Coffee and Conservation

Did you know that you can help the environment every day just by drinking coffee? The National Coffee Association reported that over 64% of individuals drank coffee on a regular basis in 2018. However, most of the coffee consumed was farmed in ways that negatively affect our environment. 

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Coffee comes from tree species in the family Rubiaciae. These plants grow best in warm climates with rich soil and steady temperatures. The coffee we typically drink is imported from farms located in these ideal environments in regions of South America, Africa, and Asia. These same regions are also known as hot spots for biodiversity of plant and animal species in our world.

Left: Heart-spotted woodpecker, Ramki S.  Right: Coppersmith barbet bangalore, Shashank Dalvi  Two species of woodpeckers that have been affected by poor coffee farming practices.  Photo source: New York Times

Left: Heart-spotted woodpecker, Ramki S.

Right: Coppersmith barbet bangalore, Shashank Dalvi

Two species of woodpeckers that have been affected by poor coffee farming practices.

Photo source: New York Times

Many farmers believe that the best way to maximize coffee production is by cutting down nearby trees to provide the most sunlight possible. By enacting this farming practice so close to these biodiversity hot spots, the coffee industry is causing major environmental damage and destroying habitats used by many of the species that live there.

To prevent the coffee industry from furthering the destruction of key habitats, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center developed a standard of farming practices that protects species and identify "bird friendly habitats." The initial practice was to protect native songbirds in coffee growing areas by providing them suitable habitats to occupy. To earn this certification the Migratory Bird Center requires that coffee farms utilize shade-grown farming practices with at least 40% of the farm has canopy cover, a minimum canopy height, and a minimum number of native trees and plants. The certification supports habitat protection of songbirds as well as supports the habitats of all species living near the coffee farms.

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How do you know if you're drinking bird-friendly coffee? 

Look for the label on your coffee package. By drinking more coffee that is certified bird friendly, we can maintain the biodiversity of our planet and conserve our endangered species. 

You can find a list of vendors here.



Katie Jamer, Environmental Educator