TALKING CLIMATE ACTION
Climate action, net zero, carbon positive… or is it carbon negative? It seems like there is a different variation everywhere we turn. Has it all been built up too much? Unfortunately, no. Climate change is happening faster than expected and climate action is needed, more than ever.
In our southwestern corner of Australia, we are grateful to live in a region with such healthy natural abundance. Still, the impact of extreme weather events like spring hailstorms, reduced winter rainfall, and intense summer heat spikes are a threat to our unique ecosystems.
Margaret River is a wine paradise, but these world-class wines are inextricably linked to climate. At Voyager Estate, we have long focused our attention on land restoration and catchment preservation. With every block transitioning to Certified Organic in 2023, the team’s environmental efforts have been led by land and vine health.
Late last year, we joined International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA). In good company, we leapt into a new frontier of looking beyond our beautiful valley and outward to the impact our practices have on a regional and global scale.
IWCA was founded in February 2019 by Familia Torres and Jackson Family Wines, two leading families passionate about preserving the world’s great wine heritages in the face of climate change. IWCA is accelerating action on this significant threat to the wine community and finding shared approaches to common industry challenges. Voyager Estate was accepted as an Applicant Member in December 2021, with the support of Cullen Wines – the first Australian winery to join in 2019.
IWCA challenges us to meet some pretty ambitious targets, including net zero emissions by 2050, with an interim 2030 target of reducing our emissions by at least 35%. Reaching ‘net zero’ refers to achieving an overall balance between the greenhouse emissions we produce from our business activities, and those removed from the atmosphere.
So first things first, we need to greatly reduce the emissions we produce from our vineyard operations, winemaking, and from the packaging and distribution of our product. Then, we start looking at what we can do on the removal side. In our case, that’s a big focus on planting trees for biodiversity as well as carbon storage.
Voyager Estate has completed an initial emissions profile across a wide range of activities to understand where they are coming from within the business. Like many other vineyards and wineries, the big areas to focus on are electricity use, transportation of goods in and out, packaging, waste, and fuel.
We have already started on our reduction pathway through several recent initiatives, including installing a 30kW solar energy system in the vineyard. This will bring our total renewable energy capacity to about 25% of our current use. We’re also trialling a new six-bottle shipping box, which has cut the cardboard footprint of that box by half. The material is a recycled paper substrate with a 100% biodegradable paper pulp insert that holds the bottles in place during transport. The design is self-folding and self-closing without relying on glue or tape. If the trial is a success, we’ll also transition our three-bottle boxes to this new design.
Over the next few months, we will firm up some of the longer term actions and investments to take us to 2030. We’ll be looking into the state of electric vehicles and the different types of machinery that can be converted over the next five to ten years, as well as how we can radically reduce our waste-to-landfill. We’ll also continue to focus on soil health, which includes growing our resident family of ducks, who are doing an excellent job of controlling pests and putting life back into the ground. Our community giving program and the ongoing management of our biodiversity areas, as well as consistently looking for ways to reduce our impact as part of our standard day-to-day operations, will also play a big role in the way forward.
Some people might think that we are too small to make a difference. The ‘we’ might be individuals, the wine industry, and even Voyager Estate as just one small business. However, whether we are talking about a person, an organisation or even a town like Margaret River – when each of us acts, we become part of a greater whole that shifts what is viewed as ‘normal’. We increase the number of heads, hearts, and hands to test solutions towards not only a low emissions future but also a safe and healthy future.
Words by Voyager Estate Head of Sustainability Michelle McManus and Technical Viticulturist Alex Miller.