Published on 22-04-2022
Sustainability is Catching On
Throughout Sonoma County

Steeped in agricultural history and long a bastion of environmentalists, the author Jack London among them, Sonoma County is today waging a valiant battle to retain its rural charm. Widely prized as a top-notch vacation destination, and courted by the area’s wineries, restaurants, shops and inns, the visitors that arrive throughout the year are at the crux of Sonoma County Tourism’s new sustainability pledge. As a new member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to establishing and managing global standards for sustainable travel and tourism, Sonoma County Tourism is working hard to encourage mindfulness toward and responsible stewardship of the county’s gorgeous yet fragile ecosystem.


Vineyard Mustard

Sustainability in the Wine Industry
Claudia Vecchio, President and CEO of Sonoma County Tourism, is excited about the new partnership and confident that visitors will jump onboard. “From a sustainability standpoint, Sonoma County has a rich history with local wine growers working to make us the first fully sustainable wine region in the world,” said Vecchio. “Despite that, we noticed that certain types of visitors – novice travelers, if you will - weren’t following suit. In particular pandemic visitors who came to enjoy the area but left trash and litter in their wake.”

Changing the Equation
Vecchio said the new partnership with GSTC in conjunction with the Sonoma County Regional Parks and the national Leave No Trace (LNT) organization provided an opportunity to say “enough is enough” and craft a marketing campaign that leaned toward responsible travelers.
“Travel and tourism used to be a numbers game” said Vecchio. “But now, we worry less about the numbers and more about promoting to the type of traveler who will protect and preserve our precious natural resources.”


Bee on lavender

Global Rallying Cry
As pandemic-media images of dolphins returning to the canals of Venice and coyotes roaming Los Angeles streets went viral, this idea caught on and has become a rallying cry across the world and more and more vacation destinations are looking to embrace travelers who have moved over to the responsible side.  
“Whether you live in Sonoma County or are just passing through on a visit, it’s important that as an organization, we provide people with practical solutions to help protect and preserve this stunningly beautiful place in the world.”


Cherry Blossoms

Earth Day
There are lots of great ways to celebrate Earth Day on April 22 in Sonoma County this year and Sonoma County Tourism has big plans. Among them, the launch of a new program that will incentivize visitors to do good deeds like picking up and disposing of trash properly. Further, a newly developed app will also launch that will help people be more responsible stewards of the land. Visit their website at SonomaCounty.com and click on “Sonoma County Now” to know more.

A sustainability powerhouse, Benziger Family Winery has for years celebrated Earth Day with planned activities for wine club members as well as nonmembers (no kids or pets, however).  Biodynamically farmed for the past 20-plus years, Benziger is a front-runner in environmental stewardships of the land. Vineyard manager Jerry Mackling oversees nine vineyards throughout Sonoma County and says that in his 37 years of vineyard management, he’s never seen as many beneficial insects as he has than at Benziger.  
“Biodynamic farming is taking things a step further than organic farming,” said Mackling.  “We follow the farming practices created by Rudolf Steiner who was the founder of the biodynamic approach to agriculture.” Using this method, the winery incorporates plant “preps” from the surrounding area and combines it with manure from grazing sheep and cattle. The vineyards are sprayed with this mixture to encourage microorganisms in the soil. The plant preps include cover crops like dandelion and yarrow as well as grape pumice and green waste like sheep bedding and manure, all ground together and incorporated back into the soil. “It’s an all organic process and it creates an incredible insectory for the vineyard,” said Mackling.
To combat California’s never-ending drought, Mackling and Chris Benziger are constantly assessing each vineyard’s water needs and reducing irrigation as a result. “We practice deficit irrigation where we ask how much water did a plant use and lose. From there, we don’t water back at 100 percent in order to stress the vineyards which produces better grapes. And we are trying to dry farm as much as possible, nursing the vineyards along to ripen each crop.”

To celebrate Earth Day this year, Benziger staff members will volunteer for trail work and park clean up at Jack London State Park. At the winery, things take a bit more of a festive turn with Earth Day activites taking place on Saturday, April 23 with two hikes planned at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Complimentary for wine club members and just $35 for nonmembers, the hour-long hikes will be led by Chris Benziger and each will take in the beauty of the winery’s Sonoma Mountain Estate property and include insights into biodynamic farming practices, family stories, and details about the winery’s many award-winning wines.  Both hikes include wine tasting throughout the property. Reservations are required and comfortable shoes and a (reusable) bottle of water are recommended. For information visit Benziger.com.



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