Sustainability has always been part of Winemaker Aura Rose’s life. She worked across North America helping hospitals become more environmentally responsible, as well as living on five acres of organic land. When Aura and her husband Wouter van der Hall took over the family business in 2009, she brought what she had learned in sustainable healthcare: to eliminate toxins, reduce energy and eliminate waste. She immediately took the land organic, eliminating all spraying and implementing organic vineyard practices. Because they don’t spray to keep weeds down, they give guests a heads up that the vineyard may not look as perfectly manicured as they might expect. They add organic compost to the land and use beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings to reduce aphids and leafhoppers respectively.
From a business perspective, reducing energy is by far the best way to reduce overhead and boost your bottom line. Just prior to becoming a Green Tourism member, Aura took advantage of a cost-sharing grant from the Livesmart BC Small Business Champion Program, which covered 50% of the cost for her proposed energy upgrades to the winery and wine shop.
The projected payback was seven years, which isn’t bad at all. But the actual payback was four and a half years! What a pleasant surprise when your money stays in your pocket two and a half years sooner than expected. Aura was able to reduce her energy consumption by over 50% once the project was completed. How did she do it? Aura and Wouter increased the building envelope insulation from R40 to R65, installed an air-source heat pump and upgraded the lighting and fans. They even found a solution to avoid heating the entire building during fermentation by purchasing temporary plastic walls that drop down to cover the fermentation tanks for two to four months per year. A small heater can heat the space to the correct temperature rather than heating the entire winery. This was a very inexpensive solution, and avoided the need to build a permanent room that would take up valuable space for the rest of the year.
Finally, Aura turned her focus to reducing waste and greening the supply chain. The entire winery produces less garbage than an average household in Kelowna, putting out one residential garbage bin weekly for both their home and the winery combined. By recycling all glass, cardboard and plastic, composting all grape skins, clippings, food waste and picnic area plates and cutlery, there isn’t much waste left.
They are one of the few Okanagan wineries to still use corks (because they are a renewable resource and carbon sink, unlike aluminum), and they collect and donate left over corks for craft supplies.
The carbon footprint of transporting wine can also add up. House of Rose was one of the first wineries in BC to use eco-bottles, which use less glass, weigh less and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 29%. This year Aura and Wouter planted tall bushes along the property edge to stop any spray drifting over from nearby orchards. Plus they are going for their certified organic status next season.
Aura is not sure if people are attracted to the winery because of their green practices, but she does know that those that notice while they are visiting say something. The guests that comment on the organic vineyard practices, the onsite composting or learn about the energy reduction initiatives have an enhanced positive experience, and are more likely to come back again (and refer). They must be doing something right because House of Rose Winery won the Champion for the Environment Award in 2014 from the City of Kelowna.
Gaining this recognition makes it all worth it. Certainly reducing waste and energy have the cost saving benefits, but organic practices are definitely more work, and are more time consuming. But it is time well spent managing a meaningful and sustainable business. Plus you can make pretty good wine operating without chemicals.
House of Rose Winery has a strong focus on sustainability, evident in all aspects of the business, and they are always looking for ways to improve. Aura will build upon her 2013 Green Tourism report and aim towards Silver in her upcoming two-year reassessment.
To learn more about House of Rose Winery, visit www.houseofrose.ca