By Barbara Kessler

Ever get the feeling when reading about green endeavors that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, so much as learn to appreciate the original design?

Take the case of coffee. You may not know it when you grab your joe in the morning, but it was grown in one of two ways, the traditional method in which the coffee plants are cultivated under a protective canopy of trees that shade them from the sun and harsh rains, or the newer method of planting under the bare sky, sans trees.

You’re probably way ahead of me here already. Yes, the new method increases yields, and short term profitability, but it is not an improvement, at least not for the environment. It worsens erosion, soil nutrient depletion, requires chemical pesticidcoffeebagarborday.jpges and trees may be lost as land is cleared to make way for the coffee.

Shade grown coffee plantations, by contrast, rely on time-tested, environmentally friendly methods like letting the canopy trees provide the natural mulch to enrich the soil, reduce pests and cool the roots of the coffee plants. Luckily, this is still the way the majority of Central American coffee is grown and the preferred method for many small, family-owned operations.

Oh, and those shade trees, turns out they also support several species of migratory birds. Bird lovers can read more at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological website.

Funny how nature works pretty well, when left to work.

So what can you, the concerned coffee consumer do? You can buy shade-grown coffee. Fittingly, one source for shade coffee is that stalwart of trees, The National Arbor Day Foundation.

As part of its Save the Rainforest campaign, the Arbor Day Foundation offers a monthly coffee subscription program for consumers that sends freshly roasted organic, Fair Trade Certified coffee, either ground or whole bean, to your door. The 10 ounce bags of coffee are $8.95 a month plus shipping.

For more choices in coffee flavors try Grounds for Change, the cleverly named Washington company that sells Fair Trade Certified, organic, shade-grown coffee from Central and South America and Ethiopia. Grounds for Change strives to be environmentally conscious in all its activities. It recycles coffee chaff as natural fertilizer, composts leftover coffee grounds and contributes to environmental concerns as a member of 1% For The Planet.

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