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The Green Grind

Posted by Charlotte Johnstone / Posted on December 11, 2009

The Green Grind torontoThe Green Grind, a new cafe with an environmentally conscious mandate, opened in Little Italy this week.

The Green Grind SeatingCurious to see what this new addition could bring to the already rather caffeinated artery of Toronto that is College Street, I went in to see how the brew stacks up and to talk to owner Becky Dooley about the philosophy behind The Green Grind.

The Green GrindResiding one flight of stairs above street level on the corner of College and Manning, The Green Grind isn't terribly conspicuous. This makes it all the more surprising when you step up to the entrance and realize the wall-of-windows benefit that is gained by this slight elevation.

The Green Grind InteriorThe brightness of the interior is furthered by all white walls, punctured only by a long, communal table with bright orange chairs and the green-sided espresso machine that acts as a centerpiece. "I couldn't resist it," Dooley later tells me when I ask if the machine was almost too apt of a mascot "it was perfect."

The Green Grind Machine My cohort and I order a mocha and an americano respectively, while I eye the selection of loaves, cookies and brownies (all the food and coffee sold is organic, the coffee is also fair trade) eventually settling on a ginger snap cookie.

The Green Grind MochaDooley has a Master's in environmental studies and wanted to find a way to marry her background with her love of coffee. She eventually settled on opening a coffee shop so that there could be somewhere in Toronto where "people could enjoy coffee without feeling guilty about the associated waste," she explains. "I think most people want to minimize their impact on the environment and this is one (other) way of making it easy."

The Green Grind CookiesShe acknowledges that her choice of name has the potential to smack of green-washing to some people, but says that she couldn't let that sway her decision. "I don't want to hide what I'm trying to do," she says, "I just want people to come in and see what we're about for themselves."

The Green Grind RecyclingIn order to maximize the energy efficiency of the cafe they use low energy bulbs that are activated by a daylight sensor. They're also a client of Bullfrog Power.

Besides the usual BYO travel mug discount and recycling bins, The Green Grind also has a compost bin, uses only biodegradable cups and lids and has a policy of only using natural cleaning products in the cafe.

The Green Grind Cafe1% of all profits are donated to the environmental charity 1% for the planet, but the most extensive step Dooley has taken is registering The Green Grind for LEED certification. This involves having everything from the paint on the walls to their water consumption scrutinized.

The Green Grind DrinksShe felt this was an important step to underline her position that The Green Grind isn't a green lip-service operation. "It's not an easy process, but it means having third party validation that we're doing everything we can to be environmentally conscious," she says.

Getting back to the coffee, both the mocha and the americano are extremely good and the ginger snap cookie is deliciously sweet, light, and crunchy.

The Green Grind CansThere are plans to add sandwiches and more to the menu, as soon as a supplier can be found that has good organic options without a massive mark-up, as Dooley wants to keep everything reasonably priced. "I want students to be able to come here as well," she says. Hence the free wi-fi.

The Green Grind is now open, Mon-Fri 7a.m-7p.m, Sat/Sun 8a.m-8p.m.

Photos by Emma McIntyre



Ben Bell / December 11, 2009 at 06:29 pm
If they're so green and environmentally conscious, why do they have all those low level lights on in the middle of the day in those photos? People need to realise being green isn't just about organic produce, or ethically grown coffee, there's a whole cycle to everything.
Graham / December 11, 2009 at 11:08 pm
Another brilliant blogTO coffee shop review where there is no actual review of the coffee, or even any details about the coffee at the very least.
jamesdiggy / December 12, 2009 at 09:54 am
It doesn't seem to me that there's anything radically green"er" about this place. They use green shift, they donate some revenue, they use organic fair trade coffee - and so does every other environmentally conscious coffee shop in the city.
It's a lovely space and I'm sure they'll do well - but I would feel just as guilty enjoying a cup of joe here as I would anywhere else.
GCS replying to a comment from Graham / December 12, 2009 at 12:16 pm
I agree Graham, very little comment on the actual food and drink. Actually there is only about 2 paragraphs worth of text.
RJC replying to a comment from jamesdiggy / December 12, 2009 at 01:18 pm
Though I agree its fun to criticize cafes and restaurants from behind a computer screen, I'm not so sure about such a broad and selective claim. I'd be inclined to call LEED certification pretty radically green, especially when paired with other steps they have taken. This is a standard that few businesses of this size can claim, and I'd imagine isn't the easiest thing to get. I think it's cool that businesses are starting to pop up that can be environmentally-forwards that don't exude images of granola and hemp. Just a thought.
Phil / December 12, 2009 at 01:19 pm
My espresso was delicious, as was the baked good that I sampled.

As far as the green stuff goes, I'm not sure there are any other cafes that in the middle of LEED certification, but maybe I'm wrong.

Owner seemed really nice and passionate about what she's doing. I wish her the best and I'll be back.
Adrian / December 13, 2009 at 09:22 am
I applaud the owner for pursuing LEED certification - I know it is extremely expensive and will be a difficulty to overcome in the early days of this space.

I will support this cafe.

To the owners: Is it student friendly, in the sense that I can come and sit down with my laptop for 4 hours? I'll buy at minimum 4 coffees and 2 cookies :)
Jonathan / December 13, 2009 at 11:22 am
I think every coffee shop should offer Bring Your Own mug discounts; it's a great way to reduce waste and overhead and thus, is beneficial to all parties.
And James, all those things you mentioned (green shift, donate some revenue, use organic fair trade coffee) are great initiatives.
Just because they aren't necessarily breaking barriers, what they are doing is impressive considering this is only the starting point. With more business and new technology, the environmental aspects will expand.
I can't wait to go check this place out.
Sabrina / December 14, 2009 at 01:34 pm
I loved my visit to The Green Grind.

Like many, I have my favorite drink with several modifications wherever I go. But when presented with a whole new menu, wasn't sure what I should have. The girls behind the counter were fabulous and helped me to carefully select my drink, which turned out to be great.

The atmosphere was fantastic, I was able to sit down and accomplish much more work than I likely would have been able to in an hour's time elsewhere.

As far as the 'green' aspect goes. Having worked at a company which built an office for 400 that was eventually certified at a LEED gold standard, I know how stringent the guidelines are. It's not an easy feat to accomplish!

In short, I'll be frequenting The Green Grind for years to come.
Adrian / December 14, 2009 at 09:06 pm
I spent a damp Monday afternoon in this place with my laptop and a pile of papers working away. The coffee was great, the service was fun and a roaming carpet merchant tried to sell a fire truck red shag to the owner.

You can get mild or dark coffee, all organic-fair trade. I didn't ask, but they are definitely both arabica blends (which is good because robusta is generally trash). All that matters is that the mild was smooth, full and warm and the dark had a nice bitter-nutty taste to it (somewhere between Starbucks Pike and Second Cup's Dark).

The combination of free wifi, that huge table with lots of plugs around, up beat atmosphere with the girls laughing behind the counter and chill (not too loud, not too distracting) music the space was great to pound out some work.

Prices are very reasonable. For a moment I thought they were one of those sneaky (Evil-Empire, undercover Starbucks owned) coffee shops posing as locally owned because they had organic, local yummy apple bars for like three bucks.

All in all, this is a great place. It is a good addition to the cities eco-cafes in my opinion. The nice thing about this place is that its an alternative to the "eco-grunge" cafes like Tequila Bookworm with its rad, all white chic style.

I back this spot hard - will return.

Adrian / December 14, 2009 at 09:07 pm

Regarding that previous post - I'm not illiterate, I just wrote it quickly. Definitely should be "city's" and my sentences need some period buddies.
Janey Mack / January 4, 2010 at 06:03 pm
Loved this place! Went in on a very quiet cold New Years Eve day for a huge double americano, tasted addictive. Spent ages at the comfy hardwood table on my laptop, the girl was lovely, the music was perfect for a coffee shop (as in not too prozaic but not too overbearing). I kind of expected a holier than thou 'tude due to the whole environmental thing but was very very happy not to have felt any pretention at all. Unlike that goddamn Manic Coffee place which I am NEVER going back to- they act like you are lucky to be served by their rude staff at all. Up the Green Grind! Good luck to you! Great to have that view too. I hope it doesn't get too busy.
Julie / January 26, 2010 at 12:59 pm
Love everything about it, especially the initiative of being Green. Congratulations ladies, all the best!
April / June 23, 2010 at 09:53 am
Love love love the Americano!! And it's only $2!
Mike / February 9, 2011 at 11:20 am
Great place. I needed somewhere to get some work done in the downtown-ish area. The place was warm, the music excellent, americanos tasty and well priced, the service polite.

There was free wifi, and outlets for those needing them. On a Tuesday afternoon it was populated with a few people in their late 20s working quietly on their laptops.

I wouldn't recommend the Scarlet tea, but the teas are well priced and this is more a matter of personal taste. I'll try a different one next time. I'll definitely be back.
Bhrzi / April 16, 2011 at 07:38 pm
Great place. To study. To talk, and even to just sit down and enjoy the scenery.
Great coffee and delicious organic teas ( specially Scarlet tea).... I'd highly suggest it if you'd like to have some [me] time along with your book and music.
Davin replying to a comment from Ben Bell / May 1, 2011 at 08:49 am
Hi Ben,

I work there every day. The lights are actually on an automated system that tuns them off as soon as the ambient light hits a certain level. It's VERY efficient, and they are rarely used during the day. Perhaps they just had them on for a pretty photo :)

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