A friend, Richard Auler, posted this story on Facebook a little while ago – and if you wonder why The Ecology of Happiness switches between a fascination with the uber-modern drive and creativity of lifestyle design, social business startups, and all that, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, traditional, old-style, sometimes very nearly Luddite values and ways (and then, the synergy between the two that could really bring us forward), it’s something to think about.
So, without further ado:
Checking out at Tesco, 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 apologised and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”
The assistant 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, soft drink bottles and beer bottles to the shop. The shop sent them back to the plant to be washed, sterilised and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
We walked up stairs because we didn’t have a lift or escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocers and didn’t climb into a 200-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.
Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 2000 watts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back then. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
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 not a screen the size of Yorkshire. 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 post, 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 petrol 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. But she’s right. We didn’t have the green thing back then.
When we were thirsty we drank from a tap instead of drinking from a plastic bottle of water shipped from the other side of the world. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor when the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.
Back then, people took the bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical socket 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 fish and chip shop.
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?