The Green Thing (first published in West Sussex County Times)

Billingshurst Dairy

Image Credit: Billingshurst Dairy

Checking out at the supermarket, the young cashier suggested to the much older woman, that she could bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologised and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”  She was right in that my generation didn’t have ‘the green thing’.

Back then, we returned glass milk, lemonade and beer bottles to the shop, and were sometimes given a few pence in return. The shop sent them all back to the plant to be washed and sterilised and refilled, so the same bottles were used over and over again.

We didn’t have ‘the green thing’ back in our day.  We didn’t climb into our own 300 horsepower machine every time we had a journey of quarter of a mile to make. Back then, people took the bus and kids walked or rode their bikes to school instead of expecting a lift.  In the grocery shops our groceries were popped into brown paper bags that we re-used for numerous things, the most memorable being using them to make smart covers for our schoolbooks so that public property (the books provided for us by the school), was not defaced by our scribblings!

Back then, we washed the baby’s Terry towel nappies because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in a machine running on 1,500 watts of electric power. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days!  Kids had hand-me-down clothes from their siblings or neighbours.  Brand-new clothing was a rare treat.

Back then, we had one wireless and if you were lucky enough to have a TV in the house, it had a screen the size of a cotton handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of Wales!

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not especially manufactured plastic bubbles. Back then, we didn’t burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We pushed the mechanical 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 use yet more electricity.  We drank from a tap or fountain when we were thirsty instead of buying endless imported factory-filled plastic containers.

We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced razor blades rather than buying a new razor.

She’s right; we didn’t have ‘the green thing’ back then.  We had one electrical socket in each room.  We didn’t use a computerised gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pub!
We didn’t have the affluence that so many of us enjoy now, but did we have happier, more connected youth?

Contemporary story edited by Jean Francis