Walla Walla Valley winery promotes recycling

November 17, 2009 

My duties here at the Tri-City Herald include serving as managing editor for Wine Press Northwest, a quarterly magazine with an interactive Web site devoted to the Pacific Northwest wine industry.

I won't lie. It's a good gig, yet there's some schlepping, too. I coordinate the weekly and quarterly wine judgings, which means I handle the incoming shipments.

Lots of boxes get broken down and -- I'm proud to say -- all are recycled by the Herald and Ron Buckland.

Recently, however, one box featured something I'd not noticed before.

On top of the box from L'Ecole No. 41 in Lowden — one of Washington's premier wineries — it read "PLEASE RECYCLE. BOX AND PACKAGING ARE RECYCLABLE."

The "shelves" inside the box are made of "1 PETE" plastic, the most widely recycled form.

And on the bottom of the box, where only a recycler would notice, it reads, "Painted with pride by George Giese and Crew."

My interest was piqued, so I made contact with Jaime Chalk, shipping manager for L'Ecole.

"We began using this packaging in 2006 and have always encouraged our customers to recycle the materials," she wrote. "We source the boxes/trays from Pride Polymers in Yakima.".

It turns out the "shelves" are referred to as shipping trays, known as the Vinpak system and constructed from recycled PET bottles.

"As far as other green efforts, L'Ecole continues to be at the forefront of sustainable farming in the valley," Chalk added. "Our Walla Walla Valley wines are made from grapes sourced from VINEA certified sustainable vineyards. These wines are also certified Salmon Safe. This level of commitment speaks to L'Ecole's long-term stewardship of the land we farm, ensuring our vineyards thrive well into the future."

So it's not just the color of the bottles that's green at L'Ecole.

That can be said more often about wineries in the Northwest. I've also noticed in the past year that MUCH less styrofoam and packing peanuts are used by wineries shipping samples to Wine Press Northwest.

-- Eric Degerman is the Herald's online managing editor who makes regular trips each year from Richland to Clayton-Ward in Kennewick so that he can exchange his household recyclables for money to buy beverages produced from Columbia Valley grapes and hops.

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