Thursday, June 2, 2011

OK, I feel a rant coming on...or maybe two...

I was e-mailed this little thing the other day.  Generally I don't even open these, but this one from someone who rarely sends this sort of thing, so I thought I'd see what kinds of things she does send.
The Green Thing
In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”

That’s right, they didn’t have the green thing in her day. Back then, they returned their milk bottles, Coke bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over.  So they actually were "recycled."

But they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks.

But she’s right. They didn’t have the green thing in her day.

Back then, they washed the baby’s diapers because they didn’t have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts – wind and solar power did the drying. Kids often got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right, they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.

Back then, they 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 pizza dish, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn’t have electric machines to do everything for them. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, they didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right, they didn’t have the green thing back then.

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty, instead of using a plastic bottle or cup every time they had a drink of water. They refilled pens with ink, instead of buying new pens, and they replaced the blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But they didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus, instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from a satellite 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But they didn't have the green thing back then!
OK, maybe I'm not going to rant.  I changed my mind.  I love this anecdote, even if it is fiction.  We don't have to contrive various ways to "be green" and spout about them all the time.  It doesn't make us somehow more righteous to use cloth diapers or ride a bike to work.  These are choices each person might make.  And the ways to "be green" are so much more varied than the popular ideas being crammed down our societal throats non-stop. 

How about shoe repair?  Do you know how hard it is to find a cobbler?  And it's also more expensive these days to get a good shoe repaired than to buy cheapo shoes and just replace them.  But I do it because it makes more sense to me. 

How about mending clothes? 

Or buying parts for appliances?  Oh, that one really torks me.  They make these totally cheapo appliances that are made to break down.  And the parts are nearly as expensive as buying a new one.  My Mother-in-law just replaces the stove she had for forty-some years.  Why? Not because it needed to be replaced.  But because she could no longer find parts for it.  And she had to get a cheapo piece of junk that will last her maybe fifteen.  Maybe.  And only because she's not cooking for a family anymore.  They wear out much faster in that case.  Trust me, I know.  But our society is not geared toward those common sense practices that used to be common.  Because a certain segment of our population wants new things all the time, producers don't make things that last.  We have to invent ways to "be green" since common sense has flown the coop.

Ok, I guess I did rant.  And I think I just might a second time.

As long as I'm on the subject of environmentalism, I am going to spout just a little about something that really irritates me about the elementary school my kids attend.  I might even rant.  This is just a pet peeve thing, really, not anything important, just really, really irritating.  Officially, the kids are not allowed to bring homemade treats to school.  I had planned to approach the school board about getting this rule changed, but now I've heard it's become a state law in Minnesota!  

I think this is ridiculous on a number of levels, but the two that I might draw upon to convince the "super, hyper, protect everyone from everything crowd" that makes rules like this is such a law's health and environmental impact.  How so, you might ask?

I can make food that's way, way healthier than what I can buy pre-processed at the grocery store.  Really.  I don't feed my own kids store bought treats except on rare occasions (a road trip, for instance, might warrant a package of vanilla wafers to be split ten ways), because I don't believe in giving them junk.  I don't even bake much because I don't think kids need to develop a sweet tooth.  When I do, I generally cut back the sugar, or use raisins, dates, honey, or molassses for part of the sweetening.  I tweak all recipes to make them healthier.  I don't use dyes or preservatives or additives or fillers.  Just regular wholesome ingredients.

On the environmental front, how many packages in the course of a year is this going to add to our landfills with all the store bought stuff?  If I were to make something to send to school, I'd send it in Tupperware.  Which could be sent home, washed and re-used.  But the store bought stuff has at very least, a plastic wrap to toss.  It might have a plastic wrap and a cardboard box.  It might have styrofoam.  It's even likely the treats would be individually wrapped.  Yikes!  I bought fruit snacks for our recent road trip for the way home (only six kids along) and the wrappers are still driving me nuts.  I found one floating around the grass when I mowed today.  I thought I had them all contained, but sure enough there went one under the mower.  Good grief!

So, in these days of health and environmental consciousness, even a protectionist should be able to see that this is a stupid law.  And it's not like the food supply is safe anyway.  I'd like to see a comparison of how many people get sick from bake sale items compared to the allegedly tested and approved things they are constantly recalling because somebody or some group of somebodies has gotten sick from something that has passed the inspections. 

Ok.  I'm done now.  I feel better.

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