Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Green Thing . . . continued

Progress has it's cost. There is no doubt about it. My last posting set me thinking even more of how "un-green" today's society really is, despite the current "green hype", compared to that of my parents generation and indeed, mine. 

Let me make one thing clear. I'm not criticizing progress. Modern appliances do save much time and (human) energy. I'm the first to admit that I will walk straight through an automatic door rather than pull open the manual one. What I was really thinking was more of the less wasteful and energy consuming practices of five or six decades ago.

My first thought was that, as general store owners, my parents sold biscuits (cookies), sugar, sweets (candy), dried fruit, etc. "loose". In other words, we weighed out the amount required,wrapped them in paper and the customer took them home in a basket she/he had had for years. There was never any reason to buy (and waste) more than we needed as, for example, Mum or Dad would cut and weigh however many slices of bacon a customer needed. Imagine going into a present day grocery store and trying to buy two rashers of bacon and the like?

Playing as kids, we would, when thirsty drink tap water, or if we had some pocket money (allowance) left we would perhaps buy a bottle of pop (soda) - my father made this on the premises. The bottle had glass "marbles" inside that sealed the fizzy drink as they rose to the top. I don't think you could even buy bottle water - if you could I certainly had never seen it.

We didn't have throw-away appliances. In the twenty-plus years I lived with my parents I can only remember them having one electric kettle. If it went wrong, Dad would replace the heating element. If it leaked, he would solder the seam. All this at a fraction of the cost of a new kettle.

The same with our shoes. Dad would repair our shoes, sitting there in the evening with tacks in his mouth, hammering new leather on the soles and "Blakeys" on the heels (I got through these pretty quick as I loved to make sparks on the pavement (sidewalk) by scraping my heels). Three pairs I had - the newest for Sunday best, then came the school shoes and as they got older, shoes for playing out. I considered myself very lucky - most of my peers only had one pair. I came home from school and before being allowed to play, had to change my clothes. If we were going out later, to the movies or to visit relatives, I would have to change again. Clothes did last longer and were better made even without the advantages of modern materials. We didn't have the "Lady Gagas" of today dictating what we should be wearing, so we never had to try to keep up with our peers.

The streets I played in as a youngster, weren't littered with discarded plastic bottles, candy wrappers, fast food containers, beer cans, etc. The bottles, be they pop or beer had deposits to collect and that was a source of income for us kids. Newspapers were truly recycled in one way or another - to wrap up our "fast food", that's fish 'n' chips (they tasted so much better than eating them from a plate like Mum insisted), and in poorer families to be used as toilet "tissue".

We actually walked places - most everywhere in fact. I walked to school, church, the movies, sports games and would only catch a bus if it was really necessary. Stores were in town (or on the corners of most streets in each neighborhood). Even those who had cars, didn't jump into them to travel half a mile to exercise in the gym.

Yes, I know "nostalgia is a thing of the past", and I'm not suggesting we turn back the clock even if we could. But before we suck up all the earth's oil, gas, coal, copper and other minerals only to fill up the holes with plastic bottles, containers and used appliances, shouldn't we (including myself), think of alternatives? None of us, even the faceless global corporations, own this planet, we are merely (very) temporary stewards and should take that responsibility seriously.

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