Thursday, May 12, 2011

How Wasteful the Older Generation Was ... or were they?

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

I received this email from someone in my writing group and I wanted to share it with you. Unfortunately, even though I tried, I was unsuccessful in finding out who to attribute this to. So, if you happen to know, please post a comment or email me with the name so I can give proper credit. This is just too good not to share.

Bag by VistaPrint

In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bag because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized to him and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”

The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. The former generation did not care enough to save our environment." He was right, that generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, they returned their 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. But they didn’t have the green thing back in that customer's day.

In her day, they 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. But she was right. They didn’t have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby’s diapers because they didn’t have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts – 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 hankerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. 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 mail, they used a wadded up old newspaper 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. 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 their writing 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 dull. But they didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus instead of turning their moms 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 joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful the old folks were just because they didn't have the green thing back then?

Keeping it green,



  1. Jessica KlanderudMay 12, 2011 at 7:58 AM

    That is great! I learned all my frugal (and green) habits from my Mennonite Grandmother. She may not have realized that she was "green" but she did teach us to be good stewards of the blessings God has given us. I wish she could be here to see what I am doing today.

  2. Awesome post - we do have much to learn!

    I've noticed this with my mother-in-law - they save and reuse everything! Absolutely nothing is thrown out if they can't find a use for it (and they are pretty inventive with finding uses for things).

    Then also NEVER waste food - I'm afraid that's another product of my generation...

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I didn't know you had Mennonite roots, Jessica! I'm sure she would be soooo proud!!

  4. Thanks, Kelly. Yes, we did somehow learn to be quite wasteful.


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