Every Day is Earth Day at Biltmore

Earth Day is celebrated on April 22, but we treat every day as Earth Day at Biltmore.

Vanderbilt’s vision

When George Vanderbilt began planning his grand estate in Asheville, North Carolina, his vision was twofold.

First, he wanted to create a place where he could relax and entertain friends and family. Just as important, however, was his desire to preserve the surrounding beauty.

West view of Biltmore House from Lagoon
The west side of Biltmore House

Second, he envisioned a self-sustaining estate that would nurture the land and its resources for years to come. From this vision came the nation’s first planned forestry program and the beginning of a family focus on the environment.

We continue to honor Vanderbilt’s vision today by acting as good stewards of our land, forest, and livestock resources. Here are some highlights of the best practices we follow at Biltmore:

Helpful hydroponics

Hydroponic lettuces
Hydroponic lettuce in an estate greenhouse

To honor our legacy of agricultural excellence, the benefits of hydroponics are undeniable.

In addition to higher and more consistent yields, the system is more efficient in protecting plants from pests and uses less water than standard field irrigation. In addition to leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, mustard, kale, and collards, herbs and edible flowers are grown in the estate’s hydroponic greenhouses.

Grazing, grass, and goats

Goat for Earth Day at Biltmore
One of Biltmore’s friendly goats that enjoys nibbling invasive plants. Credit: The Biltmore Company

Land is one of Biltmore’s most valuable resources, and to help preserve it more sustainably, larger pastures for livestock are divided into smaller paddocks with animals rotated through them every few days.

This practice of rotational grazing allows plants more time to regrow and replenish their root systems, increasing the quality and quantity of on-site foraging, reducing the need for labor-intensive harvesting, and increasing soil health for better agricultural outcomes.

In addition to rotational grazing, we are expanding the number of goats on the estate and putting them to work eating invasive plant species such as autumn olive and porcelain berry.

Goats are especially useful in keeping steep slopes trimmed and tidy, allowing maintenance crews to take on other projects and reducing some diesel fuel usage in equipment.

Protecting our pollinators

Monarch butterfly for Earth Day at Biltmore
Monarch butterflies are welcome guests at Biltmore

Continuing George Vanderbilt’s legacy of environmental stewardship, Biltmore has embarked on an effort to support the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) by planting native milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) to provide vital habitat for this threatened species.

Milkweed is the only plant on which monarchs lay their eggs—and it is the only plant that their young caterpillars eat before transforming into beautiful orange and black butterflies.

In becoming a certified monarch waystation, our hope is that as the monarchs’ path of migration takes them through Asheville and the mountains of Western North Carolina on their way to Mexico, we can encourage growth in their waning populations.

Welcoming wildflowers

Wildflowers for Earth Day at Biltmore
Wildflowers are planted to promote beauty and sustainability

By planting pollinator-friendly wildflowers, Biltmore is playing our part in preventing the widespread demise of these important species—including hummingbirds, bees, moths, and more—that is currently happening worldwide.

We cultivate more than 30 varieties of wildflowers across 2.5 acres in order to attract and support these small but vital native animals. This program encourages a more diverse, and thus resilient, ecosystem both on the estate and in the surrounding region.

Corporate Social Responsibility Team

Bluebird on its house at Biltmore
A bluebird sits atop its house in the fields around the estate

In addition to these best practices, Biltmore encourages employees to become members of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Team that focuses on reducing, reusing, and recycling for the estate.

Other CSR projects include working with monarch butterflies, cleaning and monitoring bluebird houses around the property, and a variety of other small-scale efforts that make a big difference in our community.

Sustainable practices at Biltmore

Solar panels at Biltmore
A section of the 9-acre solar field at Biltmore

Along with the initiatives noted above, Biltmore has implemented a 9-acre, 1.7-megawatt solar system with 7,000 solar panels to offset some of our energy usage, and we promote sustainability in our winemaking practices, as well.

Cork recycling barrel at Biltmore
A wine cork recycling barrel at Biltmore

To learn more about how we make every day like Earth Day at Biltmore, visit the Environmental Stewardship section of our website.

Behind the Scenes: Sustainability in Our Winemaking Process

In honor of our upcoming harvest season, let’s take a look behind the scenes to understand sustainability in our winemaking at Biltmore.

Fall marks the beginning of our winemaking process. During the seasonal harvest, our grapes are hand-picked in the vineyard and brought to the Winery, where their stems are removed.

Harvesting grapes in Biltmore's vineyard on the west side of the estate
Grapes are picked by hand in Biltmore’s vineyard on the west side of the estate

The grapes are then crushed and put in tanks to ferment. Afterwards, our wines are moved into barrels or other tanks to age. Some varieties need six months for aging, while other need up to two years. Finally, our wines are blended, bottled, and sealed.

The process is a delicate balance of art and science. And if you take a glimpse behind the scenes, you’ll find that our efforts are geared towards more than just crafting award-winning wines. We also strive for environmental stewardship and sustainability in winemaking, every step of the way.

Composting grapes

We combine all remaining parts of the grapes—skins, seeds, and even the woody stems—with recycled plants and other organic matter at our large compost site. About once a year, after being turned regularly, the finished compost is used as fertilizer in our gardens as well as our field crops, which serve as food plots for wildlife on the estate.

Repurposing barrels

Wine barrels in Biltmore's Barrel Room

Once our Winery can no longer use its wine barrels, made of French, American, and Hungarian oak blends, they are repurposed across the estate in a variety of ways.

For instance, many wine barrels end up at A Gardener’s Place shop to be used as decorative holders for estate-grown plants. Some barrels are used to create rustic-style bars for outdoor Winery events, while others find their way into Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate and The Kitchen Café to be used as towel containers and trash cans.    

“Almost all of the businesses on the property have repurposed a barrel at one time or another,” says Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak.

Recycling corks

Cork recycling barrel for sustainability in winemaking
A wine barrel repurposed for recycling corks

In addition to recycling the usual materials—cardboard, plastic, glass, paper, and steel—the Winery recycles wine corks.

Natural corks, as opposed to screw caps and synthetic corks, are the most sustainable wine closure on the market

Cork is a renewable and biodegradable material harvested through an environmentally friendly process. We have partnered with Cork Forest Conservation Alliance through their Cork ReHarvest program to help educate the public on the importance of using and recycling natural corks.

Cork recycling locations include:

  • Gate House Gift Shop, located at the main entrance of Biltmore
  • Biltmore Winery
  • Estate restaurants

You can also mail used corks to:

Biltmore Estate Wine Company
Re: Cork Recycling
1 North Pack Square
Asheville, NC 28801