A Different Perspective

The other day, someone (this person is in their 80’s) sent this to me via email and I thought I’d share. Interesting to look at “green” with a different perspective.

(I really wish I could credit the author, but am not sure who wrote it. Can anyone help me out so I can add a name to this?)


In the line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags 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.  Your generation did not care enough to save our environment.”

He 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 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 the clothes.  Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old 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 a wadded up old newspaper 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.

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?


11 thoughts on “A Different Perspective

  1. I’ve read this before, Christi, and wrote a genalogy column about it some time ago.

    It is funny how we think green is the new thing when it was always the way before the 1960s.

      • No, I don’t know who originally wrote this. It was sent to me by a friend who had received it in an email message, you know, one of the messages that gets sent out in mass. It’s probably hit a million inbox in its life time.


  2. I think this is well said, and does prove a very important point–that even though we are talking more and more about the environment, we are doing less and less. Every time I see one of those ads that says we will reduce plastic by this and this much (always with an analogy like around the world or covering NYC), I cringe–because if we are reducing it by that much, it means we are using that much more.

    However, I think it’s a pretty big stretch to say that people were greener in the 1950s–the era of big cars and moving to the suburbs. Sure, they had fewer options to pollute, as plastic hadn’t taken over the world yet, but behavior-wise, I don’t think it’s really something people can say they were doing on purpose. Maybe if we go back to the pioneer days, or the Native Americans for sure, then we can find the original environmentalists. But I don’t think we find them in 1960s America.

    • Wendy,

      I’m right there with you on cringing with the ads about reducing plastic, both bottles and bags.

      Thanks for visiting!


  3. Okay kids, you’re treading on my turf here. First of all it wasn’t the 1960’s … it was the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and my time the good old rock ‘n roll boomer generation of the 1950’s. By the sixties you were all glints in some fool’s eyes and it all went down hill!!

    Slap down Wendy: Maybe if we go back to the pioneer days, or the Native Americans for sure, then we can find the original environmentalists. But I don’t think we find them in 1960s America. (American Indians were the ones we killed off with white germs and put into reservations.)

    Wendy I hate to ask a woman’s age, but are you from my era? My mother and aunts reused wax paper and foil. Paper bags were for wrapping packages and school books or draining fried food (much better than paper towels). We used wash clothes and dish towels and went to shoe-makers when we got holes in our shoes. Big cars? You might want to look up how many people could actually afford one family car, much less two or three. Those cute houses in the burbs were 20K and not 200K and thirty years after mom and pop worked they had a mortgage burning party.

    Read the making of the movie: A River Ran Through It … Robert Redford had to use three places because the stream where the author fished was so polluted the trout were all dead.

    We wore cotton that had to be IRONED and the cotton was grown and woven in the South of the US and not South East Asia. Los Angeles didn’t have smog, rivers weren’t filthy and fish and whales didn’t wash up from strange diseases that killed them. No mercury in the water, no filth in the air and …

    the best is that kids actually played outside and didn’t need knee pads and heat gear to protect their dear little bones. We fell down and got up. Roller scakes were solid steel and went as fast as the wind.

    Okay, so I’m a retro, ex-hippie, flower child and you can blame all your problems on us but our parents and grand parents were not only the original environmentalist … the environment was something that didn’t need protection because it hadn’t been ruined yet by over consumption.

    To get even all 73 Million boomers will live to be over 100 and use up every last penny in social security. So start saving your waxed paper girls, when you’re my age … you’re gonna need it 🙂

    • Florence,

      I too wondered at the 50’s and 60’s decade while reading Wendy’s comment. Thanks to you for clarifying which decade.

      I really appreciate your insight into the reality of what went on during those times. You should write your own essay because I think with your knowledge, combined with your fun touch of humor, it would end up being a great one!


    • Florence,

      Noooooooo! I couldn’t delete your comment…it’s filled with such wonderful insight and information!

      I love your rants 🙂


    • Margo,

      I got it via email a while back and found it when I was sifting through all my old emails (an early spring cleaning).

      Thanks for visiting,


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