Monday, September 25

Back when things were actually greener


A POST on Facebook which is currently going around caught the Eye’s attention.

The post shows a photo of an old lady in a modern supermarket and the accompanying text starts with: “Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.”

In response, the old lady apologises and explains, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responds: “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

The posts goes on to explain how the old lady agrees that, yes, they did not have the “green thing” back in the day.

She then purportedly describes how the very same older generation that has been accused of not doing enough to save the environment, had returned milk and soda bottles to the store, despite not knowing the “green thing” back then.

In turn, the store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilised and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over.

This reminded the Eye of how we bought soft drinks some 30 years ago.  We bought them from the soft drinks supplier at Mile 4, Kuching-Penrissen road.

The wooden crates contained 24 glass bottles of soda pop or ‘cola’.

It did not matter what flavour they were. Any carbonated drink back then was called ‘cola’. It was a generic name, just like how we have come to call any washing detergent ‘omo’.

Anyway, after we had drunk the contents of the bottles, we would put them back in the crate. Some of us would dig up the underside of the bottle-caps to see if we had won anything, and sent the crate of empty bottles back to the drinks supplier.

These days, we buy plastic bottles filled with carbonated drinks off store shelves. What do we do with the bottles? Into the rubbish bin it goes, before it heads to the dump site without being reused or recycled.

Very few would actually reuse these carbonated drinks bottles as a water bottle, or to store other liquids.

Yes, we may not have been “green” back then, but I should think we did a better job at recycling and reusing items then than we are doing now.

The Facebook post goes on to describe other environmentally friendly measures that the older generation used, but which have been forgotten as society became more modernised.

It describes how we used cloth diapers back then, because disposables did not exist.

This part of the post was a reminder of how the Eye’s partner once had to teach a young parent how to fold a cloth diaper. This was because she had advised the new parent that it would be better to use cloth diapers at home and restrict the use of disposables to when they were travelling or on an outing with the baby – merely for convenience.

The post also describes how, back in the day, the older folks used to wash and dry clothes manually – not with machines that took up energy.

Was this not a “green thing”? Apparently not, in the definition of today’s generation’s definition of the “green thing”.

Another thing that struck the Eye was when the post describes how, back in the day, there were no disposable mineral water bottles and we had to either drink or refill our own bottles from water-coolers. These days, a paper or plastic cup, or a plastic bottle is used up each time we quench our thirst.

There is no doubt that as we advance in technology, things get a lot easier and more convenient.

As things become more convenient, they also become very convenient to dispose of. Convenience also means additional use of technology.

These days we use up a lot more electricity than we did back then – just start with counting the number of mobile phones that require charging in a household, and then move on to the tablets, laptops, computers, computer games, flat screens, satellite television decoders, washing machine, air conditioner, air purifier and what have you.

Back then, the Eye could only recall using electricity for light, the refrigerator, the little television and the ceiling fan. Full stop. There were no such things as battery chargers back then. No hand-held devices that required charging and no need to think of what to do with such devices once their lifespan had ended.

Back then, people walked more. They used public transport more and they took the stairs more. Yet, the current generation blames them for not having the “green thing”.

While the post on Facebook most likely originated from the United States, the idea behind the post can be applied everywhere else around the world – we did live a “greener” life before, when green was just a colour, and not a concept for living an environmentally friendly life.

And then, technology happened. Green is no longer just a colour. It became a reason to point fingers.

Comments can reach the writer via [email protected].