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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Really Green

In the line at the shop, the cashier told the older woman that plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing  back in my day.”

That’s right, they didn’t have the green thing in her day. Back then, they returned their milk bottles, Coke bottles and beer bottles to the shop. The shop sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But they didn’t have the green thing back her day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn’t have an escalator in every shop and office building.

They walked to the supermarket and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two hundred yards. But she’s right. They didn’t have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby’s nappies because they didn’t have the disposable kind.

They dried clothes on a washing line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 3000 watts per hour – 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 pizza dish, not a screen the size of France.

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 post, they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, they didn’t start up an engine and burn petrol 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 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 blunt. But they didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the bus and children rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus, instead of turning their mothers 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 hut.

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


  1. A fine, well-honed post - thank you. On the same theme, potatoes came unwashed and loose and were tipped into the bottom of a big shopping bag; caulis and the rest went on top - without shrink-wrapping. And they lasted better, even when we didn't have fridges, but, as you point out, we didn't have the green thing then.

  2. How very true. I wish the 'environmentalists' walked the walk as well as talking the talk - I refuse to listen to a Green who owns a car, lives in a centrally heated house with all mod cons and buys all their food in shops.

    If they did as our forebears did - grew their own food, bicycled, made-do and mended stuff, heated one room of their houses, then I might listen to their exhortations a bit more. Anyone who lives the modern life but bleats on about 'climate change' is a rank hypocrite.

  3. Yes I agree with all of you. I was brought up in that era.

  4. I miss those Sunday mornings... church bells... the gentle whirls of the lawn mower... and the clip, clip, clip of the hedge trimmers.

    Sundays today, sound more like a Motocross meeting.

  5. Superb post - I remember it well. We were greener than a Guardian reader without even trying.

  6. Captain Haddock23 March 2011 at 18:33

    And Farmers ploughed, drilled & harvested using horse-drawn machinery .. the horses crapped directly onto the earth, thus fertilising it naturally ..

    All our vegetables were "organic" .. there was no choice .. and they were still cheaper because they hadn't travelled hundreds of miles ..

    The shops sold & we happily ate only what was in season ..(celebrity chefs had still to be invented) ..

    Yep .. I'm a member of that generation too ..

  7. That reminds me of a time 60yrs ago.My Mother using a hand powered wringer to remove the excess water after boiling it in a 'copper',then rinsing by hand,then on to the line to dry.It was also said that after the first Nuclear power station came on line,electricity would be so cheap there would be no need to send out bills!! Deary me,giving my age away now!

  8. And some of us took recycling to extremes by climbing over the fence round the back of the Co-op, grabbing some empty Corona fizzy pop bottles, then taking them into the shop and claiming our penny reward.....several times over!!

  9. Captain Haddock23 March 2011 at 19:26

    Heh heh .. especially on Friday's Dave ..

    If one was a bit short of readies & desperately wanted to watch Hop-along-Cassidy, or The Lone Ranger at the local (electric-powered) flea-pit on a Saturday morning ..

    The old fashioned glass soda syphons paid out best .. a Tanner back on one of them .. ;)

  10. Aye lad... neya Playstations i' those days... if theur woontad summa' ta play wi'... dad 'ood cut pockets art o' kecks...

  11. Oi Harry, who are you calling a lad?

  12. And bananas were sold with nature's original packaging.

  13. There were 'dustbins' and dustmen too.Cobblers and repairmen.
    I dont remember there being supermarkets but some of the shops actually delivered.
    But above all women knew their place.

  14. ... and so did the men ;o)

  15. I showed this to mother, and she said it should be printed out and handed to every school kid in the land. She recounted how her mother would unpick old woollen items, and re-use the wool to knit new ones!

    I can remember an old guy who came round our way on a converted trade bike (remember them?) with an assortment of grinding wheels mounted on a shaft belt driven by some pedals. He would ring his bell and housewives suddenly appeared with blunt knives and scissors to be sharpened.

    And home delivery is nothing new - when I was in my teens (40 years ago) mother used to ring the local shop once a week, and the following day Mr Marks pulled up outside in his Mk1 Cortina with her order in a large cardboard box - which was subsequently re-used, of course...

  16. Ah yes, bathing once a week (If that) because there were no showers, waking up with ice on your face on cold Winter mornings, a regular cull of the poor and frail because they couldn't afford the coal or electricity to heat their homes. Ah, they don't make nostalgia like they used to.

    Don't worry, those days will come again.

  17. Captain Haddock24 March 2011 at 19:10

    Whatever happened to Mobile Shops ?

    I remember, as a kid one such "wonder" being a converted 52 seater coach .. the husband & wife owners/operators toured the outlying areas, selling almost everything one could wish for ..

    And the "Walls" man used to come round every Sunday lunchtime, on his Bike, fitted with a refrigerated compartment above the front wheel .. It was the "talk" amongst we kids, when he started selling Choc Ices ..

  18. The refrigerated compartment kept cold by "Dry Ice" - or frozen CO2!!!

    An interesting take on the "Carbon Cycle"...

  19. Yor veg were wrapped in brown bags with the corners twisted. No shrink wrap requiring a degree to gain access to your food.

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