to be accountability by every generation for their actions, rather than smudging out the dark spots in history. Only by acknowledging where they both succeeded AND failed will they set an example for the generations that follow.

    1. Great comment!!!! I totally agree. As I said in the post- they were green in some actions, but they also participated in some very environmentally degrading actions as well. I just watched Food Inc. (new post to come about that) today- relating to your factory farms comment- wow….the food industry has REALLY changed. It’s disgusting and horrible to think that the USDA and FDA really don’t have our backs in terms of health concerns…

      Well, we can’t change the past- but we can change the future!

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