One of the best parts of my job is speaking to passionate people – people who are passionate about coffee and also people who are passionate about the environment. Some people are passionate about both.
A few months ago, I had one of those conversations with Elaine Munro of Progressive Nutritional Therapies. They had been purchasing Birds & Beans Certified Bird Friendly coffee for their office and were using it to raise funds for a tree planting near the source of the Rouge River in North East Toronto.
In the office, they charge by the cup and were also selling jars of beans for brewing at home – and called it “Grow a tree in your Cup”. They are pretty big coffee drinkers over there because when it came time to plant – they had raised enough money to plant 513 trees!
In early May, 24 members of their staff along with family members turned out to plant a selection of native trees and shrubs that were selected to be appropriate for the river side site by Ontario Streams.
This is amazing – through this simple, yet creative program, they were able to both protect habitat in South and Central America by supporting Bird Friendly coffee growers, and improve habitat here at home in the Rouge River valley. Congratulations to all involved!
As spring returns and our beloved migratory songbirds make their way back to Canada from their wintering grounds in Central and South America, we urge you to support them by purchasing certified Bird Friendly® coffee!
Our friend and supporter Vincent Falardeau would like to remind us of the beauty of the birds. He has a permanent show of his photographs in our café.
And we would like to remind you of the beauty of the coffee.
Lets do one simple act that sustains these beautiful birds and enriches our lives with a simple pleasure.
Help us help the birds. Buy our certified Bird Friendly® coffee.
(Warning…This poem is not for the faint of heart.)
the horror runs through my arms and legs
the ache fills my heart
the reality fills my mind
the finality pulls my gut
as the mass extinction ticks onward
largely unacknowledged and unnoticed
the tremendous specialty of form and of life
gasping in the loneliness of last pairings
doomed and hopeless
habitat consumed by unsustainable food and junk
hopeless and final in a way we do not conceive
not just death, but death of species, of kind
termination of lines of being
the final end of the rise from the muck
the endless creation that brought animation to matter
the interplay of mutually sustaining diversity
the dance of procreation
while we decorate the packaging of our wasteful crap with their images
tasting not, feeling not, seeing not, living barely
and watch a horror movie to feel something
while failing to notice the life that yet is
in its intricate and living beauty
dying at our hand, utterly squandered
open heart experiencing
the “Sixth Mass Biological Extinction Event”
We are excited to announce the introduction of our first Special Edition coffee, “Ontario Nature” Blend. This is a special blend in many ways. It is Triple Certified: Bird Friendly, Fair Trade and Organic, and like all of our coffees, is is roasted and packed using 100% green energy from Bullfrog Power. And, if that isn’t enough, we are taking it over the top, by donating $1.50 from the sale of each bag to Ontario Nature! Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters and 150 member groups from across Ontario. They will use the funds to protect wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement.
By choosing to drink certified Bird Friendly coffee, our customers have always supported conservation of the neotropical forest ecosystems in which our coffee grows. Now, through Ontario Nature, you can support conservation of habitat in Ontario too – by simply changing the coffee you drink.
And what a wonderful coffee it is! It has a lovely honeyed aroma, with balanced tones of chocolate and nuts. It is a lovely, smooth coffee with a long, sweet aftertaste that rings pleasantly in the pallet after the cup is gone.
We are so excited to launch our first Special Edition coffee that, for a limited time, we are offering FREE shipping of the Ontario Nature Blend any where in Ontario for orders over $25.
By making this one purchase, we collectively support ecosystem and biodiversity conservation in coffee growing countries and here in Canada. Do it now
Although it doesn’t have anything to do with coffee or birds, we are happy to see the David Suzuki Foundation’s current #GotMilkweed program aimed at planting more Milkweed to act as host plants for Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. We like it because it points out that helping to save a species (and in this case the phenomenon of the Monarch Migration) is all about habitat.
Milkweed plants are an essential part of the Monarch’s lifecycle but it has been eradicated from much of the butterfly’s range – in cities and in the country thus destroying the butterfly’s natural habitat. The #GotMilkweed campaign’s goal is to replant a milkweed corridor in Toronto to help these insects increase their numbers. If the project succeeds, we would see patches of milkweed plant around us in the place of dull, boring grass. A new generation of children will learn the pleasure of playing with Milkweed pods and releasing the seeds and we will see more of these beautiful butterflies in the summer and fall.
It is a small thing that can make a big difference – we see a future where we look for places to plant milkweeds and other plants to provide habitat and food for insects and birds. Imagine, for example, how nice it would be to drive down a highway and see milkweeds and other wildflowers making the scenery much more beautiful than the boring grass monoculture that has become the standard road side treatment. In the same way, we see a future where people ask for their Fair trade coffee to be Bird Friendly too, so every cup provides habitat for Migratory Songbirds in addition to providing a fair deal for farmers.
More than 10 years ago, we set out to create a different kind of company – one that would give consumers a way to use their purchasing power to make the world better rather than worse. We wanted to provide a product that was green at its core – not something that just looked green or came out of a “green” facility with a super duper recycling program. We wanted to create a true “triple bottom line” company that produced tangible environmental and social benefits.
Coffee was the perfect product for our experiment – for one thing, we love really good coffee and had a hard time finding a consistent source. And, most importantly, traditionally cultivated coffee is grown in a way that preserves habitat for wildlife – including Migratory Songbirds. Coffee is increasingly being grown in partial shade or full sun, transforming what was once a thriving forest ecosystem into “Eco Deserts” capable of supporting little life: Where there was once a thriving forest ecosystem, the only living thing is the crop being cultivated.
A few years before we started Birds and Beans, The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center had developed the Bird Friendly Coffee Certification. Its aim is to identify and certify farms that provided good habitat for migratory songbirds – or more accurately are functioning ecosystems.
So, having identified the problem and the solution, Birds and Beans was born. We bought a small Commercial Roaster, some green Bird Friendly coffee and started developing our roast profiles. After about a year of development, we were ready to launch.
We sold our first coffee at the Guelph Organic Show in January 2003. Now we are a Certified Organic Roaster and have 2 much larger roasters and a full line of Certified Organic, Certified Bird Friendly, Fair Trade and Direct Trade coffees. We offer the World’s first and only Triple Certified Espresso – Commit, an espresso blend.
A decade later, we can declare our experiment a success. Birds and Beans is a going concern where every pound of coffee sold is helping to protect valuable habitat as well as contributing to a decent life for the farmers and their families. About 5 years ago, we were joined by Bill Wilson and his colleagues from New England, who wanted to use the Birds & Beans name in the USA – and out of that has grown a valuable partnership that is spreading the word to an even wider audience. Our coffee receives rave reviews from all who try it. Together, we are building a different kind of coffee brand.
This month we are undertaking a ‘bird survey’ in Nicaragua on the 450 farm co-op, UCA San Juan del Rio Coco, co-sponsored by York University and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. We buy a good deal of coffee directly from the co-op. The conservation biologists conducting the survey reported 21 species of migrant birds present in the first few days of field work.
Supporting this kind of work is unheard of for companies of our size as it doesn’t have a commercial payoff. So why do we do it? Simple. Its because we have aligned our business with our true values and our business expresses them just as we do. It isn’t a ploy or a marketing gimmick. It is what we care about. We founded this company as a vehicle to promote conservation and this is an opportunity to do just that.
The study represents new work in this region and so the findings will add to the body of knowledge of how that ecosystem functions. This will help our growers to make better decisions on how to manage their farms in the future.
Thanks to all of you who have supported us and have enjoyed a different cup of coffee….
Our coffee of the month is the perfect Christmas gift for coffee lovers lovers! Send a different pound of our delicious Bird Friendly® of coffee every month. Or the same one each month if you prefer. Or every other month. Start the first shipment on the date you set so it arrives just before Christmas or in January. Its flexible! Pay in advance or pay as you go. Read more details here.
As an added bonus this year, when you purchase a coffee of the month subscription of 4 shipments or more, we will send your recipient our beautiful 2014 Coffee Songbirds Calendar with the first installment (December or January) and one to you too!
Our December coffee of the month offering is our 2013 Christmas Blend… A rich, smooth, delicious coffee with a festive label.
Our new Coffee Songbirds Calendar for 2014 is Available Now! This beautiful Calendar speaks for itself. Each month a different migratory songbird with text by Pulitzer Prize nominee Scott Weidensaul and a map of summer and winter territory courtesy of Cornell Lab or Ornithology. A great Christmas gift for the coffee lover, bird lover or conservationist!
We are the cafe part of Canada’s leading roaster of Certified Bird Friendly coffee. Our location is unique – unlike any other we’ve seen. Out back we have a lovely patio with a view of Lake Ontario and a Native wildflower garden. The purpose of the garden is to provide habitat for birds and pollinators and to provide a beautiful backdrop for our patio.
Behind our wildflower garden is a huge composter – where we compost our coffee roaster chaffe, grinds and kitchen scraps. Since we don’t fertilize or water the wildflowers, we really don’t have a great need for the end product but we’re pretty sure someone out there really needs some great organic compost.
You are reasonably local to us and are in need of some beautiful rich organic compost. You are willing to do some of the work required such as turning the piles and able to give direction to us on the adjusting the mix of inputs if required.
We’d prefer that you are a Community organization or perhaps involved in community garden but we will consider any one willing to help, You will have to agree to bag and remove the compost at your expense.
So, if this sounds like a match made in heaven to you, drop us a line and we’ll get dirty together….
To contact us, leave a comment here or call 647-439-3294.
There have been a number of disturbing reports about mass bee die offs in the news recently – such as this report of 37 million bees dying in Ontario.
The cause of these die offs has not yet been establish but it is likely that they are being caused by a relatively new class of pesticides call neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are sprayed like other pesticides but are also increasingly being used to coat seeds of corn (and possibly other crops) so the seed may be sowed earlier — before the temperature and moisture conditions are right for germination and not be eaten by ground dwelling insects. The problem is that the insecticide makes its way into the leaves and the pollen of the plant and the bees take the pollen back to the hives and the pesticide kills the bees. It also appears that pesticide is introduced to the environment during the planting process, exposing bees and other animals at that point too.
It is estimated that the majority of corn now planted in North America is now coated with Neonicotinoids – a rise that coincides with the increase in Bee Colony Collapse disorder. The link has not been proven yet, a fact the chemical companies are quick to point out but the European Union has introduced at 2 year ban on 3 neonicotinoids as a precautionary measure. The evidence is mounting and we suggest that US and Canadian governments should follow the same path – better safe than sorry. We lived very well before these pesticides were introduced and a temporary ban seems like the right thing to do while the studies are done.
There’s another disturbing fact that doesn’t get mentioned in the stories – the bees that are dying are our domestic honey bees – the ones kept to pollinate crops and make honey. We’ve moved more and more to a model of agriculture that requires honey bee hives to be brought in to pollinate crops as we’ve reduced the biodiversity in farm fields to the point where they are eco-deserts – nothing much lives there except the crop we are growing. We have replaced the natural pollinators with domesticated bees — essentially hives of agricultural workers. And now, in our never ending quest to maximize yield and minimize immediate cost, we appear to be killing the domestic honey bees – our agricultural partners on whom we are utterly dependent.
If we are unable to keep bees, we won’t be able to grow crops that depend on them for pollination but our governments do not act. If something was killing our cattle, hogs or chickens, we would see action – so why not for the bees? How will our crops be pollinated with out them?
The simple answer is that they won’t be unless we take steps to protect the biodiversity of pollinators whether they be domesticated or wild. The native wild pollinators are being killed by the same agents as the Honey Bees and they are losing their natural habitat. The loses are hard to quantify because we don’t count them.
Protecting the pollinator diversity requires 2 simple steps.
Provide habitat for the bees and
Stop poisoning the bees.
So, what can we do? I encourage everyone to contact their elected representatives and urge them to support a temporary moratorium on the sale and use of Neonicotinoids. The justification for doing so may be found in something called “The Precautionary Principle” – which says we have a duty to prevent harm to the environment if it is in our power to do so, even though all the evidence is not in – or, in other words, Common Sense.
You can also do your part to help reduce the market for the products of this kind of chemical intensive industrial agriculture. Start by supporting Organic and small scale local farmers. Summer is a great time to purchase local food at a Farmer’s Market – ask the farmers about the the food and how it is grown. Does it cost more to support the small scale farmers? It can do but you get benefits for that extra cost. You are strengthening your community, it is better for the environment and the food tastes better! If we all take some action on this, collectively we will have an impact.
Finally, if you have a garden, plant some native plants that will provide a food source for our native pollinators. Our native bees are in trouble too but nobody is counting them so we don’t have the numbers. We must protect the species that we have, we are going to need them in the future. We have done this behind our cafe and we enjoy seeing a wide variety of bees visiting our native plants.