When U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev met in 1985 for a series of historic summit meetings that helped end the Cold War, they were served California sparkling wine made by Iron Horse Vineyards, the winery likes to tell its customers.

Now the winery and three other California winemakers, are looking for a different way to market their wine – and do something good for the environment. And they will do it with the help of Facebook.

Starting Wednesday, Facebook users can send a free virtual gift to their friends using the "Green My Vino" app. If enough people use the widget, the wineries will purchase more than 1.2 million kilowatt-hours' worth of renewable-power credits. The “Green My Vino” developer, Village Green Energy, also will buy renewable-energy credits based on the virtual gifts sent by Facebook users.

When a Facebook user uses “Green My Vino” to send a friend a gift with a windmill image, San Francisco-based Village Green Energy will purchase renewable-energy credits from selected wind- and solar-energy producers in California. These electricity producers can sell credits based on the amount of energy they generate, and individuals or businesses can buy the credits to offset their carbon footprints.

“Green My Vino” is the first Facebook marketing campaign by Village Green Energy, which was founded last year. The company will get advertising revenues from the app, but the money won’t be enough to cover the cost of buying renewable-energy credits, said Mike Jackson, the firm's chief executive officer.

The amount of renewable-energy credits that Village Green Energy buys will be based on Facebook gifts that are measured in minutes. At first, users can only send "one-minute" button gifts. But after the first five, they will be able to send "five-minute" buttons and eventually "10-minute" buttons.

In addition to buying renewable-energy credits, Village Green also will help the participating wineries buy credits from the power producers. The wineries will buy those credits only when the “Green My Vino” scheme has amassed a certain number of minutes. Village Green will generate money by brokering these deals.

Once 10,000 minutes are reached, the first winery, Iron Horse, will purchase its pre-determined amount of renewable-energy certificates. The minutes that need to be racked up are different for each winery and based on the amount of electricity each one consumes.

The other participating wineries include Girard Winery, which will buy its credits once an additional 17,000 minutes are generated; Windsor Vineyards, which will buy the credits when 30,000 more minutes are reached; and Windsor Sonoma will do its deed once 45,000 additional minutes are sent by Facebook users.

In total, the wineries are expected to buy credits that are equivalent to the amount of power they use per year, Jackson said.

Jackson wouldn't say how much the wineries would pay for their credits. But he did say that the credits cost about 1 to 2 cents per kilowatt-hour. That means the wineries could pay a total of $12,000 to $24,000.

The scheme doesn’t involve a lot of money or renewable energy for the wineries. But it’s a clever marketing ploy by Village Green Energy to get more customers to make pledges to buy renewable energy credits through the company. Jackson said he plans to keep the “Green My Vino” widget on Facebook after the wineries have purchased the 1.2 million kilowatt-hours of credits. 

“Green My Vino” isn’t the first green Facebook widget. Others include the “(Lil) Green Patch,” which asks sponsors to donate money for rainforest reforestation. Sponsors of that app give money based on the number of virtual fruits “planted” by Facebook users.