I’m reaching retirement age. I’m also reaching the point of being tired of being told how green we are today and how ungreen we were in the past. Oh? When I was a kid:
We didn’t all drive en mass to the store to buy milk. Milk was delivered, by one man in a milk truck. And milk came in reusable, recyclable bottles that you could also use for other things. Baked goods were delivered the same way. And vacuum cleaners! How ungreen of us.
Our neighbor, who raised seven kids, washed cloth diapers because there weren’t disposables then. I wonder why no one champions recycling disposable diapers? We just toss them in land fills, vertical septic systems. And those cloth diapers were dried on a clothes line, an artifact found only in museums and my backyard. We did not use a 220 volt soon-to-wear out machine to dry clothes or start house fires. And kids got hand-me-down clothes, not the latest designed-for-them fashion seasonally. I got new clothes once a year, ordered out of a catalog for school. Rummage sales were community recycling. How ungreen of us.
We didn’t get a TV until I was nine, a small black and white set we put on the window sill. It got three channels if the weather was good and you held the antenna just right. A PSB channel would not be added for a decade. Programming was wholesome and no censoring was needed for kids or grandma. We actually watched it as a family. One TV, not one in every room. It did not have a digital color screen twice the size of the window. How ungreen of us.
In the kitchen stuff was mixed, blended, chopped and beaten into submission by hand. No blenders, no food processors, no mixers. How many folks are willing to blend their environmentally healthy nutritious smoothies by hand? What’s the collective carbon footprint of all those blender macerating food from halfway around the world? We prepared our food by hand rather than buying it prepared. We never bought vegetables in a package, or hardly anything else. We put up food in reusable glass containers. It was called canning, a verb I don’t hear too often these days. And we packaged fragile items for mailing with old newspaper not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. We didn’t own plastic or paper cups or “sporks.” Anything beyond use that could burn was put in the kitchen stove, broken chairs to chicken bones. It cooked our food and warmed the house. How ungreen of us.
The only stuff we threw away was stuff that would grow fungus and smell. And before that happened it was put outside for the animals. Dead motors were kept for parts, old appliances were cannibalized for cords and wire. All manner of things were taken apart and the nuts and bolts saved. We actually took down a three-car garage and used the boards and timber to build our barn. We pulled nails out of boards, pounded them straight, and reused them at a time when nails were a couple of dollars for a 50 pound keg. My mother made rugs out of rags and had a huge button box filled with buttons off every piece of clothing destined to be a rug. How ungreen of us.
Pens and cigarette lighters were refilled. We put new blades in razors, put tape on the old blades and used them around the house. The whole razor was not thrown away just because the blade was too dull to shave with. I still own and use two straight razors. Typewriter ribbons were re-inked, and typewriter technology barely changed every half century rather than computer seasonally. How ungreen of us.
We walked up stairs because stores did not have elevators or escalators. We mowed the lawn by hand with a push mower. We bought local because it was what we had. Every home had a summer garden and us kids collected return bottles for pocket change. We rolled pennies by hand. Now a machine charges you 8% to do that. I walked or rode my bike several miles to school even the in winter, and shoveled the driveway by hand. We played board game with real humans during those long winters rather than buying a new game when we got bored. How ungreen of us.
And we didn’t get a phone until I was 20 and in the Army. Overseas I got to call home once a year. Once. We wrote letters, now a dead art. Not every one had a cell phone or a personal computer in every pocket. How ungreen of us.
And we didn’t need two or more devices bouncing and triangulating signals over thousands of miles to find the nearest pizza place. We used our nose. How ungreen of us.