What is Sustainability?
Sustainable Viticulture is a concept, a paradigm and a set of local "best practices". The three components that make up sustainability are simply: environmental stewardship, social equity, and economic viability. It can be seen as a pathway that leads to improving environmental stewardship, worker safety, job satisfaction and economic fairness, and results in economic success over generations. It is a pathway to greater awareness of the consequences of one's actions on the farm, in the workplace, in the community, and the wider world around us. Sustainable vineyards and wineries help stabilize the economies of the communities where they reside.
Stewardship of the environment refers to protecting the environment through conservation, recycling, regeneration, and restoration. It means taking responsibility for our choices. The responsibility for
environmental quality should be shared by all those whose actions affect the environment The viability of local agriculture is dependent on our ability to steward our land in a way that allows it to stay healthy and productive into the future. We see our vineyards as a holistic ecological system and we strive to develop practices that produce the highest quality fruit possible, while also being sensitive to the environment. This system is kept in balance through a series of vineyard "best practices," finely tuned over the past 40 years. Long Island Sustainable Winegrowers believe that vineyards should work in harmony with our natural world leaving the land we steward in better condition than when we found it, building a community between vineyards, workers and the land. Farming of any kind is an unnatural act that disturbs the environment. Our job as stewards is to minimize the negative impact of our viticulture on workers, farmers, and the environment. This is why many wine districts and states in the U.S. have developed Sustainable Viticulture programs (Oregon, New York, California. Lodi, CA, the Central Coast, CA.). Each program is slightly different, but most of them focus on the priorities that are general to all regions plus those that are specific to them individually. The concept of Best Management Practices (BMP) is at the core of Sustainable Viticulture (or any sustainable agriculture). BMPs are locally evolved farming techniques that achieve a certain goal such as limiting soil erosion or eliminating the use of toxic materials that build-up in or leach through the soil. In order to help us understand our environment and our impact on it we have partnered with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County Grape
Program which conducts applied research and coordinates educational opportunities for the Long Island wine industry - http://ccesuffolk.org/viticulture/. We are also working with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Bureau of Groundwater Investigations, in order to assist us on a pathway towards making our practices safe for our local aquifers.
The idea of social sustainability is quite simply – about people. It is about understanding people's needs and desires, considers the effects of our actions on the wider community and anticipates and embraces social change, allowing people to provide for their well-being into the future. Naturally, the social aspects of sustainability are intertwined with the environmental and economic aspects. A large part of a person's social well-being is dependent on their economic status - how fulfilling their job is or whether they make enough money to support their lifestyle. The environment also has an effect on social well-being - recreation often involves use of environmental resources and the physical environment in which we live is important. However, the social aspects are about more than just the indirect effects of environmental or economic sustainability. Sustainable development is about places that allow people to provide for their social needs and sustaining a high level of social well-being in the long-term. The factors involved include: Health, Safety, Standard of Living, Equality, Freedom, Opportunity, and Individual empowerment. We encourage our members to take social well-being into account when evaluating their business practices. Part of this is the development of a clear and concise employee handbook that includes clear job descriptions, company policies, explanations of employee benefits and standards and expectations. LISW also encourages members to be good neighbors in the community, hire local labor, participate in local government and support local charitable causes. A good neighbor also manages noise, dust, and emissions levels as to not impact the health or well-being of the community and always makes decisions with the whole picture in mind. In order to support our desire to become more socially aware in our communities, we have partnered with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County Family Health and Wellness program. The FHW program has served the needs of local families for over 90 years in the areas of family health, parenting education and nutrition infonmation. For more infonmation visit www.ccesuffolk.org/family
Long term economic viability is an important factor of sustainability. Sustainable vineyards and wineries help stabilize the economies of the communities where they reside. Economic success is important in the long term implementation of sustainable practices; the more successful a vineyard is, the more sustainable practices it can implement. It is an important continuum as using some sustainable practices can actually lower the cost of wine grape production. Economic success is also achieved by adding value to our products and differentiating them from others in the marketplace. This can be achieved by trying to produce the best wine grapes possible, making high quality wines, promoting the uniqueness of the region's wines and supporting practices that enhance local tourism. The use of non-conventional farming practices can also provide value to the region's products. Achieving this economic success also requires participation from all sectors of the community, both to determine community needs and to identify and implement innovative and appropriate solutions. It is a pathway to greater awareness of worker safety, job satisfaction and economic fairness, and results in economic success over generations. Vineyards and wineries are sources of employment and providers and consumers of goods and services that sustain the local economy. Their operation should support the local ecology, minimize energy use and waste, and utilize recycled products and materials as much as possible. It is extremely important that our members produce grapes and wines that are of high quality, sold at a competitive price and are produced using techniques and practices that are both good for the environment and the society at large. It is in the interest of all our residents to work together in mutually supportive ways. We also encourage our members to participate in local government and become active in the process of cooperative efforts in land preservation, regional planning, appropriate development of rural resources, and improved agricultural land use and tourism. The bottom line is that a successful sustainable business is one that can continue to be beneficial to the community and the environment while progressing along the sustainable winegrowing continuum.