The Green Life at Lyndhurst, A National Historic Landmark

Posted on: May 4th, 2008 by Barbara Campagna

I never anticipated when I started working at the National Trust, that I would be able to integrate my love for fashion, preservation and sustainability into the requirements of my job. But Saturday night, May 3rd, I found myself at Lyndhurst, one of our historic sites in Tarrytown, where their “Green Life” eco-friendly fashion show benefit allowed me to do just that by welcoming 200 people to the newest kind of fundraiser!

We have 29 historic sites across the country. And we are working to make all of our sites greener, by using greener housekeeping products, buying renewable energy, and trying not to throw materials out if we can reuse them elsewhere on the site. Lyndhurst is one of our sites that is ahead of many places with its hard work changing maintenance practices to help make a difference. For over a year they’ve been dedicated to raising awareness about sustainable practices and The Green Life is a fabulous and unusual example of that. With a very exciting program that included eco-friendly fashions (lots of hemp, organic cotton and even an evening gown with recycled plastic bottles), a presentation by the National Wildlife Federation, food and beverages that were organic and/or local, a silent auction of mostly sustainability-related items and vendors of sustainable products, The Green Life opened a lot of eyes to the fact that every change you make in your lifestyle can help stop global warming. So when you buy an eco-friendly dress, a hybrid car, or stay in your old house instead of building a new one, you’re making a choice to stop climate change. Many attendees stopped me to say that hearing about the National Trust’s Sustainability Initiative had opened their eyes considerably. And a lot of people were talking about repairing their windows and installing insulation in their attics and basements. One man apologized to me for building a new house…

Through our Sustainability Initiative, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is focusing the nation’s attention on the importance of reusing existing buildings and reinvesting in older and historic communities as critical elements in combating climate change. Americans already embrace as common sense the need to recycle aluminum cans, glass and newspapers. We advocate applying that same common sense to our built environment.

What I’ve been finding in my practice and life, is that people everywhere are concerned with climate change and really want to do what’s right. When fundraising galas can bring a standing room only crowd out on an unseasonably chilly May evening in Westchester, and board members are singing and dancing with the hippest designers of eco-friendly clothing in Manhattan one minute, while discussing what type of insulation they have in their house the next, it’s apparent that there is a new movement filtering through our society.

So I got to share the stage with Jack Braunlein, Lyndhurst’s groovy Director; Craig Tufts, the NWF’s Chief Naturalist who eloquently discussed creating natural habitats to attract wildlife to your backyard; and even Rupert Holmes (popular singer/songwriter of “The Pina Colada Song” fame and an award winning creator of Broadway musicals, who was the emcee for the evening) who kept the program moving, raised funds during the Live Auction and made people laugh and shout throughout the evening. I also got to go home with an original copy of “The Last Whole Earth Catalog” which I outbidded everyone on and even pet some sweet, fluffy kittens who found new homes at the end of the evening (unfortunately not with me!)

Kudos to Lyndhurst and its Board and staff, led by the creativity of Catherine Ladnier who dreamed up the Green Life two years ago!

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Barbara Campagna

Barbara A. Campagna, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C was formerly the Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust in the Stewardship of Historic Sites office. She is currently a sustainability consultant to the National Trust and can be reached at