The Green Thing

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Apr 07, 2012

“I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things we could use.”
Mother Teresa

The other day I was walking through the newly remodeled airport (jetport) in Portland, ME.  Next to one of the new drinking fountains was a dispenser for filling water bottles. Each time it is used it records yet one more plastic bottle that was not used and later discarded.  The count was 4324.

Everywhere we look we are informed of the “Carbon Footprint” we are making. Recycling has imbedded itself in every part of our behavior.  And going “green” is expected of just about everyone.  You will understand then, why this story made me smile.

Checking out at the store, 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 apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The clerk 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 and soda 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 we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days.  Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.  But that young lady was 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 (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana…  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 mail, 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 gasoline just to cut the lawn.  But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.  

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.  We replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.  But we 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 walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service.  We had one electrical outlet 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 pizza joint.

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

In spite of the humor in this little story, there is a measure of truth included here as well.  The “green thing” is definitely here to stay, but I guess we should all remember it started a long, long time ago.

The story actually ended with these words:  Remember – don’t make old people mad. We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to tick us off. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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