Sun Coffee vs. Bird Friendly Coffee
Most of the coffee sold in America today is literally killing the songbirds we love – and destroying a sustainable method of farming that supports rural communities in Latin America and keeps farm workers and their children away from toxic chemicals. In the discussions in the coffee business and amongst advocacy groups there is and has been much discussion about what to do about this invisible disaster. What coffee to buy, what certification to trust, is ‘direct trade’ or Fair Trade better for everyone. Sometimes these discussions lose sight of the main issue, true sustainability.
In 2007 I ‘discovered’ the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center ‘Bird Friendly’ coffee certification. This uber-certification had already been around for nearly a decade but no one seemed to know about it or understand what it means.
This is an independent certification based on decades of objective scientific research. Bird Friendly® coffee means that migratory songbirds we know and love have a better chance to survive while on their wintering grounds in the tropics.
Our colleague Dr. Bridget Stutchbury, author of ‘Silence of the Songbirds’, Yale PhD and Professor at York University, says the most important single step an individual can do to help stop migratory songbird population loss is to always buy certified Bird Friendly® coffee. Tropical habitat destruction is today’s biggest threat to neo-tropical migrants and sun coffee is literally killing the birds we love. Today, almost all coffee on the shelves in the US does not meet ‘Bird Friendly®’ standards.
One of the first coffee companies to take up the ‘Bird Friendly®’ certification was Birds & Beans Canada, founded and still operated by Madeleine Pengelley and David Pritchard. Building on their start, in 2008 – with the help of author/conservationist Scott Weidensaul – I launched Birds & Beans® coffee to make it easy for coffee drinkers in the US to buy what we call ‘The Good Coffee’.
Noted guide author and naturalist Kenn Kaufman and leading ornithologist Bridget Stutchbury joined us in our mission as Birds & Beans ‘Voices for the Birds’. Author and teacher Katie Fallon is our most recent ‘Voice’. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is Birds & Beans national ‘Conservation Partner’ and joins with local and regional ‘Conservation Partners’ in our bird conservation advocacy. In June 2013 we launched a program with American Bird Conservancy to work with coffee farmers in the Americas to gain Bird Friendly certification, to address challenges organic farmers face today and to educate consumers in North America about the important bird conservation and sustainability benefits generated by buying and drinking coffee with the certification.
Every bean sold by Birds & Beans is certified by independent inspectors to meet the rigorous Smithsonian standards. The Birds & Beans brand has been credited with bringing awareness levels of the ‘Bird Friendly®’ coffee certification and the sustainability issue it represents into broader public recognition.
Since we started Birds & Beans in 2008 we have accomplished a great deal – some contend that our brand’s vitality ‘saved’ the Smithsonian’s Bird Friendly® (BF) certification. With over 40% of Latin American coffee lands still in very small holdings and with much of that land able to become BF certified there is a lot to play for.
The advocacy we hold for co-ops/small family farms is they have a strong potential for longevity – these farmers and their families have been doing this for a very long time, in some cases over a hundred years, and frankly have no other way to make a decent living.
Big sun coffee and other giant-agri land use is the foe! Sun coffee toxic chemical use is bad for birds and people.
Over half of coffee buying is in industrial hands. None of these large companies support organic much less Bird Friendly certified coffee. But coffee that meets the standards of Bird Friendly means a better world for birds, farmers and their workers and children and the Earth we all all share.
There are five key reasons that people who love birds and care about sustainable family farms and he environment we all share buy and drink Smithsonian Bird Friendly® certified coffee:
1. To save neo-tropical migrant and indigenous bird species.
2. To preserve forest and forest-like habitat in Latin America by supporting coffee production methods that have the lowest environmental impact.
3. To protect farm workers, and their children and neighbors, from exposure to toxic chemicals.
4. To support entire rural communities with jobs and trade via an economically viable farming model.
5. To save healthy microclimates, a buffer against climate change with measurable carbon sinks.