How Ungreen Of Us

by Green Deane

in Blog

Sun dried clothes smell the best

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:

One milk truck delivered to many

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.

Diapers had pins, not tabs

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.

Three channels in good weather

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.

Food came from jars not cans

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.

Nothing was thrown away

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.

You kept a razor for decades

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.

Push Lawn Mower

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.

Get lost, it makes life interesting

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.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike July 22, 2015 at 17:18

It’s very hard to disagree. There are some great points here. Although a great man once said “The good old days weren’t always good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.” Okay, it was Billy Joel. I do grow my own fruits, herbs and veggies, make my own organic cleaner, spice mixes and teas. I may also get some chickens at some point. We really have gotten away from some really great practices. This has been a detriment to our health, the earth and also our wallets!

Like Alice said before me, it is a bigger picture than just living a simple life. It does help to “vote” with your dollars which can have an effect on the food industries. They would go out of business or need to change if we stopped buying their processed crap.

Just my 2 cents…great site!


Alice April 10, 2015 at 05:25

I know I’m just a millenial that was raised by technology, but I’d like to stick up for my generation. Many of us weren’t raised by grandparents who taught us to can or forage; in fact, our parents and grandparents were the ones who embraced the chemicals and machines that made their lives more convenient. So if you want to blame my generation for being wasteful, just remember that your generation raised us this way. Furthermore, my generation of environmentalists is doing the best we can with the world we’ve been given. Considering most pollution is industrial and not domestic, it’s not enough anymore to just change our lifestyles back to the way they were when you were growing up; we have to convince the industries, the government, and our neighbors as well to sacrifice profit for the sake of our future. This is a job that cannot be done without modern communication technology and yes, it IS political. There are more of us in it for the right reasons than for the wrong reasons.

And for the record, spending a lot of time on the internet does not make someone less than human. While a few people on the internet are indeed juvenile and profane (and unfortunately, those few are louder than the many), you cannot reduce the human dignity of those of us who use the internet to inform ourselves and connect with others. We are using this information and these connections to innovate so we can improve the lives of everyone, not just ourselves — and that’s just about as human as humans can be.

Of course, you might just ignore or delete this comment because I am just an arrogant youngster. But if you really are concerned about humanity today, ignoring people with differing opinions will only contribute to the problem.


Charzie February 18, 2015 at 02:55

Great article and so many of the comments here give me hope that there are still people in the world who care! I’m 62 and have seen my share, have a roof over my head and am thankful for every day. I try to live a conscious life and simple lifestyle, especially in regards to diet. I’ve had weight and health issues all my life and it took a health crisis to finally set me straight. For me that meant getting back to nature 100% and eliminating all processed food and for several reasons, animal products too. Now I can grow and forage most everything I need, and shopping trips are minimal! I wish I could be off the grid entirely, but not quite. I use no TV, but I do love my computer/tablet as an information source, the same way I used the library, only so much more convenient in my location and situation! (E-mail I have to say is great too!) Your website and a few others are essential in my constant quest for reliable information! So many thanks for that, though I know it is a big compromise for you, you must also know how vital that sharing of your knowledge is to us all! If I had my way, I’d love to unburden and run away to live in a little earthen tiny home with maybe just enough solar panels (here in FL) to power the few conveniences I desire, a solar oven, and a few like minded neighbors for company, near a great foraging area…preferably not far from the ocean. (An island? LOL). Hey, I can dream, right?


Tammy May 3, 2015 at 17:08


Your comments could have come out of my own head – verbatim! I am right there with you on every detail, except I live in CA. I have the same dream, and I believe in living our dreams.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. May your dreams come true, in abundance!



Wolf October 25, 2014 at 20:57

My father taught me to read and navigate by a topographic map starting when I was 7 years old. GPS? Why? GPS depends on electronics, which can fail at any one of a number of locations. A handheld unit can be dropped in water, dropped on rocks, or have its batteries die. A satellite can be out of range or out of its designed life-span. But a map? And a compass? The compass will read you true, and the topographic map is a trove of so much information, you can plan your entire day by it. A street map is equally valuable, whether on foot, bike, or in a car.

When I was a kid, the military was already using GPS, and computers were on the cusp of becoming a household item. But yes, there are some of us who would rather use our hands to mix the bread-dough, who think a hand-crank egg-beater was a perfectly wonderful level of technology that did not need to be improved upon. There are people like me out there, who don’t own a TV but have bookshelves in every room; who spend so much time outside in the real world that we wonder how anyone could fit in a moment to watch this thing called a “reality TV.”

Take heart, Green Deane; at age 40, I’m an outlier of my generation, a generation that was entirely too passive about the destruction our parents set in motion, that our children must now deal with. But those “children”? Like the other young people you’ve heard from above, my daughter is an activist and a fighter for the wild world. Raised by a nut (nutcase or nut-collector?) like me, she’s learned how to process acorns into food, learned to make cookies with cattail pollen flour, learned to eat burdock and parsnip that I found in the park that day.

These kids are pretty awesome. Some of them have learned worse manners than have ever been seen on the planet, but just because they are LOUD does not mean they are the majority, or even a very large minority. The future is pretty screwed … except that these kids in their teens and early twenties, as they’re taking it into their own hands, may just turn that around.


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