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 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 recycled. (I remember when my folks had the grocery store, how many bottles the stock room had)
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 school books. 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. (I still use brown paper bags whenever I ship something - quite sturdy and often the perfect size)
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. (Ones of the thing I enjoy about living downtown - walking distance from many places. Hated that in the suburbs to have to take the car to go anywhere.)
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 our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. (My mother used cloth diaper for me. That is one of the few things I do miss about our house - my clothesline. I love to hang my clothes.)
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. (I do remember the small, black and white, TV. Last night I made muffins that I blended by hand, I still enjoy doing that even if I do love my Cuisinart. For packaging I often will use the shredded paper from our shredder. We never had a lawn when I was growing up - city child what can I say!)
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. (I use a water bottle daily, and will buy refills for my pen, and even ordered some blades refills from Hong Kong for my razor. To be honest, it wasn't because of an environmental concern but because I liked my razor!)
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 burger joint. (The "turning their moms" thing isn't about being green, that's about mothers making a choice to be a taxi. In the house where I grew up, I had one outlet in my bedroom, but you should have seen the extension cord and all the things connected to it, ah!) 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?
Generations before us did mess up the environment, and we are only now realizing the impact of it all. For lots of things the younger folks are also committing serious fouls. Time will tell. To any younger folks who feel the need to give older folks lessons about conservation, please do remember they don't like being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to tick them off.