Tapping birdwatchers to promote bird-friendly coffee consumption and conserve birds.

Published online
28 Oct 2021
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Williams, A. & Dayer, A. A. & Hernandez-Aguilera, J. N. & Phillips, T. B. & Faulkner-Grant, H. & Gómez, M. I. & Rodewald, A. D.
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1. Though coffee was traditionally grown as an understory crop beneath mature trees (i.e. 'shade-grown' coffee), most farms have been converted to full-sun monocultures over time, which fail to support ecosystem services or biodiversity. The conversion from shade- to sun-grown coffee has prompted the development of environmentally focused certifications, such as Smithsonian Bird Friendly® coffee, as one market-based strategy to incentivize sustainable production of coffee. 2. Birdwatchers, of which there are 45 million in the US alone, are among the primary targets for coffee certifications-partly due to their high propensity to participate in and pay for conservation activities that benefit birds. Yet birdwatchers still represent a small market share of certifications, and their purchasing preferences relatively unknown. In 2016, we administered an online survey to 912 donors and/or members of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology who self-identified as coffee drinkers and 'birdwatchers' to assess their familiarity with, receptivity to purchase, and perceived constraints on purchasing certified coffee. 3. Nearly half (49%) of respondents reported considering bird habitat when purchasing coffee. However, only 38% of respondents were familiar with the Smithsonian Bird Friendly® certification and only 9% reported purchasing it. Consumers who were older, female, and more skilled at birdwatching were more likely to consider birds when purchasing coffee, whereas those with higher levels of education were less likely. The highest rated constraints on buying bird-friendly coffee were lack of awareness, cost, and lack of availability. 4. Because most birdwatchers considered both social and environmental impacts when purchasing coffee, they may be a promising market segment for many coffee certifications. Indeed, about half of the birdwatchers purchased organic (50%) and Fair Trade® (52%) certifications. 5. Our results suggest that uptake of bird-friendly coffee may be strengthened by better communicating the impact of coffee production on bird habitat, the unique attributes of bird-friendly coffee (including the high-quality taste), differences among certification standards and credibility, and easy ways to find and purchase bird-friendly coffee.

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