Get Greener to Get Green

By Michele Martin

The wine industry has a new challenge that consumers are eager to support. A handful of dedicated and visionary wineries have volunteered many hours to produce a model greenhouse gas reduction certification for Northwest wineries. The journey has resulted in a certification program enabling wineries of all sizes to participate.

The Carbon Reduction Challenge (CRC), named after its pilot program “Carbon Neutral Challenge,” will enlist and inspire wineries to measure and progressively reduce greenhouse gases through a commitment to transparent, verifiable certification, and to inform consumers that they can support companies that protect and restore our climate.

You may ask, “How will this benefit my wine sales?”

Early adopters of the pilot program and the CRC recognize that improving business energy efficiencies will cut overhead costs and add market value to your wine. While other recognizable certifications in the marketplace do not explicitly address greenhouse gas reductions, a focused and credible emissions reduction certification label can build brand value through improved reputation and trust.  A recent global study by Vestas, a wind turbine manufacturer, reported 77 percent of consumers worldwide believe consumer labels — including environmental labels —are important as guidance when choosing brands (Global Consumer Wind Study 2011).

The Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) and the Oregon Wine Board (OWB) joined together to lead the pilot program in response to several producers in the wine industry that were requesting information regarding energy efficiency strategies. Wineries involved in the pilot program continue to support the development of the certification and include: A to Z Wineworks/REX HILL, Chehalem Winery, Left Coast Cellars, Lemelson Vineyards, Sokol Blosser, Soter Vineyards and Winderlea Wine Company.

While the Northwest wine industry is not a major transmitter of greenhouse gas emissions, it is directly affected by climate change. CRC members have the opportunity to increase awareness of environmental gains within the industry and beyond by reducing energy use and be a model to other industries. Already, Oregon nurseries are involved in a similar endeavor inspired by the winery pilot program, which demonstrates that opportunity exists among all industries, organizations and individuals to work collaboratively to reduce our demands on our natural resources.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program estimated that 8.6 percent of all human-created greenhouse gas emissions come from the agriculture sector (USGCRP 2001). If temperatures increase as projected, vineyards located at lower elevations may no longer have the ability to grow existing varietals. The 2010 Oregon Climate Assessment Report estimates that availability, quality and cost of water likely will be the most limiting factors for agricultural production systems with a warmer climate.

Patty Skinkis, viticulture extension specialist and assistant professor at Oregon State University, reports that, to date, there is no generalized or specialized model for determining vineyard greenhouse gas emissions or carbon sequestration. However, there are models developed for estimating winery emissions. This is possible because wineries are closed systems where inputs and outputs are more easily quantified and standardized to determine models by which to estimate greenhouse gas emissions.

The CRC, in its seventh month, is piloting this program with wineries and hopes to move progressively toward other agricultural areas upon successful implementation. The CRC certification offers support and tools to help wineries succeed paired with a committed technical and advisory committee to oversee and navigate opportunities for program growth in the winery and eventually in the vineyard.

The wine industry will benefit from the program’s commitment to each member by helping them to succeed individually and as a group in energy efficiencies and marketplace awareness. Already, the program has commitments from several retail outlets to showcase the members’ wines in the early part of 2012. Whether a winery is certified organic, Biodynamic®, certified sustainable by LIVE or not certified at all, it can join the CRC.

The steps toward the CRC certification are: (1) calculation of your greenhouse gas inventory; (2) completion of a carbon mitigation plan; (3) third-party verification of energy inventories.

CRC is administered by LIVE. Membership in the CRC does not include membership in the LIVE sustainable certification, but CRC reporting is transferable to LIVE for its emissions and energy requirements in both the vineyard and winery certification. 

Michele Martin is the program manager for Carbon Reduction Challenge (LIVE). She can be reached at or at 503-584-7276.

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