The Green Thing…


Tom Lund, a very special and dear friend, forwarded an interesting chain-email titled the “Green Thing”, that I found to be noteworthy of the need for us all to have “perspective”, whilst considering how to simplify our lives. So, without further ado, here it is (source unknown) with some minor editing for this blog.

Checking out at a store, a young cashier suggested to an 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 clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

Grocery Store #1

A Grocery Store - THEN...

She was right; older generations didn’t have “the green thing” back in their day.

Back then, they returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store which sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so they could use the same bottles over and over in a more genuine recycling manner.

Then, people 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.

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

Then, there was only one TV, or radio in a house not a device in every room…. and such TV had a small screen perhaps the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Rhode Island. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn’t have electric machines to do everything for them. They packaged a fragile item to send in the mail by using wadded up old newspapers 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… instead, 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 operated by electricity.

Example of an American grocery store aisle.
…and NOW.

Then, they drank from fountains when they were thirsty instead of using cups or plastic bottles, they refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying new ones, and replaced the blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because it got dull.

Back then, people took the streetcar or the bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had a couple electrical outlets in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power dozens of 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.

Still, the current generation laments how wasteful old folks were just because they didn’t have the “green thing” back then…

Whilst it is true that many a selfish old person could use a lesson in conservation from a “smart” young one, it would be wise to have some perspective and keep in-mind that old folk – whom typically don’t like being “old” in the first place – may get pissed-off easily.

Well done Tom… thank you for sharing.

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"There is nothing to be found in a beehive that is not submerged in a bee. Yet we may explore a bee forever and still never find a hive..." Kevin Kelly's - Out of Control

4 Responses to The Green Thing…

  1. ME says:

    Wonderful!
    I grew up with a father and mother who were urban farmers. My father worked for IBM, but the thing he was most passionate about was making and growing things. I remember my dad coming home from work, my mother would have a Martini, yes… Waiting for him when he walked in the door, his girls would hug him welcome home and he would go up and change into his farming clothes. I believe this is what got him through the struggles of the workday and kept him sane. Many a summer night he would come down to eat and then go back up until it got too dark to wee…We had a half acre veggie garden from where my father tilled up the property owned by the power company that was right behind our house. My father made a pump to bring water up from the creek 6 doors down so he could water the garden for free. We had fruit trees peaches, apples and figs, planted in the front and back yard, and grape vines growing on the fence, alone with some raspberry bushes. We canned everything and my mom made soups and jam…Oh my! I spent many a summer evening sitting on the patio with my mom shelling beans. I remember being in the basement with my dad and stomping grapes for his adventure into making wine. My mother sewed all of our clothes for my sisters and I, and the clothes got passed down and then sometimes cut up and made into quilts. The neighborhood began to take notice and actually started to dig their own gardens…my mother would find a chair or piece of furniture on the side of the street someone was throwing away and she would put in the back of the car, take it home and recover or restore it into a beautiful find. As a child, I was a bit embarrassed if a classmate would see her doing this. But as I am my mother’s shadow, have been known to take something out of the rubbish and then make it into something I love…lessons I remember now with great pride and appreciation.

    • JP says:

      Dear Mary Ellen, thank you so much for sharing these vivid and meaningful memories with us. It enables for clear understanding of how deep fertile roots, influence and generate wholesome and creative branches in their own right.

      We all are made special by essence of our upbringing; we all must build on these foundations the structure, colors and textures of our present lives especially if dramatically different from what we have known.

      There is much treasure hidden within our present harried realities if we are open to the possibilities… no matter how wonderful and “romantic” we may consider our past experiences to have been, it is doubtful we will ever experience such simpler times again.
      However, we can and must choose our so-informed actions to bear on how we live and to matter presently to ourselves… others will notice, some will seek, a few will follow.

      All is as it should be me thinks.  JP

  2. occupiers says:

    Joseph – thankyou for sharing this, and I will print it off for my kids to read. They may even take it to school, and their teacher may even spread it around the classroom, who knows?
    I liked ‘ME”s comments above too. Not very different from my own memories, as my father (and mother) loved (and still does, at ages 71 & 68) growing frut and vegetables.

    This may be a difference between ‘town & country’ partly, but we live 70 miles from London in the Cambridgeshire market town of St.Ives. And we still grow our own stuff – in fact this year we are aiming to be as close to 100% self-sufficient in vegetables as possible. Its great to send one of the kids out to the garden to pick the veg for Sunday lunch, and eat it an hour later!

    I smiled when I read the article, especially the bit about ‘exercising on an electric treadmill’…! There are some things that we should reverse here in modern society – this must be one, surely! How many people in cities go to the gym on an electric treadmill, then drive home!! or get the bus – why not walk or run? and then run up the staircase instead of using the apartment lift!

    Children should also walk or cycle to school – I know that sometimes this is not possible, but also I know people who ferry their kids 0.5 km (or sadly, far less) to their school. Its bad for the environment, and bad for their kids! Grrrr….makes me angry! (ok, rant over).

    Thanks again for sharing this, and reminding us that simple is often better! Paul

    • JP says:

      Hello Paul… How fortunate for you, your children and their future children to have such present connection to strong roots; vibrant, still leading by example a stone’s throw from the pressing urbanity… and that you have kept that link alive and treasured. May it continue to be so for many years to come, physically, and as an integral part of your family’s ethos when the former is no longer possible.

      I read yours and Mary Ellen’s comments with a pang of nostalgia over long memories of my own family back in Portugal; the exciting simplicity of savoring our time and life together, now much more meaningful and “special” in a way, than when we all coexisted. I suppose one of the “silent” benefits that maturity provides.

      It has escaped me to date “how” to live in Hong Kong and raise my girls with similar textural quality; it’s as difficult as being on the set of “Blade-Runner” whilst trying to follow a script for “Oklahoma”… it can’t possibly be authentic as time passes, life and geography evolves to where the simplicity we once knew and cherish still, is no longer possible – nor right – to duplicate or strive for.

      What then? My thinking is to hold on to these memories – this way of life – as one would a very good “classic movie”… a treasured component of one’s Life Repository to view, reference and savor on a regular basis. And to remain aware and open for opportunities to create what will become a new adjusted simplicity; whether through the exchange of unexpected hugs with the girls, or by exposing them as best as I can to what I experienced and now know, or accepting that they will discover, know and craft their own version of what is wholesome, meaningful and right in-spite of myself.

      Simple is better… it is also the most difficult thing to strive for and accomplish as you and I know all too well my friend.

      Nevertheless, I shall continue to try… now one month into arguing with the landlord of our International Grade-A office building over letting us use the fire-exit stairs as a means to connect between our four floors instead of waiting for and taking the lifts.
      Sigh…! JP

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