The Green Thing

I got an e-mail from my mother today – one of those e-mails we all get that is forwarded from one person to the next to the next.  I typically don’t read these when I get them, but I always read Mom’s for two reasons:

1. She’s my mom – I feel like there’s some sort of unspoken rule about always reading the e-mails your mom sends.  Come on – she has cleaned my poopy diapers, held my hair while I barfed and cooked thousands of meals for me. If I can’t read an e-mail from her, I am a horrible person!

2. My mom rarely sends lame e-mails.  If I get a forwarded message from my mom, I can almost guarantee that it will either be funny or poignant.

Anyway – I got this message from her today.  I’m sure she didn’t pass it on to create some big discussion about environmentalism and “being green,” but it certainly made me think about a few things.  Here is what was in the e-mail:

The Green Thing

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized to him and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”

The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. The former generation did not care enough to save our environment.”

He was right, that generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, they returned their 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 recycled.

But they didn’t have the green thing back in that customer’s day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks.

But she was right. They didn’t have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby’s diapers because they didn’t have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts – wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right, they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.

Back then, they 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, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn’t have electric machines to do everything for you.

When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, they didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right, they didn’t have the green thing back then.

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled their writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of
throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But they 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 rode the school bus instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they 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 the old folks were just because they didn’t have the green thing back then?

~Author Unknown~

So my first thought is this: What the heck kind of punk kid is working the cash register at this grocery store, huh?  I don’t care if that woman was single-handedly responsible for the destruction of our planet! That is no way to speak to a customer or an elder.  I really hope the story that prefaces this e-mail is made up. 

Now, I am no expert on the environment, so take what I say for what it’s worth – approximately nothing.  However – I really think that the “back then” this author is referring to is really right before the beginning of the end as far as our environment goes.  When my grandmother was growing up, I’m sure life was a lot like what is described.  Maybe it was this way for my mother too, but in my opinion the time when my mother was a child was really when we started to see a lot of damage start.

When my grandparents were kids, there weren’t a ton of “convenience” food items at the store. Again, I’m no expert, but from what I understand, these convenience items were created and really rose to popularity during my mother’s youth.  100 years ago people would have never dreamed about eating meat out of a can, cheese from a tube, whole meals just dumped in a pot and warmed, powder turning into “cheese” for macaroni, etc.

The next time you’re at the grocery store, take a moment and take stock of all the foods that are full of sodium, preservatives, chemicals we can’t pronounce, etc.  Look at the packaging these foods are in.  Think about the convenience food you use in your own home.  How much trash have we accumulated all in the name of “convenience” and “ease” and “time-saving?”  Let’s not even talk about how unhealthy these types of foods are for living creatures to ingest.  That’s an entirely different post!

Many people I know don’t have to drive very far for the grocery store.  I do, because I live in a tiny town, and unless I need something basic, our local grocer just doesn’t carry what we buy.  But let’s think about this for a minute – even if my mother walked to her nearest grocery store (which is down the street about a block away), and even if she only bought fresh items (nothing canned or frozen or boxed – just produce and meat), we still should think about how far that food has traveled to arrive on those shelves.  I bought grapes the other day that were from South America.  Really? Don’t we grow grapes in America? How much fuel was spent transporting those grapes from South America to Lafayette, Indiana?  AND – how much was the person who picked those grapes paid? Probably next to nothing. There’s so much shame tied into our current food system if you really think about it.  The unfairness of how people are paid and treated, the resources spent on transportation, etc.

I am learning new things all the time about how to be more responsible in my life here on Earth.  There are great strides being made by many in this “green” movement.  But let’s not stop at buying cute reusable grocery bags.  I think it’s important to understand WHY we’re in this place to begin with!  The biggest thing (in my opinion, which has already been determined to be worth squat) that has contributed to the current state of our environment is our desire for life to be QUICK and EASY.  We have sacrificed a lot of our integrity in the name of convenience.  We fill our schedules with things we feel we need to do (even though we don’t), feed ourselves crap because we have no time to cook, and we create more trash than any person should because we’re lazy.

Michael Pollan has suggested in some of his writings that we begin to live like our grandparents.  If your grandmother wouldn’t have recognized it as food, DON’T EAT IT!  I would add to that if your grandmother wouldn’t have packed her schedule tighter than a sausage, drove her kids to every single available engagement and used tiny plastic bags to carry her groceries home in – DON’T DO IT!

I don’t know – maybe I’m wrong about all of this.  I don’t know whose fault our current ecological status is.  All I know is that we really need to start living in a way that might heal our broken planet.  Just my opinion – for what it’s worth!

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One thought on “The Green Thing

  1. I totally agree. I think it’s about taking the time to think about the things that we use and consume every day. They didn’t really have to do this “back in the day” because the 100-million options weren’t there! You got the fruit that was at your grocery store/market because it was there. In season. Probably fairly local. Now, you have to take the time to look at everything and make a concious effort to live that way again — and it’s not easy, so most people don’t do it. We’re trying to be better about this stuff in our house, but it takes adjustment! Worthwhile though, in my opinion too 🙂

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