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Setting a High ‘Green’ Bar

Posted on  | March 21, 2016   Bookmark and Share
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Napa Valley Vintners Aim for 100% Green Certification by 2020.

The word “sustainability” gets tossed around liberally these days, but if the term feels vaguely “vague” that’s because it is: Sustainability is defined differently by various sources, and there are few consistent metrics by which to measure it.

Over a decade ago, Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) set out to establish a tangible definition of what sustainability looks like and develop a program to hold wineries accountable. In partnership with 20 other industry and community partners, they created Napa Green, one of the most comprehensive programs for measuring sustainability in land use and wine production. And by 2020, they plan to have every one of NVV’s 500-plus members certified.

Just how does it work? “Napa Green encourages every winery to run a baseline of what it’s doing so it can begin to work towards changing behavior,” explains Bruce Cakebread, of Cakebread Winery and President of the board of directors for the NVV. “We ran audits on our water and energy use, and our recycling, which helped us identify low hanging fruit. For example, last year we were at 86% trash recycle, after reducing year after year. Our goal is to get to 90%.”

Certified by third-party independent agencies (like the Agriculture Commission and National Marine Fisheries), Napa Green’s Certified Land program works to reduce and eliminate chemicals, restore wildlife habitat and enhance the watershed by preventing erosion. Currently, more than 66,000 acres of land are enrolled in the program—either certified or on their way.

Wineries with certification receive energy, waste and water assessments for their facilities and work with consultants to become more efficient. Napa Green Certified Wineries account for 5 million cases of wine produced annually.

To Protect & Conserve

In addition to protecting the Napa Valley Watershed, Napa Green’s initiatives have led to massive water conservation efforts, too, says Cakebread: “It can take five to six gallons of water to produce a single gallon of wine and we as an industry must improve that. UC Davis is working on new technology for clean water so that it can be reused, like many dairies do; this will likely be standard practice in three to five years. Technology to measure water stress in vines is also helping, so we can irrigate more efficiently.”

Napa has long been a pioneer in environmental stewardship; in 1968 the valley became the nation’s first agricultural preserve. It’s not something that happens overnight, Cakebread continues, but by gradually raising your standards higher over time and sharing best practices: “There are so many little things, like encouraging growers to use cover crops to absorb a lot of greenhouse gases, and replanting trees elsewhere when they have been removed to plant vines. Or investing in solar-powered trash compactors. It’s about taking responsibility for your region.”

Sustainability is even more appealing when it saves money, he adds: “Word spreads in the valley, and when neighbors hear that we saved $35,000 on trash removal, it isn’t hard to get them on board. We are taking the macro view: If everyone does this, it takes pressure off the entire valley’s environment.” 


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