More stuff, gree life

Talking green sounds so responsible – so clean that we overlook the reality that most people ultimately practice brown in their perpetual quest to have bigger, better, more efficient, newer possessions.

Currently, the quest is for smaller, thinner, faster computers with more gadgets that perform slightly better than last year’s model. With each replacement, each improvement, hundreds of older models become obsolete – marked for the recycling bin or a trip straight to the county landfill.
Improving our lives, we fill junkyards, stack our mountains of trash a bit higher and expand our rubbish heaps.

The process is as old as man’s ingenuity. Archeologists primarily deal with objects which peoples of former cultures abandoned, lost or discarded – unwanted household, business or farm goods left behind in war, catastrophes or to be replaced with a newer version.

In the 1960s, I found a dusty Hoosier cabinet with missing doors and drawers falling apart inside my grandparents’ cement block garage. Having just heard an aunt gush over someone else’s antique Hoosier cabinet, I mentioned it to my mother, sure that she would point the gusher to it.
“Oh, everyone has them sitting out in a garage or storage shed,” she said.
A very popular household item with housewives during the first thirty years of the 1900s, the Hoosier cupboard provided portable kitchen efficiency and storage. It came with a bin large enough to hold 25 pounds of flour. The flour sifter at the base of the bin dispensed flour on baking day. The assortment of cupboards and drawers provided storage and accessibility to everything needed while working in the kitchen, including a pull-out counter for work space.
I learned to whip up cake mixes on my mother’s second-hand Hoosier cabinet. My mother-in-law refurbished one and stored her dishes in it. Years later, my sister-in-law found one to accent her country kitchen with its built-in cabinets – the primary reason why housewives relegated Hoosier cabinets to a forgotten corner of the garage.

Entertainment centers began with Edison’s invention of the Victrola which were replaced by upright wooden phonographs that landed in storage with the invention of portable record players. As a child I explored an unused corncrib and discovered a dusty, upright phonographs — its an oak cabinet finish shabby from years of exposure.

For young readers unfamiliar with these items, think oversized CD player in a wooden cabinet about the size of a small refrigerator. The thick platters imprinted with music that it played only worked after the listener cranked the handle enough to wind up an internal spring. Very green, no electricity and good aerobic exercise.
My grandparents had a radio with similar wooden cabinetry with a tiny yellow dial. By the time I wanted a radio, portable transistors had replaced the bulky wooden units. Now those, too have landed in storage sheds and leaky barn attics followed by boom boxes as Ipods relegate even more entertainment gadgets to ever expanding landfills.

The current rash of home improvement and home makeover shows add to the garbage collector’s load. Do not be satisfied with a clean, non-leaking house. Replace the doors, a small round table would fit better than a medium-sized rectangle table. Wooden picture frames that suited perfectly a decade ago must be replaced with the clean lines of black thin frames.
In the most ironical of makeover shows, an interior decorator acknowledged the person’s interest in being green – he replaced perfectly great carpet with bamboo – an acceptable green product – and added another layer of non-biodegradable carpet to the county dump.

Fashionable, no longer fashionable. Must have because it is the newest, brightest invention and then, get rid of that, it is worn out, needs repairs, replace it with something newer, fancier, bigger – or more compact. Given time, the next generation rediscovers a few of these now quaint items and thrills with their newly acquired antiques. No one mentions the hundreds of others that did not make it to the antique store or were sent to molder with age and neglect in barns, garages and storage sheds until someone hauls them off to the dump. At least they don’t acknowledge it while chatting confidently about their commitment to a green lifestyle.
(Joan Hershberger, is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at