Shade Grown Coffee
South Okanagan Nature Shade Grown Coffee shade grown coffee
(January 2011) Nature Wise – Nature Wise Resolutions

It’s hard to believe that we are already into the year 2011 – it seems like only yesterday we were amazed that we were already into 2010. Time does fly! Apropos of this, remember that: “the only thing you can’t recycle is wasted time!”

So without wasting any more time let’s talk about everybody’s favorite New Year topic – New Year’s resolutions! Most resolutions people make deal with self- improvement – quit smoking, exercise more, lose weight, be friendlier, etc. I would like to suggest a few resolutions that will help the environment in different ways.

First on the list is for cat owners: resolve to keep your cat indoors all the time! Domestic cats wreak havoc on wild birds. Numerous studies have been done on how many wild birds are killed each year by domestic and feral cats and the numbers are astounding with estimates that as many as 100 million birds are killed in North America each year by cats. When combined with the many other threats facing our bird populations, such loss can do irreparable harm. Cat owners can do birds a favour and keep their cat indoors. Many cities are now recognizing that cats need to be licenced and controlled. Established cat licensing programs currently exist in many Canadian cities including Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Toronto and Ottawa.

Our next resolution is for coffee drinkers: If you are a coffee drinker and you claim to love birds then you must drink shade grown coffee. Most coffee today is grown in large plantations devoid of any living thing except coffee trees, but it wasn’t always so. Up until the 1970s most coffee grown in Central and South America was grown in the traditional manner in shady forests. Only with the advent of large scale techno-farms did coffee growers switch over to sunny plantations with no other trees. Compared to shade plantations, sun-coffee farms are virtual biological deserts with studies showing 90% fewer birds in the sun-coffee plantations. Since a very large percentage of Canadian birds winter in the tropics, this is important to our birds. The benefit of shade grown coffee was easy to verify by myself and friends when we went birding in Costa Rica a few years ago and found numerous birds in the shade-grown coffee farms but very few on the sun farms. An additional benefit is that much shade-grown coffee is also fair-trade coffee which certifies that the farmers have been paid a fair price for their beans. Do the birds, the environment and the indigenous farmers a favour – resolve to drink only shade-grown coffee (even better is shade grown, fair-trade organic coffee). Virtually every major grocery store in Penticton, as well as the specialty stores, carries these coffees and while they do cost slightly more, the benefits far outweigh the costs!

Finally our last resolution is for gardeners. It is no secret that invasive plants are a real problem in the south Okanagan – so much so that the RDOS has to spend our tax dollars in the fight against these invaders. Invasive plants cost millions of dollars a year in lost pasture, disturbed habitat and reduced crops. In addition they severely degrade the native habitat. The sad thing is that while some invasive plants have arrived here by accident, many, such as baby’s-breath, have been purposely introduced. Some of our nurseries continue to sell plants that can easily become highly invasive. Especially bad are many prepared wild flower mixes. So before you plant something new in your garden check it out on-line or with the RDOS to ensure you aren’t potentially helping another invader gain a foothold.

The South Okanagan Naturalists’ Club meets each month on the fourth Thursday of the month so our January meeting will be on January 27. Meetings are held in the basement hall of the Penticton United Church on Main Street at 7:30PM. The speaker for January is Gregg Howald, North America Regional Director of Island Conservation, an organization whose mission is to prevent more extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. Gregg is one of the world’s foremost experts in island restoration. All are welcome.
Nature Wise