A Money Coach in Canada

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2081507418_4f7aaeb7eb_t.jpgI’m increasingly convinced that the defining question by which future generations will judge us – if we make it – is: how profoundly did we humanoids change our ways as we learned about the impact we are having on our biosphere?

Like you, my life is frenetic hectic, I don’t have a lot of time for intensive research, and often I can’t figure out which products/initiatives are in fact better for the earth, and which are just marketing hype, or, which seem like better choices on the surface, but actually aren’t, when you get all the facts.

Here are 5 simple shopping choices I make that are heading in the right direction.

  1. I buy fair-trade, shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee. I had no idea until about a year ago (I’m woefully uninformed sometimes!) that swaths of rainforest are being stripped for coffee plants. That means more pesticides, more ferilizer plus of course loss of bird habitat. So shade-grown, fair trade for me – yes, I pay extra, but after all, caffeine is pure luxury.
  2. I buy organic. I make it easy on myself by using SPUD delivery. They have the additional benefit of letting my know how far my food travelled, and I get points (redeemable for cash) for choosing items that are grown locally. (does your city have the SPUD equivalent? Could you leave a comment with its name?) To me, organic is no longer optional – it’s to prevent toxics from going into my body, and also to reduce the amount of leeching in the soil.
  3. I use method cleaning products. Actually, I discovered them by accident – grabbed it off the store shelf in a rush because it looked, well, clean, and later discovered their commitment to using non-toxic means of creating shiny, happy surfaces.
  4. I re-use, and re-use and re-use bags & baggies. I can barely stand throwing them out anymore (I feel like a total loser, leaving that plastic for future generations to deal with). When I shop, I try to remember to bring my cloth bag.
  5. I use aveda hair product.
  6. Bonus tip: I bank at a virtual bank – no carbon footprint! (or hardly any). (full disclosure: I work there, part-time)

These are attempts at doing better for my habitat, but not nearly enough. I’m getting further inspiration from “BadHuman” in Colorado or Saving4Later who avoids the whole issue by pretty much not buying, period, and also, going to shows like the upcoming EPIC.

What products do you buy, that you’re quite sure is the genuine article, not just fake-green?

ps: if you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy this one.

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. 1. I do not eat meat. When you read what resources it takes to grow, process, and transport a pound of meat, it becomes very convincing that reduced consumption of meat is the single most effective green step anyone can take.
    2. I walk instead of drive whenever possible. This is a big commitment because I live on the edge of the country and distances are far. Good for the earth, good for my health. And, on that note, it’s pretty much certain that if a choice is good for one’s health, it tends to be good for the earth.
    3. Like you, I use my own bins and bags at stores. I clean with safe products. I choose appliances with excellent energy star ratings. I research personal products for green-liness and safety (it’s shocking what harmful ingredients are allowed in skin products, for example).
    4. I am careful with my money. I try to shop just for things I need (versus want). I pay myself first. I keep savings. I stick within a budget. How is this green? I don’t drive to the mall to shop each week for stuff I don’t need (less waste, less landfill); my money becomes more powerful when it stays in my own pocket (if you don’t spend it needlessly you don’t have to work more to replace it). I consider where I’m spending my money, and try to support greener initiatives/suppliers where possible.
    5. I rarely waste food. I’m very careful to make sure I buy what I need, take good care of it (properly storing fresh fruits and veggies), and eat them. The peelings and choppings go to compost for my organic garden.
    6. I shovel the snow instead of using a snowblower. It’s good exercise and the amount of stink and pollution from my neighbors’ snowblowers is really startling. Gas mowers and chainsaws are another big concern…
    7. Electronics: I wait until items wear out rather than discarding them for the latest and greatest upgrades. A person could go broke keeping up with the changes and e-waste is a huge global concern. There’s bad stuff in these gadgets!
    8. I could go on and on…. Great topic! Not sure that I’ve given my top ones since it’s hard to always know that impact when green choices tend to be preventative.


    Mar 04, 2008
  2. I wish I lived in an area where a lot of local produce was available year round! I don’t eat organic because so very little is available here and I don’t see the benefits of eating organically 1% of the time. If it were readily available (and local), you can bet I’d be buying it.
    Make sure to wash and double wash your organic produce before you eat it. While there are no synthetic pesticides used, they can still use biological ones… also, there shouldn’t really be a problem with the compost, but you want to make sure you take precautions just like you would conventional produce (people often think organic is risk free.. that’s not the case).

    I bought the Method cleaning products too before I realized how environmentally friendly they were 🙂

    I bring my reusable bags with me too or if I go in for just 1 or 2 items, I’ll just put in my purse (if it fits) or carry it out with just my receipt. I hate using the plastic bags too!

    I’m going to check out the coffee too… there are a few Canadian companies that are good… Kicking Horse and Just Us!, I think?


    Mar 04, 2008
  3. @canadiansaver – my ignorance is apparent again – I’ve been really sloppy about washing the produce (washing lettuce/spinach is my least favourite pastime). Tx for the reminder. And let me know what coffee you settle on. I’m still hoping for a TimHorton’s tasting one.
    @melissa – you’re fiscally aware and responsible? and you make spending choices that align with keeping earth healthy? ummm… would you please run for prime minister?


    Mar 04, 2008
  4. I know people’s hearts are in the right place but I wish others wouldn’t take advantage of that.

    There’s a book called the Undercover Economist that talks about price targeting. Basically, stores target people who are willing to pay more for being green by having clever marketing ploys or by having strategic displays of goods. Just a caution that the premium you are paying is not always justified.

    If the book is available in your local library, check it out. Or, here’s a quick synopsis.


    Mar 04, 2008
  5. @mariam – read the synopsis – really interesting! will check out the book, for sure, and probably post about it. It’s hard work sifting through the fake-greens from the genuinely-doing-something-better. I have one advantage: a female priest at my (anglican) church personally visits a fair-trade organic coffee farm, so I can get the beans from her and have good confidence that it’s the genuine ethical deal.


    Mar 04, 2008
  6. Warren

    Of the two main cultivated species of coffee plant, arabica is much less bitter and has more flavour than robusta. The arabica plant thrives in shade. Coincidentally, the arabica bean is the favoured one for most speciality or gourmet coffees. As Nancy has pointed out, some growers have ripped out natural forestation, which provides shade, in order to speed the growth of the crop. Quality roasters avoid these beans as the taste is negatively impacted.

    However, many shade grown coffees worth sampling are not advertised as shade grown. It is most often taken for granted that quality beans are shade grown. Ask when you buy. If they don’t know, find another source for your beans.

    Do look for fair-trade beans. We want to support the farmers that are growing great beans so they have the means to continue doing so. One local roaster is involved in a Habitat for Humanity program, where they contribute, with the help of their customers, to building homes in the regions where they purchase coffee from.

    And, if I might suggest, consider buying your coffee from a local roaster. Coffee purchased from a large coffee chain or grocery store is shipped to a central processor and roaster. The beans are roasted and packaged and wait in a warehouse to be shipped to Vancouver, where they are held in a warehouse until they are shipped to the outlet or store.

    Coffee from a local roaster reduces the stops made by the bean as it travels around the world, which reduces its energy cost. Locally roasted is usually sent straight to the retail outlet. And it is much. much fresher. A cup of coffee made from beans roasted within the past two weeks tastes much better than a bean roasted two months ago, no matter how it was packaged.

    A couple of good local roasters to check out are JJ Bean and 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters. Both are committed to the ideals in Nancy articulated in her post, both are based in Vancouver and both roast coffee that has the subtleties of a good wine.

    Just a few quick thoughts that I hope someone finds useful.


    Mar 05, 2008
  7. Warren – wow! – you know your stuff about that elixir of life: coffee. Thanks for your comments; there’s a JJ Bean on powell street nearby. I’ll see what they offer.


    Mar 06, 2008
  8. Warren

    The JJ Bean on Powell Street is their roasting facility. Buying a half or full pound there will reduce the energy cost by one step in the transportation process. As I write, I’m enjoying a cup I just made with JJ roasted beans.

    And if anyone if heading to Squamish or Whistler, stop at Galleleo’s in Britannia Beach. The owner, Lance, roasts great coffee on site and his staff makes great Americanos.



    Mar 06, 2008

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