The typical Swamp Yankee took the waste not ethic to a high art form. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" may have first been uttered by a Swamp Yankee — they were happy to salvage anything that anybody didn't want in the knowledge that most things can be repurposed and even if not now, then later. Initially, they would never even consider the idea of a teardown of anything as anything other than simply outrageous given the fact that whatever was thrown away had so much embodied energy (essentially the sweat, blood and tears of folk who relied on their full-on devotion to survive to make it with scant resources.)
Swamp Yankees had a primal sense of value that most of us, even now, don't have. Environmentalists speak grimly about the survival of the planet — Swamp Yankees dealt with literal, personal survival every day and in that ethos there is the kernel of what is truly green — that wasting any thing that has value, including, by definition, money, for energy that is not used, repairs that should be made unnecessary by design, the available energy of the sun and wind, and even the extra built space that pride puffs up in a trophy home wastes value.
Swamp Yankees knew that if you used more than you need today, it's gone, and you may need it tomorrow. If something still works, new is not necessarily better. Pride went before a fall if it meant waste — so Swamp Yankees began to take pride on the smallest footprint possible, to conserve the fruits of their labor, the residual value of their work, so that they could get thru the next Nor'easter, hurricane or rip tide.
There are some basic mindsets that are green that do not involve feel-good self-indulgence, buzzwords or gizmos and this blog will offer up one paradigm every two weeks, taken together they offer a no-nonsense, all common sense approach to recognizing reality amid the hype and pander of the sustainable PR machine's sales techniques.
Duo Dickinson has been an architect for over 30 years and received over 30 awards. His work has been published in over 70 national publications. Mr. Dickinson’s latest book is Staying Put. He is the architecture critic for the New Haven Register, and writes for Design Bureau, A.B., New Haven Magazine, and his own blog, Saved By Design. He has taught at Yale, Roger Williams and Harvard GSD Summer Program.