14 Jun 2011

The Green Thing

If I keep my old clothes long enough, they’re back in style!
– Jim Knowles

The above quote comes from the father of Jim Knowles, editor of the San Leandro Times, who has also graciously allowed me to reprint his column from January 7, “Its All About The Green Thing” (see below). In it, he demonstrates a keen understanding of a concept that I have tried to convey on many occasions though with less eloquence, that older adults are part of one of “greenest” generations of modern America.

There is often a presumption that older Americans need to be taught the values underlying the environmental movement. Setting aside the fact that members of this generation are the ones who created the most effective and enduring environmental organizations in our country, there are many strongly-held values intrinsic to older generations that completely support the protection of our natural world. Older Americans recycle at the highest rate of any age group. For a variety of reasons, they are far less likely to be wasteful and more likely to be innately thrifty and conscious of what they consume than young people.

Many current retirees worked hard to build and sustain the quality of life and luxuries that our society now enjoys, but remember the days when “locally-sourced” food didn’t merit a special label and was simply what was available. I’ve had Gray Is Green members remind me that backyard vegetable gardens are practically no different (nor more organic) than the victory gardens of World War II, and that the re-use of common materials might have been a matter of survival during the Great Depression.

Some of the science of, and threats to, the environment might be new, but there isn’t a single value or philosophy held by those who wish to protect it that isn’t held deeply by our members. They must serve not only as leaders of the current fight against environmental degredation, but also as links to and teachers of the “greener” practices of past.

Please feel free to share the item below with your friends and neighbors:

Its All About The Green Thing
– Jim Knowles

In the line at the store the cashier told the old 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 really were recycled.

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

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

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 really did dry the clothes! Kids 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 you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it not styrofoam “peanuts” 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.

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 cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled pens with ink, instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor 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 satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

They didn’t have the green thing back then!