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. In honor of our commitment, Silver Thread received the New York wine industry’s Sustainability Award in 2023.
Energy Efficiency and Renewables
In 2015, we installed a 28kW photovoltaic system. 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.
The winery/tasting room building at Silver Thread is highly energy-efficient and extremely well-insulated. It 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.
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. Integrated pest management, biointensive farming and organic practices are used. You can read more about our vineyard management philosophy here.
Silver Thread played a leading role in the development of the New York Sustainable Winegrowing certification, launched in 2023, and is among the first vineyards in New York to achieve the certification.
In 2014, we earned Agricultural Environmental Management recognition for our 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, including a bee hive that is managed by our assistant winemaker, Bruce Stebbins. A wetland pond that captures vineyard runoff contains a large number of frogs, newts and salamaders, which are indicators of clean water.
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, many 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 strives to be 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. In 2020, we eliminated capsules on our bottles because they are purely decorative and create unneeded waste. The tasting room recycles nearly all service items used in hospitality.
Community Service and the Human Element
Sustainability goes beyond the environment to include social responsibility. We want our business to exist in a region whose residents enjoy a respectable quality of life and sense of community. Our employees, both full and part-time, are paid a living wage.
We host annual fundraisers to support organizations in our town, including Food 4 All-Lodi’s Community Pantry and the Lodi Public Library. We also support regional educational institutions including Finger Lakes Community College, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Cornell University through scholarship donations, hosting student interns, and serving as a site for viticulture research.
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, 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.