Ain’t it a shame that we weren’t green back then.

That’s the gist of an e-mail that’s been circulating recently. The setting is a grocery store where the cashier is admonishing a customer for failing to bring along the earth-friendly bags needed to carry the groceries home. The young clerk scolds: “That’s our problem today. Your generation didn’t care enough to save our environment.”

Really?

Granted, we didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the whole “green thing,” but it’s not that long ago when we returned milk and soda bottles to the store for a refund of our deposit. More importantly, the bottles were washed, sterilized and reused. Yes, it’s too bad we weren’t green back then.

And, back then, we were more likely to walk to the store than hop into a super-powered SUV to hike across town to a super-sized shopping mall. For many in the rural areas, there was just one weekly trip to town, usually on Saturday night. We walked up and down the stairs rather than ride an elevator or escalator.

The baby’s diapers were washed, not tossed, dried in the breeze of a backyard clothes line, not tumbled and fluffed in a dryer powered by 220 volts. Kids were satisfied with hand-me-down clothes from their brothers and sisters. Yea, it’s a shame we weren’t more “green” back then.

Television screens were the size of a notebook, not textbook-thin and covering three-quarters of a wall in the family room. If we were lucky, we had one TV, one radio, and more recently, one computer vs. one of each in every room, plus a recharging station for smart phones, iPods, e-books or what have you.

Back then, the newspaper was used for packaging fragile items, instead of Styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap. Lawn mowers ran on human power, taking the place of a treadmill plugged into an electric wall socket.

When we were thirsty, we drank from a water fountain, a water hose or quenched our thirst from our cupped hands. Ink pens were refilled from a bottle and mechanical pencils were releaded.
Yeah, it’s a shame we weren’t more “green” back then.

Green and Getting Greener

Today’s pork industry, in many respects, is probably the antithesis of the clerk’s view of previous generations’ green-mindedness.

For starters, we have always been an industry that has held fast to the recycling, replenishing philosophy. In truth, pork producers rank higher today than ever before for their “greenness.”

Back then, pigs were often born and raised in dirt lots, exposed to parasites in the soil, lice, mange and predators. In today’s environmentally controlled barns, they receive a balanced diet and fresh water 24/7, while being protected from parasites and diseases, improving their hygiene and health, reducing the need for antibiotics.

Back then, sows on dirt lots competed with penmates at feeding time, rushing to get their fair share of feed dumped on the ground or on a concrete pad, which was scattered and tromped on in the chaos.

Back then, the mothers-to-be would lounge in a large mud hole, or under a tree, often in futile attempts to stay cool, not like today where indoor accommodations equipped with cool cells, misters and drip nozzles help keep them cool in summer, and high-tech, balanced ventilation systems conserve body heat and control humidity, even during the arctic blasts with sub-zero temperatures and blowing snow.

Today’s sows can count on being fed a balanced, fortified diet to ensure they maintain a healthy body weight and provide optimum nutrients to their fetuses as they grow.

Whether housed in stalls or pens, sows generally have a health care plan that includes pregnancy checking, critical vaccinations, and individual treatment when needed.

Back then, barns were cleaned and the manure spread, year-round. Today, manure is often stored in pits, lagoons or above ground storage tanks where basic crop nutrients are preserved, analyzed and applied to nourish a new crop of corn, wheat, soybeans, pasture or hay.

Soil tests ensure the rich nutrients are delivered in balance to the needs of a specific crop and to replenish the fertility of the soils — the epitome in recycling programs.

Finally, we should give a nod to pork producers for utilizing the byproducts of ethanol in swine diets as consumers pump E85 fuel into their vehicles, giving ne’er a thought to its origin, as they head for a warehouse-sized supermarket to replenish their cupboards and complain about the high cost of food.

Lucky for them, we don’t produce pork as we did back then.