The 1950′ were an interesting time to put it lightly. We shouldn’t live like it’s the 50s in terms of women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, racism etc. However, it was the 50s and 60s that was the pivotal time in plastic and why we’re so over reliant on it today. We need to go back to the basics, we lived greener before we can do it again.
Why Life Was Greener In The Past
1. No Fast-Fashion
Fast-fashion reared it’s beautiful ugly head in the 90’s when the first Zara store opened in New York. In those days, it took a few months for clothing inspired by designer looks to trickle into stores the Average Joe could afford to shop in, but Zara was pretty quick.
Since then fast-fashion has exploded and is taking the planet down with it. Morally fast-fashion is filthy too, as a woman in Northern Ireland reportedly found a note crying for help inside a pair of Primark trousers. woman in Northern Ireland found a note crying for help inside a pair of Primark trousers! The emissions associated with fast-fashion are higher than international flights and shipping combined.
New Attitudes Towards Fashion
Fast-fashion has changed our attitude to clothing, rather than it being an investment it’s thrown away like coffee (which is also problematic). It’s so common to buy a dress, wear it once and never again because you “can’t” repeat an outfit on Instagram. People used to get pretty much a lifetime out of their clothing, get better quality clothing and mend it when it needed TLC.
We need to go back to buying clothing when we need to, and get good quality pieces that last more than one wear. People also used to make their own clothing! You don’t need to sacrifice your own style for sustainable fashion. You can still find stylish green pieces.
Some people do need fast fashion, if they’re disabled or poor, I understand that not everyone can afford slow fashion or rummage through charity shops for affordable pieces. If you can do something, then take it on board.
2. No Single-Use Plastic
Before single-use plastic happened, we used paper!
Groceries would be packed in brown paper bags. Paper can be recycled up to seven times, but it’s also biodegradable so while every piece of plastic ever made is still on the planet; paper isn’t. If it wasn’t in paper, it was in class which is easily recycled and reused.
Shampoo came in glass and people used bars of soap as body wash. Shampoo bars and the humble bar of soap are thankfully making a come back. They can also help you beat the liqid limit on carry-on luggage in airports, as they’re considered solids! So it’s also a greener way to travel.
The general attitude was to reuse, in the UK if you brought the newspaper your chips came in back tot he chipper, you’d get free chips! Stores would give you money for bringing back empty bottles – there was an incentive to be zero-waste.
3. No One Was flying
During the Golden Age of Flying, it was luxurious up until the 60s because it was so expensive to travel. Now I can fly to the UK for under €50, when the greener option of getting the ferry not only takes longer, and requires more travel to and from ports, but is considerably more expensive. Of course, people are going to fly because it’s accessible. People relied more on trains and boats to travel so we lived greener before by default.
Although flying is the safest mode of transport, try to limit how much you fly per year. If you have the resources (and time) you can have some exciting trips without flying because you can see more places on the way to your primary destination.
Carbon Off-Setting Flights
While we can’t all ride a zero-emission boat across the Atlantic like Greta Thunberg, but if you must fly, carbon off-set the flight after. Carbon offsetting isn’t as good as not flying at all, but it is better than nothing.
4. The Milk-Man Was Zero-Waste By Default
One of the ways we lived greener before was because of the milkman, but the milkman is actually coming back! After Blue Planet II, local milk companies got more business as a result of people trying to kick single-use plastic to the curb! Proving once again that Sir David Attenborough is a godsend.
Even though I personally don’t drink cow’s milk, I wish the model was still zero-waste. You had to leave your bottles out to be reused to get more milk, as it was a circular system. There was also a meat-man who would deliver meat wrapped in paper, rather than the unrecyclable clear plastic meat comes in now. Here are tips for being green without going vegan.
The Grim Realities Of Recycling
Even though cardboard milk cartons are technically recyclable, the reality is a bit grimmer. Only 9% of plastic we try to recycle is actually recycled. Sometimes it’s because the bin is contaminated. People still don’t know how to recycle properly.
It’s not even our fault when we were told in school that the recycle symbol means it’s recyclable to grow up and learn that it actually just means the company contributes to recycling efforts, and the item itself actually isn’t recyclable.
Recycling is better than nothing, but I always side with zero-waste and compostable items where possible. Milk in itself is also not great for the environment, so while oat milk is considerably greener, if you’re sticking with cows milk, there could be a local milkman by you. Now if there was an oat milkman I’d be ecstatic…
5. People Ate Less Meat
People eating less meat was largely due to portion sizes being considerably smaller, but what’s interesting is that in the year 2000, American’s ate 57 pounds more meat per year than they did in the 1950s. Since 1961, meat production has quadrupled! In 2019, American’s were predicted to eat the most meat they’ve ever consumed.
While meat substitutes are still expensive, eventually it looks like they’ll be cheaper than meat. In the meantime, meat and fake-meat isn’t the only source of protein.
The Bottom Line
We don’t need to go back to the 50s but we need to go back to basics. We lived greener before, we can do it again. Sometimes it seems impossible, I was around shops dumbfounded by the fact that they’re unnecessarily shrink wrapping whole vegetables.