Sustainability Specialist, Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Aaron Schreiber-Stainthorp loves getting dirty, solving hard problems and working on sustainability issues. From a 13 year-old trail builder to a sustainability trail blazer at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Sonoma County, CA, his favorite part of the job is "implementing new ideas by getting into wine tanks, making measurements on the bottling production lines, harvesting grapes in the vineyard—and seeing if the concept works - it's great!"
After finishing undergrad at Northland College, Aaron specialized in environmental education programs which led him to the Alliance to Save Energy, where he designed and implemented energy efficiency programs for K-12 schools nationwide. After deciding to transition from working with non-profits to the private sector, Aaron pursued a MS in Sustainability Management from American University. Immediately after graduation, Aaron entered the EDF Climate Corps program which was a perfect segway into finding energy efficiency opportunities with in larger businesses.
"At the time I got my EDF fellowship, I had some experience in water efficiency, so when the opportunity with the Jackson Family Wines appeared, I jumped on it.”
At Jackson Family Wines, Aaron learned about the basics of wine making, water use in winery production, and waste water treatment. He was able to use his EDF experience and connections to obtain a job at Francis Ford Coppola Winery (FFC) in March 2015. He became captivated by the opportunities and challenges large scale food production with the artistry of the product itself. He values the focus FFC puts on quality and enjoys the “family-owned” workplace, which he refers to as a “mini-ecosystem”, fostering care for the land, people and sustainable processes.
"I like figuring out the problem and developing a solution. But what's really great is getting out there to see if it really works. Some days I climb out of the tanks covered in grape skins- just to test if a new idea works for improving our process.”
Aaron says his timing, the culture of Sonoma County and the environmental goals of California have made working at the winery as the "sustainability guy" an exciting opportunity. Sonoma County, amidst the state drought, is working to distinguish itself as agriculturally sustainable and has set a goal of achieving 100% certification by 2019, which creates an environment where wineries, vineyards and other businesses regularly meet to share ideas, best practices and even equipment.
Aaron’s advice to EDF Climate Corps fellows
"The EDF fellowship is too short a time to implement all the projects you would like to, but it is long enough to show their potential value. Work as hard as you can--be scrappy and creative. EDF Climate Corps was amazing and I can't speak highly enough of the program. It helped me launch a new career path, where I can build on my existing skills and apply them in new and creative ways. I love my job!