Green Wineries: Movers and Shakers in Sustainable Tourism

There is a new movement in the BC wine industry… sustainable business. Whether it’s the market demand for sustainably produced wines, tourism support for green business or leadership from tourism associations, wineries throughout the province are making business decisions with the environment in mind.

Several BC wineries have sought out advice on how to go green and green business practices, while others are seeking recognition for what they have already accomplished. These green wineries have become the “movers and shakers” within the sustainable tourism industry, providing environmental leadership and proving that going green is good for business.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery is an award winning, certified organic winery that has recently received Demeter Biodynamic Certification for their Kelowna vineyard. The founder and proprietor Stephen Cipes and his family are strongly committed to operating the winery in a sustainable manner and living an ecological-connected lifestyle. Being organic and biodynamic means Summerhill deals with fertilization, pests and potential disease in their vineyard in a completely different way than conventional agriculture. Preparing their own compost and compost tea, early detection of infected leaves and using beneficial insects are just some of their methods. Once the wine is bottled, it’s aged in their iconic pyramid, energizing the wine and bringing it to life.

The Cipes’ are strongly focused on influencing the entire Okanagan Valley to move towards organic agricultural practices, and continue to raise awareness about the importance of increasing natural wildlife habitat for bees and other pollinators.

After learning that the land they purchased in Osoyoos was once home to the endangered burrowing owl, Jim and Midge Wyse were immediately connected to the bird and the name. Their love for nature meant that the environment was part of every decision they made when building and maintaining their landmark winery. They continue this commitment by offering 100% of their tasting fees to the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society and South Okanagan Rehab Centre for Owls. Situated in a desert, conservation is key. The winery is heated using solar and geothermal energy, water is conserved with low-flush toilets and electricity is saved with low-energy lighting.

But the Wyse’s have taken their business sustainability practices into the vineyard as well; by using bio-diesel tractors, ecologically safe sprays and fertilizers and irrigating the grapes according to their true water needs, transmitting data wirelessly from solar-energized water probes. And even after earning Sustainable Tourism Gold Certification, they are still improving their environmental performance. Their building extension will feature solar panels, an EV charging station and the couple is working on making their own home net-zero.

Kelowna based Andrew Peller Ltd. (which includes the brands Sandhill, Calona Vineyards and Peller Estates), is a fine example of substantial production with ever increasing efficiency. Having completed many water efficiency upgrades, they are now focused on energy conservation. The company has retrofitted the majority of their lighting to LED and installed two new high efficiency boilers. This installation qualified them for a customer rebate from Fortis Gas, providing a 10% return on their entire project cost, significantly improving their project payback.

Waste reduction is a key focus at Little Straw Vineyards. They sell boxed wines (very popular with the locals), which reducing packaging, transport weight and increases recyclability. They further reduce waste by composting onsite and offer food scraps to the resident chickens.

In the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, owners Brenda and Layne Craig produce a variety of white, rose and sparkling wines on their 24-acre estate winery. The couple has put a lot of effort into sourcing local and sustainable items to sell in their tasting room at 40 Knots. They sell locally made items such as chocolates, sea salt, Cumberland Crates and soaps and other beauty products made from their very own pressed grape skins. Clothing is sourced from Ethica, a Canadian apparel company carrying organic cotton, and they’ve just switched their wine bottles to a more lightweight option. The tasting room is furnished with repurposed printing press tables and Italian sewing machine stools. And like Burrowing Owl, they support local conservation efforts by donating a dollar from every bottle of Safe Haven to Project Watershed.

See more in our post: What’s Green About 40 Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery

Oliver Twist Winery is set in rolling arid hills of Oliver, ideal for growing grapes. As the winery has evolved, there have been some solid sustainable business decisions made, such as designing a white roof and an underground barrel room to cool the building naturally, reducing air conditioning costs.

Black Hills Estate Winery made a commitment to start their business sustainability journey and is focused on sustainable business practices in accordance to their Environmental Farm Plan. The innovation at Black Hills is seen in their kitchen, where the owners converted an older shipping container into a beautiful, functional kitchen. This modern design is complete with the most energy efficient equipment and produces delicious, locally inspired food, including pizza.

With the help of Sun Country Highway, Dirty Laundry Vineyard (along with over thirty other Okanagan wineries, including Black Hills Estate Winery), has installed an electric vehicle charging station. This EV charger allows guests to charge up while they sample wine and bask in the beauty of the natural surroundings. But the innovation at this Summerland winery comes from their commitment to water conservation. The landscaping is xeriscaped, meaning drought resistant plants were planted to avoid irrigation once established. They have also installed a new water filtration system for all water used within the winery, and have installed low-flow toilets and fixtures throughout the building.

These wineries have pioneered the way in sustainable business, showing other wineries innovative ways to operate while reducing costs, attracting customers, improving community connections and reducing their environmental impact.

Originally written for Orchard and Vine Magazine, July 7, 2016 

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