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Green means growth for this BC winery

A winery in Langley, BC that installed LED lighting, low-flow toilets and energy-efficient windows is now seeing cost reductions and watching its customer base take off

5-minute read

Bill and Teresa Townsley in front of Festina Lente Estate Winery building

Teresa and Bill Townsley, Co-owners, Festina Lente Estate Winery 

For Teresa and Bill Townsley, co-owners of Festina Lente Estate Winery in Langley, BC, the best approach to growing their business is baked right into its name: Festina Lente is Latin for “make haste slowly.” As Teresa explains, it’s a philosophy that is perfect not only for winemaking, but for building a sustainable business. 

“The idea is you get there faster by moving slowly and making carefully planned, conscientious decisions.” 

Sitting on five acres of land in a Tuscany-like microclimate about an hour outside of Vancouver, Festina Lente makes wine from honey, known as mead.  

Mead is made by fermenting honey mixed with water. Its exact origins aren’t certain, but it likely dates back to ancient Greek times (hence its nickname, nectar of the gods). Some historians believe it may have originated as long as 20,000 to 40,000 years ago in Africa.  

Much like grapes, honey has a range of flavour profiles. As a result, honey wine can be as complex as grape wine, becoming more layered with age. In contrast to its name, honey wine is not necessarily sweet. It can be brewed in a range of styles, including dry. 

Bill Townsley in beekeeping outfit outside at Festina Lente Estate Winery

The decision to renovate 

Teresa and Bill launched their mead business in 2016. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, shuttering many businesses for a while, they realized that it might be the perfect time to undertake some renovations. 

Part of the motivation was the pandemic itself: they wanted to give visitors more space for social distancing and allow them to be outside. But they also realized that this might be a chance to invest in sustainability, according to their personal and corporate values. 

“Our whole business model is built on reducing greenhouse gases,” says Teresa. “For example, we don’t use traditional corks—we use compressed sugarcane corks, which are a byproduct of sugar manufacturing. Little business decisions like that can be environmentally forward without costing more.” 

In 2021, they started with the changes needed to make the winery more spacious, appealing and safe for visitors: they expanded the tasting facility and built an outdoor patio. 

With that done, they turned their focus to sustainability. Switching to LED lighting throughout the property was the obvious first step, but the Townsleys wanted to go further. They installed low-flow toilets everywhere because careful water use makes sense for a growing business reliant on a well and aquifer.  

They also decided to replace all the windows. The original farmhouse that houses the tasting room and other operations was built in 1979, with metal-framed windows. 

“If you stood next to those windows in winter, you could feel the cold,” says Teresa. “The new ones significantly increase comfort and warmth—and at the same time, reduce costs and our carbon footprint.” They also reduce cooling costs in summer. 

[Goodwill from customers interested in sustainability] has been a huge factor in the success of our business and is why we’ve expanded six times in eight years.

The real payoff: Customer loyalty 

Even though the windows were one of the pricier changes, Teresa says the return on investment (ROI) will be less than five years. According to a 2024 BDC survey of 1500 building owners, the average payback period for those who upgraded to energy-efficient windows was about 3.5 years. 

“We haven’t been able to calculate exactly how much we’re saving on energy costs yet because the BC climate has been so variable,” she says. “But we have definitely realized substantial savings. I would say costs are down 20% simply because of the windows.” 

The new energy-efficient windows have also reduced some business risk, she says. At a winery with a tasting room, hot weather can damage the product. 

But perhaps the biggest reward of all: the green renovations are generating major customer loyalty and helping Festina Lente grow its customer base. Teresa says the impact has been immeasurable.  

“That goodwill in itself is a huge factor in the success of our business and is why we’ve expanded six times in eight years.” 

Based on the success of our green renovations so far, we’re ready to do more. We want to be the first winery in BC’s Lower Mainland to be completely solar powered.

Next up: Solar power 

Teresa and Bill have their sights on a new, much more ambitious goal: running the entire farm on solar power and even putting power back into the grid. The project will include installing charging stations.  

“Based on the success of our green renovations so far, we’re ready to do more,” Teresa says. “We want to be the first winery in BC’s Lower Mainland to be completely solar powered.” 

Although a project of that size will have a longer ROI, Teresa is optimistic that they can get it down to 10 years with the right technology. She’s not in a rush: the “make haste slowly” ethos means she’s content to wait until she finds the perfect system to sustain the winery in the future. 

“It’s not just about what we might save in the first year or two,” she says. “It’s about what’s going to be best for the business and the planet in the long run.” 

The Townsleys’ plans also include new business lines (such as beer and spirits), expansions to their facilities and farming operations, and international sales. 

Bill Townsley looking at laboratory decanter in the Festina Lente Estate Winery

Teresa’s 4 tips on green renovation 

Teresa has some suggestions for other business owners considering green renovations: 

Look beyond the upfront costs and tell customers about your plans 

Cost and ROI matter, but according to Teresa, green renovations can grow your customer base in a big way, ultimately driving profits. Her advice: “Talk about your plans and progress on social media so your customers know what you’re doing and why.” 

Educate yourself about local permit and building code requirements  

You can get into some unexpected trouble and expense with permits and building codes if you’re not sure what you’re doing. The solution, says Teresa, is to ask questions. “There are people in government whose job it is to answer these questions—and they’re happy to do it.” 

Don’t be afraid to borrow if you need to 

Energy-efficient renovations have an upfront cost, but they also generate savings. Teresa and Bill wanted to complete their work during the COVID-19 shutdown, so that they would be ready to when things reopened. Financing allowed them to do the work right away and they are already recouping the costs.  

Consider whether to bring in a designer or energy expert 

Any renovation can entail a lot of decision-making, which takes time. Teresa and Bill gathered their own knowledge and made their own plans and choices, but it ultimately comes down to what is the best use of your time and aptitudes.  

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