The Economics of Sustainability w/ Anna Brittain, Napa Green

As designer and Executive Director of sustainability non-profit Napa Green, Anna Brittain is passionate about taking action on the 7 pillars of sustainability. Spreading the word about how pursuing sustainability can save money is critical. Anna describes how she defines the 7 pillars of sustainability, what makes Napa Green unique, gives concrete examples of how wineries save money with sustainability, and the launch of the symposium Napa Thrives to accelerate the pace of action.   

Listen here.

Detailed Show Notes:

Definition of sustainability for agriculture has 6 pillars, now expanding to 7

  • 1. Water efficiency
  • 2. Energy efficiency
  • 3. Waste prevention and green purchasing
  • 4. Integrated pest management and biodiversity
  • 5. Social equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • 6. Climate action and regenerative agriculture
  • 7. Communications and engagement

Napa Green

  • 1 of 4 programs nationwide that have sustainability certification for vineyards and wineries
  • Addresses all parts of sustainability vs. 1 issue (most programs are only environmental; e.g., organic only for vineyards and not using synthetic pesticides)
  • ~15 programs globally that address sustainability holistically
  • Boots on the ground for direct support achieve more action
  • 90 wineries, 15k acres in the program
  • Policy vs. boots on the ground give very different perspectives
  • Certification requires >120 standards for wineries and >100 for vineyards

Economics of sustainability

  • Myth: sustainability will cost a lot of money -> it can actually help save money
  • Money-saving examples: 
  • Variable frequency drives for energy efficiency, 1-3 year payback
  • Turn down the water heater temp when you don’t need it super hot – save thousands on water and energy bills
  • Chateau Montelena – used Tooley Technologies for real-time data on water needs on an underperforming vineyard, saved $0.5-1M in improving the vineyard w/in a few years; phased out wooden boxes for wine to branded cardboard, reducing shipments from 5 to 2 (less space and weight), cut materials cost 50%, cut emissions, reduced wine breakage
  • ~50% of members have solar, but people don’t notice when inverters go down and don’t fix it until they see a high electric bill, it could save tens of thousands through monitoring and maintenance
  • Cakebread – focused on reducing waste, bought Big Belly solar trash compactors reducing trash pickups, saved ~$30k in first 3 years
  • Areas of opportunity: vineyards – develop a custom carbon farm plan (e.g., cover crop, compost, biodiversity, etc.), lays out how much carbon can be stored; compost is a big bang for the buck for carbon and water storage and nutrients; winery – water usage, including energy to transport, heat, and treat water, new regulations around wastewater also need consideration
  • ~30-50% of emissions from packaging and distribution

Best practice: think systematically, from vineyards to winery to getting wine to consumers; members often think of one-off projects vs. looking at the entire landscape

Marketing sustainability

  • Hosts ambassador training to get people talking about it
  • Potentially $1-3/bottle premium for organic/sustainable wines
  • Wineries are often willing to pay a premium to buy sustainably grown grapes

Napa Thrives – symposium w/ Martin Reyes MW

  • Goal is to accelerate the pace of sustainability and climate action

Making the commitment to third party certification takes time and effort, but it is worth it to demonstrate our commitment to the community and to protect our watershed, our land and the air we breathe.​

- Susan Boswell, Chateau Boswell Winery