In the supermarket queue, the young cashier tells an older lady, “You should bring your own bags for your shopping. Plastic bags are not environmentally friendly.”
The lady apologized and said, “Sorry, there was none of this ‘green talk’ at all in my day.”
The boy replied: “Yes, and that is exactly our problem today, ma’am. Your generation did not care enough about the environment. Our environment.”
“You are right,” said the lady. “We didn’t think about the environment at all. In our day, all bottles were returned to the store. The shop would send them back to the factory, where they were washed and sterilized before being re-used, and they, the beverage makers, used the bottles a few more times.
Diapers were washed and re-used because there were no disposable ones. We dried our clothes outside, not in these fancy electric dryers. Solar and wind power is what really dried our clothes.
We had no WiFi and only one TV or radio at home, not one in each room. The TV had a 14-inch screen, not a stadium-sized home cinema that will only last a few years.
In the kitchen, we had to beat everything with our hands because there were no electric mixers to do everything for us. When we sent something fragile by mail, we used old paper as protection, not plastic bubble or plastic pellets that need five centuries to biodegrade.
In those days, no gasoline engine was used to mow the lawn. We used a lawn mower that required muscles. The exercise was extraordinary. You did not have to go to a gym and use treadmills that also run on electricity.
We drank water directly from the fountain when we were thirsty instead of using plastic cups and bottles that now flood the oceans and are harmful to marine life.
Nobody ever heard of climate change then. At that time, people would take the tram or bus. Students would ride their bikes or walk to school, instead of using their parents as a 24-hour taxi service.
Your generation speaks so much of the ‘environment’, but how many of you will give up your comforts and try living like in my time?”
The Way Forward
This charming story highlights that human ‘progress’ has come at a high price. It also highlights the importance of a little humility. Instead of blaming the generations that went before us, we can learn from them.
Marcel Proust said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” By seeing things from a different angle, keeping an open mind, making small but significant changes to our habits and by having ‘new eyes’, we can really make a difference.
Ironically, the way forward might be for us all to go in ‘reverse’.
For a ‘greener way to grocery shop’, there are a number of excellent zero-waste (packaging-free) supermarkets here in Portugal. For a list of nationwide stores and locations, click here: https://agranel.pt/index.php
Feel free to contact us with your ideas/suggestions about new habits we can use to help our environment.
A little change, can change a lot.
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