I received this in my email this morning.  We all get these emails from well-intentioned friends and I usually skim through to see what the emailee wants me to do with his/her email after I have read it.  This one was different, I started reading and kept on it all the way to the end.  Corporations aside, we really were pretty green growing up.  It does not matter if this story really happened or the writer just made it up, the point is it made me think about our planet and how while our intentions are admirable in this new generation, we would be wise to learn how the older generation did things before we make fun of them.

The Green Thing

At Raley’s the other day, the young cashier suggested that I bring my own grocery bag because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.I apologized to her 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.”She was right, our generation didn’t have the green thing in our day . . .Back then, we returned our 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 we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

In our day, we walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-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 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 the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But, yeah. . . we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one radio (or some a TV) in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a 19 inch or smaller screen, 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.

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper 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. 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, yeah . . . 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. Mama was sometimes seen walking the 2-mile round trip “downtown.”

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

Progress is usually a good thing but in reading this email I thought about how progress sometimes is not always new, just a different, better or faster way of doing things.  Some people still recycle their soda cans and plastic bottles and recycling is still an industry but it is now voluntary and if you don’t recycle you just pay the CRV anew everytime you buy merchandise in that kind of packaging.  But we were recyling back then because we got our money back on those bottles we returned an very few people would imagine buying a new six pack of coke without returning the emplty bottles.  I mean, who wanted those bottles cluttering up their homes?  Some people still use a push mower but usually only because they have such a small patch of lawn to mow.  Usually they power up the big machine and some even think they need the big John Deere riding mower because their neighbor has one and look how much easier it is to ride while working.  Some of these activities were beginning to change even while I was growing up and I am 58 but I can remember most of them.

So, did we really progress that far in green thinking or did we really just change the method?  I know we have not started holding corporations responsible for what they are doing.  We certainly have not extended our green technology in a big way.  Maybe because it takes us longer to get corporations to take their share of the responsibility?  And now the Republicans and Tea Party or should I say RepubicTeas want to reduce EPA and other regulations even more.  If we cannot get Corporations to stop polluting with regulations, how on earth will we be able to do so with weakened regulations?  Part of the problem is the RepublicTeas and their religous philosophy feel man has dominion over  the world and man will do on his own what is right.  Well I think we have plenty of proof that is a foolish notion because they have regulation now and how many companies could each of you name who have poisoned our earth?

Now I am not saying that corporations were all that much better in the “olden days”, but there was at least some cooperation from both sides even if it was because we were less developed.  At any rate, it is a good reminder that the new way is not always the best way, it is more than likely the faster, more efficient way.
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I am a soon to be 59 Nana to Anthony who is 11. I live in Benicia CA with my husband and Shih Tsu. I worked in Banking and the Financial Industry for 24 years in Fraud, Risk Management, Account Management, Program Management, Project Management and Customer Service. I was a Fraud Investigator for Credit Card and Merchant Business and investigated internal fraud and responded to Bank robberies. I was also management in most of these positions. Now I am content to find a part time job where I am just a worker bee, no more corporate BS for this gal. I also make jewelry. I can spend hours in a bead shop just touching all the fine baubles. Only another beader would understand that one.

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Recycling in America can still be very much improved. New technology allows recycling centers to sort on site so that you don’t have to have a dozen different bins to load.

Recyclables are still a commodity so money can be made off of them. We sell a big chunk of our scrap to China though and they use it to make shit they can sell back to us for a profit. It’s ridiculous. We could recycle it here, repackage it and sell it here, and create a ton of jobs.

Recycling fraud is also a big problem. A firm in New Hampshire sold recyclable bulbs to schools but didn’t actually have ways to recycle them. They just stored them in buildings around the state. And there are toxic chemicals in those things, so recycling them is a top priority for their use.

Toxic waste is our biggest problem. The shit even gets dumped in landfills. They found one company storing it in abandoned buildings all over the low income areas of Chicago. And, unless you track it all the way yourself, there is no way to know for sure your junk is recycled. We do pretty good. People want to recycle and there are plenty of legit centers all over the country.

But shit still gets lost in the clutter. Too many private companies looking to make a quick buck. And, believe it or not, there is plenty of money to be made in waste. Recycling should get the same attention as green energy and other green tech. A national recycling policy with adequate funding wouldn’t hurt either.


Absolutely right! The US should be putting a lot of money and effort into recycling and renewable energy and stop throwing money down the drain on coal, oil, and nuclear energy. Make the polluters pay for their own business and the clean up of their mess. Take that savings and put it into solar, wind, and geothermal along with recycling.
I recycle most of my waste and have a solar array that makes 120% of my power, sending the 20% into the grid thanks to net-metering.
We need to change our priorities from coal, oil, and nuclear to renewable and recycling,

KQµårk 死神

The Atlanta area set a record today. 90 days of at least 90ºF weather. I love that global warming myth.


Having just finished another recycling trash day, I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

I have always taken my own bags to do do my shopping, even though people would give me funny looks. Living here in Japan you just don’t have much storage room, so plastic bags would eventually take up space we need for other things. Years ago when I was still able to shop by myself, I left trays which would come with meat, vegeables and just about anything else, right there in the supermarket’s trash bins. I brought my own tupper from home to transfer the meat to,

As I said, people thought I was crazy, but for the last 8 or 10 years, recycling has become very big over here, and I’m glad that in this city of almost 14 million, I have and continue to do my bit.

Since our quake we had to cut down on power to avoid power cuts we first experienced for a month or so after March 11th. It wasn’t a hardship, except for setting the A/C dial to 28C when it was 37C outside, but we survived. Even in normal times I hate to waste resources, so anything not in use gets unplugged, and we have a special hose to fit on to the washing machine to use bath water for our washing, only the final two rinses will be tap water.

I agree totally with the sentiment of the email, that at that time we didn’t use all that much power or produce that much waste, and if we all insist and do our part, we can still conserve energy and water now. It’s getting people to join in that has always been a problem, we are so used to turning something on or having fresh water every time we turn on our taps. I always try to imagine the billions around the world who still have to carry water from wells miles away from their home every day, or those who have no fresh water sources who get sick and die every minute somewhere in this world of ours. If we remember just how lucky we are, then each of us trying to do our bit each day to conserve our precious energy and water sources shouldn’t be such a hard thing to do, and might just help in saving our planet.


Nice article Sue. The biggest polluters then and now are the factories and power plants. Although, now, as you so rightly pointed out, we are a “throw-away,” society. It is unbelievable how quickly the dumpster outside my apartment fills up. There are only 20 studio apartments here, and the dumpster is nearly full three days after it’s been emptied. This part of Columbus doesn’t have recycling. And I don’t have any means to take my trash to the city dump. It’s a real shame.
A few states still have 5 cent bottle deposits. But not here in Ohio (it figures). I don’t buy bottles water. I think that is the biggest scam going today. I use a Brita water filter and it costs me about 7 bucks for 3 months of drinking water. And no plastic bottles to add to the pollution.



The biggest polluters then and now are the factories and power plants.

I tend to disagree, it’s the consumers. Do we buy fresh vegetables packaged with a “Styrofoam” bottom and a plastic film wrapping it? Do we demand/ask our local grocery store to not over package articles? Do we buy bulk? Do we take cloth bags to stores? Do we turn off the TV’s, lights or computers when not in use? Do we buy the most efficient transportation or demand and take public transportation? Do we take advantage of the PV/alternative tax credits for on site energy?

To blame factories and power plants may be one thing, they are on the supply side. We are on the demand side, we consume! 60-80% of weekly “garbage” is packaging purchased by consumers.

I am not casting any aspersions on anyone, I am using the “we” collectively of our society.


Bito, many people do these things you mention. Unfortunately, many more do not. I think there is a difference between pollution and stuff that goes to a landfill. It may be semantic, but at least the stuff that goes to landfill is relatively contained. Factories and power plants emit stuff that is not contained and is spread by the wind and rivers. I know plastic and styrofoam do not degrade and are pollution, as such.
I do not disagree that consumers add tremendously to the size of landfills. But I think we are talking about two different kinds of pollution.


KT, what are those factories and power plants that emit producing? Consumer goods. The packaging, the paper goods, the cement and asphalt for roads, the detergents, the plastics the petroleum products, the Styrofoams…..and the product from the power plants we also consume. One of the main contributors to ozone is personal transportation-cars!
Landfills may be relatively contained but the can and do leech into the ground water and emit a tremendous amount of methane.
One of the largest contributors to fresh water pollution is our crumbling sewage and runoff systems.
What you do is truly admirable and I wish we had 200 million more of you.


Thanks Bito. I certainly can’t disagree about the landfills. I am in sort of a quandry about recycling. My town doesn’t offer it and I don’t have transportation to a recycling center. But, I am glad I don’t own a car. I don’t want one, so in that respect I am not adding any exhaust fumes to the air. But I do wish I could take recyclable trash items to a center that does recycle.
When my dad retired, he took a part time job at a recycling center on Cape Cod. It was a great place that separated cans, plastic bottles, paper and cardboard and styrofoam. Cape Cod is one of the most naturally beautiful places in America, maybe the world. Those that live and work there insist on recycling, to keep the Cape naturally beautiful. People gladly recycle their stuff. I would too if I lived there.

KQµårk 死神

First you have to ask why heavy industry exists at all. Industry is only there because people demand products and utilities. Worse the US demands cheaper utilities and products than the rest of the world. So I tend to agree the biggest polluters are US consumers who not only demand all these products be manufactured at home but abroad as well. Don’t forget the US owns 40% of the automobiles in the world and many are imported so if you do the numbers not only does the US pollute itself but the rest of the planet for our excesses.


KT – not so much anymore. They have been seriously revamped over the years to contain and recycle their pollution. I agree with bito below – it’s cars and consumer choices. What we may be agreeing on though is less emissions than toxic waste. To the best of my knowledge, while emissions have been vastly reduced, toxic waste has been given very little emphasis.

People sneered at “clean coal” in 2008 when Obama mentioned it, but it’s what saved London and the UK in general. It has made life vastly better – no more killer fogs as they had. Poland and other eastern European nations are working on their alternatives as well – it’s critical to their move into the 21st century. London today is vastly different from even the late 70s – the buildings are cleaned and white and lovely where they were streaked and blackened – and they still burn considerable coal. It just is far less disgusting. We need to work on that, not deride it.

KQµårk 死神

Cheers for the article Sue. We should be reminded of the mistakes we made but always look forward.

I know we have done allot to shrink our wastefulness through the years like using our own shopping bags, making fewer unnecessary trips and re-using water bottles and such but we can always do more.


“That’s our problem today. The former generation did not care enough to save our environment.”

I resent that. This generation doesn’t give a shit either.


Sue – I loved this when you sent it to me and love it even more posted here. I remember it ALL – and still do a LOT of it. I do not return bottles – I give them to homeless guys who do that and keep the money. But it gets done. I do not bring my own bags to the store though – I use the plastic ones for kitty poop. I can’t see buying bags for that! But if I buy books or single items, I don’t get bags at all.

My worst failing is that I do not walk to the corner store much – when I go it’s usually after dark, and I don’t think it’s safe even in my otherwise pretty nice neighborhood. But in the daytime I do. Good walks are always energizing.

I think I could live with a 1960s standard which would consume about 25% of the energy we do now. That is – so long as I have a computer. I’m willing to do almost anything, but I AM NOT GIVING UP THE PLANET.

There is my consumptive bottom line!


That email makes some great points
But somewhere in between the things they did right and
the thing todays young folks are doing right,
Is a balance.
I did grow up in Cleveland where we saw the Cuyahoga river burning.
But I had the job on weekends of pushing a real lawnmower!
Pushing that lawnmower was real work and only made worse when the grass was wet!
Ahhh the good old days


Hey Patsy – I remember the Cuyahoga burn – very unnerving! It IS better today!

I also mowed lawns, did weeding, house cleaning (I think everyone should earn money at some point in their lives scrubbing other people’s toilets. You will NEVER take workers around you for granted again!) babysitting – and most of it without a lot of fancy stuff. When I was in high school and babysitting it coincided with the first ever late night talk show, Irv Kupcinet on (I think) WGN in Chicago (I grew up just outside the Windy City). REAL talk with interesting academics, journalists, writers, political people – not show biz. It is what kept me focused and awake until the parents came home. But if it was after 1 am – no TV at ALL. Books. Magazines. No electronic anything.

And I remember being happy. I have 100-plus stations and there is STILL nothing to watch, and Irv is dead, and there is nothing else like him on TV. Even Charlie Rose can’t hold a candle. So I don’t think if we rolled back the energy usage and turned back time that I’d be bored or would lack things to do. Once you live without gizmos, it’s not that hard. Who knows? Maybe people would talk again!


We still need Radio!
Good Radio
The cities/towns back east had their niche in radio
When I was really young
It was one of those black transistors radios
covered in red leather playing WIXY 1260
I was so happy
Playing all the hits.

Still in Cleveland some years later
This was one of my favorites from Cleveland, WCLV

There was one program on that station
that ended its evening with this music
Howard Hanson
Symphony No. 2
Andante con Tenerezza
(yes they used this music in the film “Alien”)


Sue, that email really did make quite a number of good points. Thanks for posting it.

It ties in with something that has been a bit of a pet peeve of mine for a while. And that is the assumption — by some members of “The Greatest Generation” (curse you, Tom Brokaw!) and some members of Gen X,Y — that the generation in between them was really a Confederacy of Dunces.

The Boomer generation has been described as self-centered and narcissistic so many times, I think a lot of them are starting to believe it themselves!

Of course, every generation has its share of arses, but I wonder if many of the Boomer critics have ever considered the number of Boomers who were in the Peace Corp or did other volunteer work, who were pioneers in the early efforts to stop pollution and save endangered species. Boomers were possibly the first generation in America that ever had significant numbers of its young men refusing to go to war simply because their elders ordered them to. Boomers have challenged a materialistic culture and the status quo in ways that have not been seen before or since.

No generation is perfect, but the “sandwich” Boomer generation has gotten a bad rap that I think needs to be challenged the way this writer has done.