Environment key to Okanagan winery

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in Oliver has been named as one of two private-sector finalists for an environmental award.

Sandra Oldfield winemaker at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards

Sandra Oldfield winemaker at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards is up for another award, though this time it isn’t for one of their wines.

The Oliver winery has been named as one of two private-sector finalists for an environmental award at the Real Estate Foundation of B.C.’s Land Awards Gala.

The REFBC, a philanthropic organization that funds projects advancing responsible and informed land use, conservation and real estate practices, singled Tinhorn out for the composting program they developed to deal with waste from its Miradoro Restaurant, which opened three years ago.

“The approach took into consideration neighbouring properties and wildlife as well as methods to divert waste from landfill. The result is a program that combines food, grape/filtration and landscape waste as compost that is then used on the vineyards. It serves as a model for wineries all over the world,” according to the REFBC brief.

Sustainable practices are not new to Tinhorn Creek. In fact, they are a core part of their business practice.

“There’s more to being sustainable than having a recycling program or composting. If we make smart choices, we can stay in business and employ more people, who in turn help support our community. That’s being sustainable,” reads the winery’s mission statement.

Other environmental initiatives include restoring native plants, a beetle release program and the installation of a fence separating snakes from field workers and equipment.

They are also Canada’s first, and possibly only, carbon-neutral winery.

“As far as we know we still are,” said Sandra Oldfield, winemaker and part-owner.

In 2007, the winery completed the Climate Smart program, which measures a variety of factors, from electricity usage to the fuel used to get their wines to warehouses. But Oldfield and Tinhorn took the standards farther.

“For me it is a piece of the program here, but not the biggest one. Water usage is big and none of that has to do with carbon,” she said. “So do some of these other things, like trying to utilize the waste that you are generating on your own property.”

There were a lot of reasons, she said, for developing the composting program targeting their restaurant, starting with the people.

“We have pretty good capable people here that like to do projects that stretch themselves a little bit,” she said. Other reasons included the cost of dealing with the increased level of waste, and minimizing the possibility of odour.

The restaurant waste is composted in a way that doesn’t release any odours, eliminating animal attractants.

Eventually it gets put into the ground, then unburied and incorporated into the grape compost and it goes back up to the vineyards, about a year and a half after it comes in.

“Some of it just had to do with that we already have a compost program for our grape waste. The idea of doing something innovative and combining the two is kind of what started out,” said Oldfield.

The other finalist in the private sector category is Lanefab Design, who were selected for their Net Positive Housing Project in Vancouver, advancing green building practices in the construction sector.

The 2013 Land Awards will be held on Oct. 25 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver.