Eating, drinking and shopping local feels great, and it’s even more rewarding when you’re supporting social, community and environmental causes at the same time! Between coffee, pet treats, housewares and great meals, there are many ways to put your money where your heart is in Canada’s capital. Treat yourself and others by supporting these Ottawa-based do-good businesses.
Coffee and cafés
Hot beverages and yummy baked goods, such as carrot cake and gingerbread, are also on the menu at the OWL Café, which hires people on the autism spectrum to become bakers and baristas.
When you tuck into a sweet or savoury oatmeal bowl at Oat Couture, you’re helping to support the restaurant’s OC Breakfast Club, which each morning sets out free takeaway bags of oatmeal for anyone who needs one.
In other local stores and cafés, keep an eye out for Birch Bark Coffee, as proceeds from its organic, free trade coffee help provide clean water to Indigenous households.
You can also look for the colourful cat logo on bags of java from The Artery Community Roasters, where people with disabilities roast ethically sourced coffee in environmentally friendly ways.
Food and drink items
Part of the proceeds from locally made Westboro Granola—available at local shops like Noor Food Market and NU Grocery—supports the Bethany Hope Centre’s programs for pregnant teens and young families.
Expand your recipe repertoire with African spice mixes from Thirteen, such as Somalian xawaash and Congolese piri piri. A project of the Parkdale Food Centre, Thirteen helps youth develop job skills and entrepreneurial experience. The spices are available in several Ottawa shops.
Why not improve your gut flora and the community at the same time? Carlington Booch brews kombucha in flavours such as root beer and ginger, while also providing jobs and volunteer opportunities to people coming out of addiction treatment.
The Dreammind Group runs multiple Ottawa restaurants and bars, including the chic Waverley and the opulent Moscow Tea Room. And its Noor Food Market in Westboro Village is a great place to shop for local goodies like Tastes of Temptation jams and Mansfield Woods cutting boards. However, behind the scenes, the group has also founded Operation Ramzieh, a charity that supplies food kits to people in need within Ottawa and elsewhere.
Food for Thought provides meals to Ottawans who can’t cook at home for various reasons. Chef Joe Thottungal of Indian restaurant Thali is one of the initiative’s directors and has cooked thousands of meals for the program. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fairmont Château Laurier Hotel opened its kitchens to Food for Thought. And chefs from a variety of other local businesses—including Thyme & Again food shop and North & Navy Italian restaurant—have also volunteered their time and skills.
At the Feline Café, you can cuddle—and even adopt—rescue kitties as you enjoy coffee and snacks. Profits from the shop—which also sells cat supplies and feline-themed stationery, mugs, and other gifts— are used to care for foster cats until they find homes.
Local independent pet stores are the place to find Hearty Tails Gourmet Pet Treats, locally sourced treats made by people with developmental disabilities. Proceeds help support the Ottawa Therapy Dogs program.
Antiques, housewares and more
The shop at Highjinx—packed with treasures such as vintage coffee tins and antique toys—helps support the community hub’s services for vulnerable people, including a food bank.
Unique jewellery, pottery and wooden products are available in the two boutiques run by Grow Studios, which trains and employs people with disabilities. (Their products are also available at Maker House, an Ottawa store that carries Canadian-made products exclusively and donates a portion of its sales to community projects.)
EcoEquitable makes and sells unique items—such as capes, duffel bags and fanny packs—from repurposed flags and fabrics. And crafters, take note: the organization also sells donated fabric, patterns, sewing notions and more at reasonable prices. Revenues support its sewing programs for new Canadians and vulnerable individuals.
Eco friendly goods
If you’re trying to be more environmentally conscious, visit NU Grocery, a small Ottawa chain of zero-waste stores that carries bulk items, locally made kimchi, honey, soap and much more.
Another eco-minded Ottawa chain, Terra 20, sells a wide range of environmentally friendly and cruelty-free goods, from bedding and beauty products to tote bags and yoga mats.
Looking to compost but lacking outdoor space? The Box of Life builds indoor composters from local, sustainably grown cedar. The social enterprise also spreads awareness about worm composting by donating some of its bins to classrooms.