Protected Places Declaration

Preserving wild places on a Bird Friendly® coffee farm in Nicaragua

We are proud to announce today that we are an Endorsing Organization of the Protected Places Declaration. This Declaration urges the Ontario and Canadian Governments to to protect at least 17 percent of the Canada’s land and inland waters by 2020. Both Governments have already committed to this target, now it is up to us to help them keep their promises. Too often, we all agree to do the right thing, only to have it fail during the implementation – we must not let it fail this time. We must protect our wilderness while we still have a wilderness to protect.

Why does this matter?

In Canada, we have been blessed with an abundance of Natural Resources and we have built one of the world’s leading economies by harnessing those resources and, until now, we have done so with little regard to how much of those resources we have consumed in the process. It has been like a party that never ends. One day, the party will be over. Our land and water sustain us. They are part of a complex system that produce our food, water and the air we breathe. How much can we destroy before everything collapses?

Why is Birds & Beans taking a position?

We know what you are thinking – we roast coffee, so why do we care about protecting land and water? Well, a little over 15 years ago, we chose to create a company that could demonstrate that it is possible to have a company that helps to protect the environment and make a living doing so. Protecting habitat is one of our core values and we are always looking for ways to do this, whether big or small.

Our core product, Certified Bird Friendly coffee, preserves valuable habitat with every bag we sell. This habitat provides homes for many creatures – including essential winter habitat for our migratory songbirds – and hence its name. Preserving that habitat has an impact far beyond the forests of South & Central America as it helps to preserve the populations of songbirds and that are now returning to their North American breeding grounds.  The more of our coffee that you buy, the more habitat we save. Together, we can make a real difference.

Other companies don’t do this – you will see larger companies make some token gestures but they hide behind the veil of “maximizing shareholder value” as a reason for not doing more. We take a broader view of shareholder value and some of our shareholder value resides in the forests, parks and gardens of North, Central and South America. We ask other companies to join us as we can’t do it alone.

Want to help?

Sign the petition and share it with your friends and ask them to sign too. More information is here.

Have your group or company join other forward looking organizations and become a Protected Places Partner

For those of you who live in Ontario – there is an election taking place – ask your candidates if they will support the Protected Places Declaration if they are elected. Let them know it matters – we will be expecting the next Government to make sure this target is met.

Misleading Menus

Last week, news surfaced that a Toronto Restaurant was misleading its customers by claiming that dishes and certain ingredients were special in terms of being premium, organic or local when they weren’t.

Factory farmed eggs were sold as “Free Range Eggs”, Farmed Atlantic Salmon was claimed to be “BC Organic Salmon” and Quaker Harvest Crunch was sold as “organic granola”. For more details, see the article from the Toronto Star

Many people are willing to pay a premium for special products such as these and so for the unscrupulous vendor, there’s an opportunity to increase price without increasing their costs by engaging in a little creative menu writing. We find this to be very disappointing and it raises the question of how can you be sure that the claims on a menu or a package are true?

There are two major ways to protect yourself from being a victim of false labels:

1) Look and ask for Certifications

While it is possible to claim that a product is certified when it is not, there are checks and balances in legitimate certification systems that help you determine that product claims have been verified.

In our case, we are a certified Organic Coffee Roaster and we publish our Organic certificate annually.  Our certifier, Ecocert Canada, verifies each organic claim we make. We are required to maintain meticulous records.  We are inspected and our records are checked every year to ensure we are compliant with Canadian Organic regulations. In the case of many certifications such Fair Trade and Bird Friendly, you can look up if the supplier is registered with the Certifier.

2) Ask about the Origins of the items

If a restaurant claims a product to be Organic or local or heirloom or special in any way, they should be prepared to explain the basis of the claim. So ask your server, if it is local, what farm did it come from? When? if it is organic, is it certified or how do they know it is really organic? The more people ask for details, the more difficult it will be for restaurants to mislead their customers.

Choosing sustainable, local, or artisanal foods can be rewarding in terms of tastes and the food experience and are often well worth the premium price, as long as we are getting the products that are being advertised.