We Did Not Have the Green Thing Back Then

The shop sent glass bottles back to the plant to be washed, sterilised and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.

What I love about running an Inn is the great diversity of guests that come to stay with us. Yesterday I had a seventy something couple from South Florida check in and during a quick conversation this morning I learned that he was retired from the Miami Dade Police Department, where he had quite an illustrious career as the liaison for movie and TV projects filmed in the Miami Dade area. Yes for five years between 1984 and 1989 he was Miami Dade’s PD liaison for the hit series Miami Vice and paid by the Miami Vice production company. He shared some interesting anecdotes with me about having all cast members learn how to shoot with real ammo to learn how it feels. He also arranged many of the film locations from the mansions on Cay Biscayne to shacks in the Everglades. And soon our conversation drifted from mingling with movie stars to how much easier life was in those day. “Before hurricane Andrew hit South Miami,” he said, “there were very few rules regulations with regard to filming in the city. But after Andrew, even though there was no apparent relation between the hurricane and Vice filming, everything needed special permits and became a hassle.”

And as so often when two elder gentlemen discuss the past versus now, it becomes sparkling clear that somewhere over the past 30 years or so, we took a wrong turn on the road to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the politicians and bureaucrats quickly took advantage of that.

So the following story is not so much a funny retrospection as it reflects elements of sadness over lost innocense, but I thought it worth sharing because it might give those of you who have so far resisted the “green panic” that various educational, NGO and governmental institutions have worked so hard (and with no small success) to inculcate in the world’s youth.

Let’s first clarify that I AM GREEN, always have been, always will be. But not green in the way it has been politically ostricized by media and other pundits. My green has always been of the kind that if you can re-use something, anything, then why replace it by buying something new.

So checking out at Winn Dixie the other night, the young cashier asked me if plastic was ok. I shrugged as if to say: fine with me. What I really meant to say is that having grown up in Holland where until recently – and in most places still – you have to bring your own grocery bag to carry them out of the store with you, I have giving up a long time ago telling people they should bring their own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.
“We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soft drink bottles and beer bottles to the shop. It was actually encouraged with a dime or nickel in your pocket. The shop sent them back to the plant to be washed, sterilised and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled, not crushed and burnt into a new bottle. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.
On the little island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean they have an organization that collects all the green Heineken bottles from around the islands, washes and disinfects them and fill them with “Ting” for a second go-around.

We walked up stairs because we didn’t have a lift or escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocers and didn’t climb into a 350-horsepower race machine every time we had to go two blocks.  “We didn’t have the green thing in our day.”

Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 2,000 watts – actually wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back then. I was the third son in a line up of five and got hand-me-down clothes from my brothers, not always brand-new clothing. I didn’t get my own first NEW bicycle until I was 13. “We didn’t have the green thing back in our day”.

Back then, we 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 serving tray, not a screen the size of Delaware. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers and magazine to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, people took the bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical socket in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. Most houses did have 25 or 50Amp service, instead of the 300Amps we have now. And we 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 McDonald’s.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push 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 operate on electricity. But truth be known…No, We didn’t have the green thing back then.

When we were thirsty, we drank from a tap instead of drinking from a plastic bottle of water shipped across oceans. We refilled writing pens with ink sticks instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor when the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.
But it’s sad that I hear so many voices in the current generation lamenting how wasteful we old folks were, just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

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