Tinhorn Creek: Canada’s only carbon neutral winery

Photos from Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in the southern Okanagan valley

It seemed strange to be standing in the middle of a desert vineyard talking about salmon. But there I was in Oliver, with Tinhorn Creek Vineyard Manager Andrew Moon talking about some of the many initiatives that make Tinhorn Creek Canada’s only carbon neutral winery.


Tinhorn Creek has become one of the first wineries to receive certification from the Pacific Salmon foundation as a Salmon-Safe Farm. Many of the pesticides and fertilizers that are used in farming end up as run-off and wind up in the local lakes and rivers, negatively affecting the aquatic wildlife.


Part of the aim in the vineyard was to switch from overhead irrigation to drip irrigation. Despite the large capital investment of over 1 million dollars, the long-term environmental factor of helping to save the planet by using less water far outweighed any upfront financial considerations for Tinhorn Creek. An additional benefit to drip irrigation is that it creates less run-off water – water that will find ways into lakes and rivers. It’s just one of the small solutions to a large problem that has put Tinhorn Creek on the environmental map.


The fuel that is required to activate farm equipment can be mixed with biofuel to further reduce costs and better regulate emissions. Biodiesel is a form of diesel fuel manufactured from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant greases.The most common blends of biodiesel are B2, B5 and B20. B2 biodiesel contains 98% diesel fuel, B5 contains 95% diesel fuel and B20 contains 80% diesel fuel. The remainder are the vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled restaurant greases that make biodiesel more environmentally friendly.


Currently Tinhorn is using B5 and are petitioning the local distributor to bring in a B20 mix. They are among the first to be using it and hope that other wineries will follow suit.


Few of us would find composting exciting but Sandra Oldfield is not only an accomplished winemaker, she has taken the time to become a certified master composter. All the pomace, seeds and stems that are byproducts of the grape during harvest are put into a compost pile on the property. After two years of decomposing, the pile becomes soil nutrients.


According to Oldfield, “If our waste from the grapes went to landfill it would have been about 300 tonnes. We calculate that in addition to that, we have diverted about 3 garbage dumpsters worth of filter pads and materials to that area as well.”


Once the work in the vineyard and winery is finished, the wine needs to go into a bottle. With today’s trend breaking away from heavy thick glass, Tinhorn Creek is again proving themselves as industry leaders in packaging.


The glass comes from a recycling plant in nearby Seattle, cutting down on lengthy transportation. The bottles are made from up to 50% Canadian glass, broken here and made at the Seattle plant. Also the bottle itself is one of the lightest on the market, making shipping more fuel-efficient.


Sustainable measures at Tinhorn even extend beyond the winery itself. We all recognize that restaurants are notorious for waste byproducts. Tinhorn Creek’s Miradoro Restaurant collects all food waste for their Bokashi compost. The liquid, or tea, that is produced from the Bokashi becomes a natural fertilizer. The remaining product is then mixed with soil and covered for a period of two weeks before it can be used in the garden.


Waste diversion of food from Miradoro has not yet been calculated, but “rough estimates are that we will divert about 18 tonnes of food waste to this area next year,” Oldfield says.


Solid mass comes in solid numbers. Here are a few that Oldfield shared. “In March 2009 when we measured what went to landfill it was 71 dumpsters of waste that went to landfill and 6 dumpsters of material that went to recycling (cardboard, glass, paper).In March 2012 when we measured again it was 42 dumpsters of waste that went to landfill and 55 dumpsters that went to recycling. Amazingly, that was also the time frame that Miradoro opened up (March 2011) and we were still able to send 40% less to landfill compared with 2009.”


Tinhorn Creek has proven themselves as a leader in sustainable winemaking, demonstrating how a winery with a comfortable 35,000 case production can make deliberate decisions each step of the way. This small-town winery clearly sees the big global picture.


—By Jay Whiteley

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