Sustainability at Silver Thread
The word “sustainable” points to a vague notion of something positive, but what? To us, a sustainable business must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to thrive. In every aspect of our operation, we strive to consider our impact on the social and natural environment of the Finger lakes in addition to our financial bottom line. This effort goes beyond our farming operation to include energy use, waste reduction and community service.
Energy Efficiency and Renewables
Thanks to the foresight and conservation ethic of our founder, Richard Figiel, the winery/tasting room building at Silver Thread uses very little energy. Its compact design is highly efficient and extremely well-insulated. The structure takes advantage of natural climate control by being built into the hillside, which minimizes the need for artificial heating and cooling. Our HVAC system consists of one air-source heat pump (a.k.a. ductless mini-split) that is an energy sipper.
In 2015, we installed a 28kW photovoltaic system that is designed to generate 100% of our buildings’ energy needs. We are still connected to the power grid, but are able to sell excess electricity to the utility company in summer and draw off the grid during the winter. To date, this system has exceeded our expectations and produced more than 100% of our electricity in 2016 and 2017.
Responsible Vineyard Practices & Biodiversity
Since its inception in the early 1990’s, Silver Thread has been a leader in sustainable viticulture in the Finger Lakes. We take a holistic approach to managing our vineyard, understanding that healthy vines cannot grow in isolation. Fostering a healthy, living soil is the cornerstone of our approach. Integrated pest management, bio-intensive farming and organic practices are used. You can read more about our vineyard management philosophy here.
The Finger Lakes does not yet have a sustainability certification for its vineyards. However, Silver Thread has earned Agricultural Environmental Management recognition for its practices that minimize runoff, conserve soil and protect drinking water. This program is also known as “Lake-Friendly Farmer” and is administered by New York State Soil & Water Conservation Committee.
One of the ways we know our sustainable practices are working is evidenced by the abundant wildlife observed in and around the vineyard. We have a healthy population of pollinators and birds. A wetland pond that captures vineyard runoff contains a large number of frogs and newts, both indicator species.
Some customers are impressed by heavy glass bottles that seem to indicate quality and prestige. We know that glass weight only adds cost and increases fuel needed for production and transport. Silver Thread wine is bottled in eco-glass, a bottle that is 30% lighter than the industry average. Whenever possible, we buy “made in the USA” glass to reduce carbon emissions from transport.
Our closures are a technical cork that is made from the renewable bark of the cork tree. These corks are engineered to be uniform for consistent aging of wine. They are also treated with super-critical carbon dioxide to eliminate the chance for cork taint. Did you know? Corks are recyclable and can be included with paper and cardboard in your curbside recycling program. Better yet, most people re-use corks for decorative purposes.
Aside from the solar electricity used to power our two buildings, we have two small tractors that use diesel fuel. We buy diesel that is a blend of traditional diesel and bio-diesel.
The greatest environmental impact of wine is its transportation from winery to market. When customers purchase wine from local producers it greatly minimizes its carbon footprint. Most of our wine is sold from the tasting room. The remainder is distributed to stores and restaurants in the Northeastern U.S. When we ship wine to consumers via UPS, we purchase carbon offsets to mitigate the impact of shipping. Therefore, our carbon footprint is much smaller than the average winery.
Silver Thread is a zero-waste company, meaning we compost, re-use or recycle virtually everything used to make and sell our wine. Vineyard prunings and grape pomace (leftover skins and seeds) are composted and spread on the vineyard. Organic matter that remains after fermentation such as dead yeast are also spread onto the vineyard. Our packaging (bottle, cork, cardboard case box) is 100% recyclable. The tasting room recycles nearly all service items used in hospitality.
Community Service and the Human Element
Silver Thread prescribes to a definition of sustainability that goes beyond the environment to include social responsibility. We want our business to exist in a region whose residents enjoy a respectable quality life and sense of community. We also want tourists to experience the incredible natural beauty and genuine hospitality of the Finger Lakes.
To that end, we donate to organizations in our own small town that support nutrition and education including Food 4 All-Lodi’s Community Pantry, the Lodi Public Library and United Way of Seneca County. We also support regional educational institutions including Finger Lakes Community College, Rochester Museum & Science Center, Trumansburg Conservatory of Fine Arts, and Cornell Club of Central New York Scholarship Fund.
Several organizations work to protect the environment of the Finger Lakes. We are proud members and supporters of Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association, Seneca Lake Guardian, Finger Lakes Zero Waste and Finger Lakes Wine Business Coalition.
Sustainability is a mindset. It’s also a recognition that the world is always changing and improvement is ongoing. We are proud of our sustainability efforts but will continue to adapt and progress.