The Greener Side of Preservation
Celebrating the Greener Side of Preservation
In the 1980s, Preservation North Carolina started using the slogan “Historic Preservation: The Ultimate Recycling.” Now you see the phrase in use all over the country. Historic preservation is actually better than that. The conservation mantra is: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. You don’t hear much about the first two, which are actually the more powerful components of resource conservation. Better than the Ultimate Recycling
In the 1980s, Preservation North Carolina started using the slogan “Historic Preservation: The Ultimate Recycling.” Now you see the phrase in use all over the country. Historic preservation is actually better than that. The conservation mantra is: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. You don’t hear much about the first two, which are actually the more powerful components of resource conservation.
For my recent renovation, I found a terrific young carpenter who adopted the spirit of “reduce” and “reuse.” When he opened up the porch, he reused the studs and moldings in other rooms. These 60-year-old parts were better than what you’d buy today. Many carpenters would have said that it’s easier and cheaper to just buy new studs and toss the old ones. Oh, really? In the time that it would have taken to go get new materials (while the time clock is running and mileage accumulating), you could pull the nails and be well on your way with the next project.
Throughout the process, I decided in many cases to just reuse rather than replace. It’s been fun to watch reactions to my 1937 kitchen sink. Some folks come in and ask me what kind of new sink I’m going to buy. Oops. Others get very excited about the old sink and its practicality and durability. It reminds me of my long-deceased aunt’s sink in her 1930s house, so there’s been an added sentimental bonus for me. And then, there’s the 1957 pink sink. A Crane Elayne with Drexel handles. Very cool.
I’m proud to say that I didn’t need to get a dumpster for a total rehabilitation job. Celebrate your victories wherever you find them.
Locavores, preservationists unite
I’ve been watching with interest the surge in interest in local foods, and I don’t think being a locavore is too far from being a preservationist. Both involve taking advantage of local resources, creating local jobs, reducing waste and pollution, and savoring the accomplishments of local artisans. Local is key to both. We need to strengthen the connection.
We’re the “real thing.” Preservation is green, sustainable, and authentically so. During this renovation process, I encountered numerous opportunities to buy “green” widgets that would end up in the landfill in ten years.
By my math, purchasing a slightly less efficient and much simpler air conditioning system that will last much longer was environmentally superior to getting the much more expensive version with all the electronic bells and whistles that are going to fail within a decade. When you account for the added energy consumed in the manufacturing process, long-term durability wins in my book. Actually what really works environmentally? Reducing. There’s that word again. Cutting back on the use of air conditioning trumps all the fancy electronic gadgetry. Getting into a habit of opening up the windows at night, turning on the quiet new whole-house fan, and shutting down the house in the morning has led to power bills that would be the envy of almost anyone.
It’s been a treat to do this old house. Reduce, reuse, recycle has been my mantra, and preservation is just that. The house has told me what it wants, I’ve listened, and it hasn’t done me wrong yet.
The above was an excerpt from an article by J. Myrick Howard, President of Preservation North Carolina that appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of the organization’s magazine.