Friday, May 27, 2011

Back in the 1960s, We Were Green, Baby

When I was a kid on Long Island, I sometimes spent Saturdays picking up soda and beer bottles along the side of the street.

Back then, there were no taxpayer-funded signs advertising who kept the street clean. Children looking for something to do and looking to make a few bucks were more than happy to pick up the refundable bottles.

That’s because, way long before “green” was hip, companies sold their soda, beer and milk in deposit bottles. I remember my parents taking the thick-glass gallon milk bottle to the drive-up Dairy Barn. Before that, the milkman from the local dairy picked them up for refill.

As a matter of fact, around the time I moved to Virginia, New York State made it mandatory for companies to offer a refund for all bottles and cans, whether glass, plastic or aluminum. The year after I moved here, Virginia made it illegal for companies to sell refundable bottles.

What is the reasoning behind that?

It has done nothing but multiply the litter. What a waste. And disposable plastic water bottles? Are you kidding?

So us kids were outdoors getting exercise and keeping our neighborhoods clean with the incentive of gathering a few dollars’ worth of bottles. Our parents did not hire personal trainers to get us to lose weight.

An e-mail from a friend entitled, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day,” reminded me of these things.

Things like washing cloth diapers and hanging them on the line. Rather than using an energy-consuming dryer, our mothers dried their laundry with the wind and the sun.

As a child, I did not have dressers and closets bursting with clothing. As a matter of fact, my mother and Great Grandma Bess made most of my dresses. Mom even made my mini-skirts. Each article of clothing handmade, just for me.

When we remodeled our bathroom last year, the husband removed the old medicine cabinet. In back of the bottom shelf was a thin opening for disposing of razor blades. Rather than throw away the whole razor, people used to slip the used blades into that slot.

Where did the old blades go? We found a slew of them inside the wall.

Another thing we refilled was our pens with ink. I must have more than 100 pens in my house right now. When a pen runs out of ink, I throw it away. When I was younger, I had to go to the stationery store to buy refill cartridges. I still do have a pen or two like that. Hmm. Should I chuck all the disposable pens?

When I was a kid, if we wanted to watch TV, the whole family had to agree on what to watch, because we only had one set. Of course, there were fewer options back then because you had just a few channels. Our small set used a lot less power than families do now, with a flat-screen TV in every room.

In school, when it was hot, the teacher opened the windows. We didn’t die. To cool off, people sat on their front porches in the evening, visiting with their neighbors. (Neighbors are the people who live around you.)

Intersections used to have one traffic light fixture with lights in all four directions. Now an intersection has a minimum of four fixtures and usually many more. We pay the power bill.

Now that I think about it, we were pretty “green” back then. Unpretentiously so.

As a matter of fact, do you know that some people install solar panels on their homes just to impress you? Yup, the panels are not attached to anything. They generate no power. They’re just for show. They are there to impress us with the owner’s environmental consciousness.

That’s why I have contempt for the current “green” movement. It’s a consumer thing, to get consumers to buy things that pretend to be or are better for the environment. Or, better yet, to buy things that are colored green. Still buying and consuming. So stupid.

As soon as I was old enough, my dad began paying me to mow the lawn. Back in the 1960s, that meant a manual push mower. It used no gasoline, just muscle power and endurance. No treadmill or gym membership, no money spent on a cute outfit to look cute while exercising. Now that was a workout.

They still sell manual mowers, for less than $100. So smart for someone with a small lawn.

I dare you.

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