Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Making the Wine Industry more Sustainable

Spent an hour talking with Ron Hunt of All About Wine BlogTalkRadio, talking about Joy's JOY of Wine, and, yes - cemeteries ; D
Check out the link for the archived program!
Earth Day is a reminder for all of us to be more aware of how we use our resources on this planet, and to encourage environmental awareness around the world. Earth Day is celebrated every April 22nd  in more than 192 countries.

If you’ve been involved with the hands-on workings of a vineyard or winery then you know that there are a lot of possibilities to make the process more ‘green’. A host of options are available including recycling and reusing, managing energy more efficiently, better soil and water supervision, and enhancing the ecosystem management. 

Many wineries are moving toward sustainable practices by utilizing the 3E’s of sustainability - Environmentally Sound – Economically Feasible – Socially Equitable. 

Sustainable practices help conserve the ecological balance in our world by avoiding the depletion of natural resources. It’s the equivalent of leaving a winery or vineyard in better condition for the next generation, than the land or building was when it was originally developed.  These conditions include better supervision of water management, paying attention to greenhouse gases, and reducing the effects of global warming on the vineyard and winery.

Wineries throughout the world are attempting to become more sustainable. In the state of
California, assistance is available through sustainable winegrowing programs.  The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance offers reports and workshops on how to make the winery and vineyard greener. There is also an online self-assessment tool
to determine where your winery falls on the sustainability scale.

SIP Certified is another California program that works with vineyards, and consumers, to help them understand what it takes to become more sustainable.
This includes dealing with pollution levels, managing environmental waste, and finding different ways to protect and rejuvenate the world’s natural resources.

In the wine producing industry, sustainablity can be vineyard practices that conserve and use natural resources such as pest management, soil management, energy efficiency, and water management.

Controling vineyard pests is considered ‘green’ when using sheep to weed the vineyard, providing nesting boxes for birds that feed on vineyard pests, and by physically monitoring the vines for bugs, mold, and fungus.  

Sustainable water management can involve conserving water by using drip irrigation in the vineyard, and utilizing cover crops to help control the soil's water-retaining capacities.
Green energy management practices involve insulating wine tanks to conserve energy.  Wineries across the world are even learning how to harness solar energy and wind energy for their own use.

Winery buildings constructed according to the LEED green building program are another answer. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which provides builders with an outline for implementing green designs and construction practices, green building maintenance, and better operation ideas.  LEED buildings are certified as “green buildings” by independent third parties. Currently, over 130 countries recognize and use the LEED program.  In America, it is overseen by the U.S. Green Building Council,

To make winery facilities more sustainable also involves conserving and recycling materials used there.  Returning bulk containers such as plastic barrels and shipping boxes to their suppliers for reuse cuts down on waste. Wineries could also recycle their bottles, corks, cardboard boxes, and wooden barrels.   

Wineries and wine shops can begin to go green by enacting socially responsible business practices. This includes purchasing supplies that are environmentally friendly.  Gift cards could be made from wood and still have a magnetic strip, signature panel and scratch-off bar code. Brochures can be made available by using snap tags and business cards exchanged through a QR (quick response) code that consumers can shoot with their smart phones.

For tasting room and wine shop sustainability, eliminate paper and packaging waste. Instead of paper or plastic bags for wine purchases, cloth wine bag carriers can be sold and customers encouraged to reuse them during their next visit.  Paper receipts can be replaced with electronic receipts.  Tasting notes can be written on white boards in tasting rooms.  If customers want to access the notes, they could find them on the winery web site, or by using their smart phones.

But it's not only wineries and wine shops that can help make the wine industry greener, consumers can also pitch in. 

Each year, U.S. consumers purchase over 300-million cases of wine – that adds up to over 3.5 billion wine bottles!  But only 30% of those bottles are recycled. Check with your local winery to see if they have a wine bottle recycling program in place.  Some wineries will even offer incentives such as free tastings, or a percentage off wine purchases when you bring back your used wine bottles.

Recycling glass bottles at home varies by community.  Wine and beer bottles are considered to be container glass and may be recycled in certain areas.  Check with your department of sanitation and find out more about local recycling guidelines.

Corks are also recyclable.  Some wine shops and wineries already have programs in place. Check with your local wine business to find out.  If not, you can mail your corks to one of these recycling programs:

Cork Forest Conservation Alliance @

There are hundreds of ways the wine industry and the wine consumer can help reduce waste and maintain our natural resources.  If we all do our part, we can build a more sustainable wine industry, and leave the world a better place for the next generation of wine lovers.

~ Joy