Commitment to Excellent Stewardship
Tinhorn Creek was founded in 1993 by a few like-minded individuals, or as current Chairman and Co-proprietor Kenn Oldfield says, “friends who became family”. The concept of treating employees like family is deeply embedded in Tinhorn Creek’s philosophy – part of the reason they seek to be good stewards, so that they can continue to support job retention and creation in South Okanagan.
Sustainability, for the Oldfields, is about business practice that protects the land, while reducing the company’s overhead costs, including energy and water use. This, in turn, helps the company “stay in business and employ more people,” according to President & CEO, Sandra Oldfield.
Canada’s First Carbon-Neutral Winery
The winery started measuring their carbon footprint in 2008, with a view to offset their carbon emissions and become a 100% carbon neutral winery. By using tools put at their disposition through the program Climate Smart, they began measuring their greenhouse gas emissions. Armed with greater insight into their biggest sources of emissions, the winery set out on a clear mission: to become Canada’s first carbon-neutral winery.
Recognizing that one of their biggest sources of emissions was the use of glass wine bottles imported from as far as California, they decided to seek out a local supplier in British Columbia. Whilst connecting with potential suppliers, they found a local company offering 42% lighter wine bottles, meaning the delivery of more bottles per shipment, and the reduction in the number of shipments. The switch cut transportation costs and saved 67,500 pounds in raw material and approximately 4 tonnes CO2emissions annually. The winery has also begun hosting ‘virtual’ wine tastings for buyers – shipping the wine, but not the staff – ensuring less airline miles and less corresponding CO2 emissions.
On-site, water irrigation has been improved to reduce water use. “Four principles are at the core of our environmental efforts,” says Sandra, “reducing our carbon footprint, reducing waste, water conservation and looking after our staff.”
In a bid to ensure maximal water conservation, Tinhorn Creek has switched from an overhead-spray to a drip-irrigation system. This has decreased water usage in the vineyard by 70% and what’s more – the water used is better distributed – which helps the fruit to ripen more evenly.
Protecting Indigenous Animals and Plants
Reducing human impact on the land and maintaining the Okanagan’s fragile ecosystem is of chief importance to the Oldfields. They have put a number of programs in place to preserve local ecosystems and wildlife habitats. A partnership with The Land Conservancy of BC has resulted in a reintroduction of native plants in the area, including sage, wild flowers and bunch grasses. Some of these plants were transplanted from a nearby site which was undergoing construction of power lines, ensuring the native plant species were retained rather than depleted.
The winery has also reduced its pesticide use, so that the water run-off from the grapevines on its estate is cleaner and safer when it re-enters the waterways. Tinhorn Creek has even been recognized by the Pacific Salmon Foundation due to its efforts – receiving certification as a ‘Salmon-Safe Farm’.
Sandra summarizes Tinhorn Creek’s approach by simply stating “we have come a long way since founding Tinhorn Creek 21 years ago. From being biodiesel truck pioneers to becoming Canada’s first carbon neutral winery in 2008, we strongly believe our efforts are making a significant environmental impact.”