Sustainability, or looking at the environmental impact of a business, has been important to us for a long time. We strive to provide an eco friendly visitor experience and a sustainable wine product. Our efforts have been noticed. In May of 2014 the City of Kelowna awarded us with their Civic Award in the category “Champion of the Environment – Business”.
Prior to purchasing House of Rose in 2009, Aura worked throughout North America helping hospitals reduce their environmental footprint. Taking the techniques from this work we looked at energy, waste, toxins (chemicals) and our supply chain (the products we use and purchase for resale) in order to reduce our environmental footprint while making great wine!
Organic (toxin reduction)
Immediately after purchasing the winery we began using 100% organic practices in the vineyard. We were newbies to farming and this action, without proper planning, caused significant problems. In hindsight, what we should of done was first and foremost soil enhancement, as after so many years of using chemical fertilizers and herbicides, the soil was dead and needed significant nutrient and compost addition. Because of this, the vineyard went into shock so to speak, not able to draw the nutrients it needed from the soil and not being fed chemical replacements. We lost a significant amount of our crop the first two years. It was an expensive lesson.
So since 2009, we have added tons (literally) of organic compost and lots of organic nitrogen. It took until harvest 2013 for the vineyard to fully recover, a full 5 years. We use beneficial insects, in particular lady bugs for the aphids and lace wings for the leaf hoppers. Not only is their introduction more environmentally friendly, as poison sprays are avoided, but they save both time and money. Sprays to kill these pests are expensive; as is the time you spend on the tractor spraying the vineyard. So much more peaceful to take a walk early one morning releasing lady bugs onto the grape vines and lace wing larvae into the grasses beneath. We recommend the use of beneficial insects to all growers we come in contact with, even if they are not organic. Your have to like insects, or at least not be squeamish, as you walk through the vineyard carrying a canvas sac that has over 50,000 ladybugs. As they crawl out you lead them onto a grape vine, but of course some will crawl up your arms and into your hair! When I come in for coffee my daughter inevitably finds a few on me!
Our entire grounds, including our gorgeous flower filled picnic area, follow 100% organic practices, although we are not (yet) certified.
We also use green cleaners in both the winery and wine shop and follow organic winemaking practices (using yeasts certified for organic practices for example).
In the winery and wine shop we have done several things to reduce our environmental footprint. The most significant from a financial perspective has been reducing our energy use.
Keeping a 3000 square foot building (the winery) at a constant temperature of 15 degrees C year round uses a lot of energy. In 2012 we applied for a Live Smart BC Small Business Champion Program grant. We looked at several areas of energy use in the winery building including heating, cooling and lighting. With a $25,000 grant from Live Smart and $20,000 of our own funds, we installed an air source heat pump, did several insulation improvements to the building envelope, created a separate area for fermentation (which needs to be warmer that the rest of the building for 2 to 4 months of the year), and upgraded both the lighting (from older fluorescents) and fans. Energy usage has been reduced by almost 50%.
We are acutely aware of the waste manufacturing can create and have worked diligently to reduce our garbage to the same size bin as an average family home. Grape skins and prunings are composted; any broken glass and all cardboard and plastics are recycled. We save the corks from our bottles for groups looking for them (for crafts for example) and purchase compostable plates and cutlery for use in the picnic area. We introduced a low flow pressure washer for cleaning.
We’ve examined all of our supply chain to find any environmental benefits. Here are a few of them:
• By switching to eco-glass for our bottles, up to 29% of CO2 emissions are eliminated during transportation and production due to the lighter weight and reduced amount of glass used to produce these bottles
• We use cork for our bottle closures, a renewable resource
• We’ve chosen BECOPAD filter sheets which are 100% biodegradable and require 50% less water during neutral rinsing and backwashing
• We purchase compostable plates and cutlery for use in the picnic area
• We work with local food and craft supplies for a number of items available in our wine shop
In 2013 we were audited by the International Green Tourism organization and earned the bronze standard for sustainable practices. Last year we also became founding members of the Fresh Outlook Foundation’s Donation Sensation program. A portion of our Grapes with Benefits wine goes towards their sustainability education. And, as mentioned above, the City of Kelowna Civic awarded us with the 2014 “Champion of the Environment” award. This is awarded to “a business whose actions and achievements have shown outstanding environmental leadership or innovative environmental contributions, having a direct benefit on the city of Kelowna.”