‘Sustainability’ and ‘green’ are the buzzwords that seem to be getting more airtime than Charlie Sheen and the ‘debt ceiling’ these days. Poor Lindsay Lohan can’t even compete for press when pitted against an update on the green movement. If you don’t toss one of these words into your speech, website, LinkedIn profile, or campaign platform, you’ll be perceived as an anti-environment, polluting, miscreant.
The good news about the green movement’s popularity is that it’s bringing the notion of sustainability to the public fore. The bad news is that silence on the topic translates to presumed guilt and non-compliance. By nature, I am not a chest-pounder. I was never the guy who ran 74 yards for the game-winning touchdown, then spiked the ball into the ground (though that would have been cool); nor was I the guy who paraded around with a cheerleader draped on each arm (probably would have been cool too). I did my own thing, which included among other things: indulging my fascination with paleontology, playing a tennis racquet air guitar, learning French, and falling passionately in love with the art of winemaking. As a teen, these were not particularly ‘cool’ things. One of these less-than-sexy ‘things’ was an early respect for the environment and sensitivity to man’s impact on it. I’ve never thought of this as something to brag about or expound upon, but perhaps I should fill the silent void.
From the beginning in 1990, Andrew Murray Vineyards has been committed to sustainable farming and green business practices. ‘Green’ is not a fad for us; it’s a way of life. As a small, family-operated winery, our children have been with us amongst the vines since their birth. The last thing Kristen and I want is for our children to cavort in a chemical fog, or to work the land so hard that we eliminate the opportunity for them to have a future in this business.
Our vineyard manager, Coastal Vineyard Care, is committed to the principles of sustainable, organic, and biodynamic vineyard farming. Their low input viticulture methods ensure that the growing of our premium grapes has minimal impact on the environment and their workers. Practices include attention to soil structure and cover crops to reduce soil erosion, use of biodegradable oils, soaps, and plant extracts for controlling pests and mildew, and introducing microorganisms into the soil to encourage nutrient cycling.
Inside the winery, packaging and promotional materials are selected with careful consideration to environmental impact. Our boxes may not be the sexiest ones on the shelf, but they’re made of kraft, natural, recycled cardboard (no virgin pulp) with one color soy ink and no bleach for the printing process. Our letterhead is made from recycled paper, and we use only chemical-free cleaning products. We were early adopters of the Internet, and long ago went paper-free in terms of newsletters and communications with our customers.
There are a variety of bottle thicknesses and shapes available in the wine industry. Variation in these areas translates to variation in weight and raw materials. Though we understand the romantic nostalgia of a big, heavy wine bottle, its additional weight burns more fossil fuels in transportation, and its volume requires more raw materials and fossil fuel in its manufacture. Instead, we use a lighter bottle, thereby reducing use of these valuable resources. In addition, we recently reconfigured our wine club to reduce our carbon footprint in terms of shipping. We now ship three times a year, rather than our former four.
Our friends here in the Santa Ynez Valley often tease us about wearing our ‘life preservers’ (down vests) around town. It’s the uniform that Kristen and I wear day-in-and-day-out at the winery. Of course, wineries are supposed to be kept cool, but we figure not heating our office is just one more way to save energy and go green. We may not be flying a green flag, and we may not be the grooviest folks in the industry, but our concern for the environment has been marked by a steady dedication to sustainable farming and business practices – this is who we are, not something we’ve recently become!