I believe in the importance of consumers buying ethically and environmentally conscious coffee beans. That means taking the time to look at the label of the coffee you are buying and using your money to tell the industry what is important to you. Some examples:
- Fair Trade: Benefits international farmers and workers by assuring fair prices, fair labor conditions, direct trade, sustainability, democratic decision-making and community development (From Transfair USA)
- USDA Certified Organic – Entire process of coffee is produced under organic standards (Bean growth, shipping and processing). This means without conventional pesticides (known mass-killers of migratory birds) and using sustainable and environmentally conscious practices to ensure soil and water conservation as well as use of renewable resources. (USDA Organic Certification Information) Organic is NOT just a pretty word for advertising. Make sure it means something!
- Rainforest Alliance: Promotes sustainability and biodiversity (Visit Rainforest Alliance for more information on certification criteria)
- Shade-grown: Manages shade trees in coffee plantations to support biodiversity. This also means slow-ripened more delicious coffee! (See Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center for more details and for Bird-friendly certified coffee)
It worries me that a lot of coffee drinkers (and sellers) don’t even know what shade-grown coffee means. Put simply, most coffee is grown quickly in full sunlight by clear cutting rainforest to provide crop space. Shade grown coffee means the coffee plants are grown under the canopy of naturally occurring rainforest shade trees which provide habitat for wildlife. Habitat is also preserved for our migratory birds which spend the better part of the year wintering in areas where coffee is grown. In this way, the people of central and south america can make money by growing coffee but also help conserve wildlife. It doesn't cost more, just the time to look on the bag and find the words - Shade Grown. Organic does not mean shade-grown. Fair Trade does not mean shade-grown. Rainforest Alliance only means shade-grown sometimes. Look for the words and if you don’t see any shade-grown coffee, talk to the grocery store’s manager and specifically request it. You can also visit here to learn more and find retailers in your area or online merchants.
Birds and Beans