After crude oil, what do you think the next most sought-after commodity is in the world? Maybe gold, sugar, corn, or natural gas? No, none of these. The answer is coffee and it’s worth $100 billion worldwide.
Worldwide, we humans drink 500 billion cups of coffee per year. Over half of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee. Coffee is grown in over 50 countries, although the U.S. is not one of those. Two-thirds of coffee is grown in the southern part of this hemisphere – the tropical winter home of many of our favorite backyard birds as well as several species of resident owls. You can help these birds simply by drinking a better kind of coffee: coffee that’s known as shade-grown or bird-friendly coffee. This is coffee grown on plantations that leave part of the natural forest cover and grow the coffee beans in the understory versus a full-sun coffee plantation that has cleared all of the natural vegetation to make room solely for coffee. Of the 50 countries with the highest deforestation rates in the 1990s, 74% of them were coffee producers.
There are many benefits of shadegrown coffee plantations over full-sun plantations including: (1) they have higher bird numbers and species because they have protected the habitat, (2) they have better soil protection which controls erosion, (3) they store more carbon which cleans the air we breathe, and (4) they are better at natural pest control and have higher pollination because of the increased bird numbers. Shadegrown farms also provide payback to farmers, including opportunities for diversifying income through ecotourism, as well as providing a greater availability of firewood, fruits, building materials, and medicinal plants that are all harvested by shade coffee farmers. For more information on this topic, please visit abcbirds.org.
Enjoy your coffee but be sure to shop for shadegrown coffee – it’s listed on the label. You won’t taste a difference. If you can’t drink shadegrown coffee all of the time, at least do so part of the time. Shadegrown coffee is better for our owls and other birds.
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