Certified Bird Friendly and Organic coffee promotes biodiversity, sustainability, fair trade, and contributes to a green morning routine.
I get it — coffee is a touchy subject. There’s nothing like decades of caffeine addiction and sacred morning routines to ingrain brand loyalty. But our coffee consumption comes at significant environmental cost. If drinking coffee is something you do every day, then switching to a Bird Friendly roast is a meaningful way to green your morning routine and contribute to a healthier planet.
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What is Bird Friendly Coffee?
Bird Friendly is a program through the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center that’s considered the gold standard of eco-friendly coffee certifications. The seal signifies coffee grown organically in mature forest ecosystems that support biodiversity and sequester carbon emissions.
So what? Well, according to the Smithsonian:
“Three-quarters of the world’s coffee farms destroy forest habitat to grow coffee in the sun and often use harmful pesticides and fertilizers that poison the environment. When forests disappear, migratory songbirds disappear, too. In order to combat population and habitat loss.”
Bird Friendly coffee leaves biodiverse forests intact, as the graphic below depicts.
To be clear, any certified Bird Friendly coffee roast is huge upgrade from the status quo. You can search all 23 brands and where to find them here.
However, we’ve identified a few American brands that go above and beyond the gold standard.
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Certifications: Bird Friendly, Rain Forest Alliance, Fair Trade
Price: $15 per 12 oz bag; $65 per 5 lb bag. Free shipping on orders over $49.
Why we love this brand: This family owned coffee roaster donates 10% of qualifying sales to conservation organizations, and 1% of all sales to the Indiana Non-game Wildlife Fund. You can actually shop online by which conservation partner you’d like to support with your purchase.
Audubon by Birds & Beans
Certifications: Bird Friendly, USDA Organic, Fair Trade
Price: $16 per 12 oz bag; $80 for 5 lb bag. Free shipping for orders over $50
Why we love this brand: In partnership with Birds & Beans, this coffee “supports the National Audubon Society’s mission and vital conservation work.” Choose from dark, light and decaf roasts that contribute to biodiversity, fair trade and organic practices. Subscribe to monthly delivery to keep the Bird Friendly coffee coming! (Check out Birds & Beans for equally certified coffee at a slightly lower price.)
Certifications: Bird Friendly, USDA Organic, Rain Forest Alliance, FairTrade America, Midwest Organic Services Association
Price: $10.49 per 10 oz bag; $46 per 5 lb bag.
Why we love this brand: Steep & Brew’s makes its eco-friendly roasts easy to identify with its Cafe Fair label and this handy certifications chart. It also has some of the lowest prices on the Bird Friendly list, which may be a deciding factor for some coffee buyers.
Certifications: Bird Friendly, USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified, Cafe Feminino
Price: As low as $11.00 per 12 oz bag or $58.18 per 5 lb bag. Save 5% with subscription.
Why we love this brand: This husband and wife duo founded Caffe Ibis Coffee in 1985 with quality and sustainability in mind. In addition to making certified sustainable coffee, they support local and global environmental causes with their business.
Certifications: Bird Friendly, Rain Forest Alliance, Swiss Water Process, Fair Trade Certified
Price: $16 per 16 oz (1 lb) bag or $76 per 5 lb bag. Can set up subscription.
Why we love this brand: In addition to its ethical bean sourcing, Gold Country Roasters focuses on operating locally and sustainably. It also uses the chemical-free SWISS WATER Process to decaffeinate its coffee. It’s Bird Friendly coffee comes at a great price, too!
Certifications: Bird Friendly, Rain Forest Alliance, Fair Trade Certified
Price: $10-13 per 250g (9 oz) bag
Why we love this brand: Established in 2017, these self-proclaimed bird-nerds already have six Bird Friendly coffee roasts in their lineup. They also donate to conservation groups including Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Humane Animal Rescue and Cornell Institute of Ornithology.
Certifications: Bird Friendly, B Corp Certified, USDA Organic, FairTrade America
Price: $15 per 12 oz bag, $80 per 5 lb bag. Can setup reoccuring deliveries.
Why we love this brand: The only B Corp on the list, these roasters have infused sustainability into every aspect of their business and community outreach. Their “Cause Coffees” support endangered species like African gorillas, wild horses, wolves and bees.
Check out their award-winning Song Bird roasts that support the American Birding Association.
Certifications: Bird Friendly, USDA Organic, Fair Trade Federation Member
Price: $19.99 per 16 oz (1 lb). Free shipping on all coffee. Subscribe to save 10% on each bag.
Why we love this brand: Two words: Omnidegradable bags. This young startup has just one roast and it is certified sustainable up the wazoo. Between the free shipping, subscription discount, and 1 lb bags, it’s one of the best bang-for-your-buck options on the list!
Certifications: Bird Friendly, USDA Organic, Rain Forest Alliance, Fair Trade, International Women’s Coffee Alliance, Cafe Feminino
Price: $15-20 per 12 oz bag; $80-95 per 5 lb bag. Free shipping for orders over $25.
Why we love this brand: This roaster lives up to its name by needing more than a few ampersands to put between it’s organic, fair trade, women’s empowerment & sustainability certifications. It donates .5% of all global revenue to International Women’s Coffee Alliance and 5 cents from every pound of coffee it purchases to Cafe Feminino.
Common Coffee Certifications
Smithsonian Bird Friendly — The gold standard certification for coffee that comes from diverse forest ecosystems with canopy trees that provide bird habitat and carbon sequestration. “Bird Friendly coffees are also certified organic, meaning they are grown without the use of chemical pesticides that are harmful to the environment.”
Bird Friendly coffees are 100 percent pure (no dilution from uncertified beans or additives) and shade-grown, which results in a “richer, more complex flavor.” (Just ask Seattle coffee guru David Schomer).
Fair Trade Certified — A set of standards that ensures sustainable income, empowerment, community well-being and environmental stewardship in transactions and production of goods.
USDA Organic — “Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.”
Rain Forest Alliance — Awarded to businesses that meet “rigorous environmental and social standards.” RFA does not consider shade criteria or organic practices, and its standards are not as strict as Bird Friendly. However, it signifies meaningful efforts toward sustainability and ethical practices.
Feature photo from the Smithsonian. Copyright Emeraldology 2020.