Organic Couch Potato Portfolio

Investing comes with risk. This article is a general discussion of the merits and risks associated with these ETFs, not a specific recommendation. Speak to an investment professional and make sure your portfolio is diversified. Tim Nash owns shares of PZD and a Solar Bond in his personal portfolio. Tim does not own shares of the other ETFs mentioned in this article.

This portfolio is a simple version of a typical Canadian Couch Potato portfolio, but uses funds that incorporate a strong sustainability lens.  The portfolio is very diversified, yet places a strong bet on the emergence of a low-carbon economy.  The total annual cost of this portfolio is 0.24%. The weighted average carbon intensity of this portfolio is 55.31 tons of CO2 per million dollars in revenue.


Asset Class


Name and website
Canadian Equity 15% iShares ESG Advanced MSCI Canada Index ETF
US Equity 15% iShares ESG Advanced MSCI USA Index ETF
Int'l Equity (developed) 10% iShares ESG Advanced MSCI EAFE Index ETF
Int'l Equity (emerging) 5% iShares ESG Advanced MSCI EM ETF
Green Equity 15% Invesco Cleantech™ ETF
Canadian Bonds 30% BMO Government Bond Index ETF
Solar Bonds 10% SolarShare Community Bonds


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Showing 16 reactions

commented 2021-02-26 16:44:11 -0500
I spoke to Invesco, and they told me that individual securities are capped at 5% (thank goodness) in the msci global environment select index, compared to the msci global environment index which has Tesla at 40%.

Will need to confirm after the 1st day of trading when the new index kicks in, but I feel much better about it.
commented 2021-02-19 09:55:35 -0500
Like Wendi Davis said, pzd will change, and with 40% of Tesla this etf will not be really diversified.

Tesla value is really high right now, and if it drop all the etf will fall. Personally I would like to find another etf but with more Equal Weighted stock.

Anyone know another interesting option?
commented 2021-02-18 02:19:14 -0500
Also – Solar Bonds only offering to residents of Ontario.
commented 2021-02-18 01:53:14 -0500
Investco Cleantech is changing March 24, 2021 to a new fund, with new holdings based on the msci global environment select index – of which almost 40% is Tesla. May need to assess for strategy and balance here.
commented 2021-02-08 14:59:11 -0500
Nice to see that you have updated this portfolio with the Ishare advanced ESG ETF! Thanks again for your work Tim.
commented 2019-12-12 08:44:01 -0500
Desjardin has a new line of ESG ETFs including a couple low-fee index options as well as a Fossil-Free fund would be interested to hear your take on them.
commented 2019-05-15 01:27:09 -0400
I’m curious to see what you think of the new RBC ishares ESG ETFs. Especially XSAB vs XEN. XSAB has an MER of 0.18. Are they not the same otherwise?
commented 2018-05-27 17:20:04 -0400
Another broad-based all-government ETF which recently became available is the BMO Government Bond Index ETF (ticker ZGB). It has very similar characteristics to XGB, but its MER is currently lower at 0.17%.
commented 2018-02-08 08:53:53 -0500
Hi Tim.
I’m in the process of moving my entire portfolio to a “couch potato” model, and am very happy to have come across your site as a resource for adding some sustainability to it.
When it comes to fixed income, I love the idea of community bonds, but are you aware of anything that’s compatible with registered accounts? I’m young enough not to be bothering with any unregistered accounts, and the cost of buying a “small” $5000 CoPower bond inside my Questrade account, for instance, is significant.
commented 2017-07-05 15:55:05 -0400
Tim, I’m wondering why you would go for XGB for bonds with 0.39% MER when there is is iShares 1-10 Year Laddered Government Bond Index ETF (CLG) at 0.17% MER.
commented 2017-04-20 21:42:55 -0400
Hi. Thanks for these ideas about more sustainable funds. Are there any updates on the Organic Couch Potato Portfolio, or would you still suggest the same funds and split as in 2013. Have you done any comparisons of returns compared to those in the MoneySense Couch Potato portfolios? Thanks!
commented 2016-12-26 11:07:16 -0500
iShares opened ESG-focused Index ETFs for International Developed and International Emerging equity markets in June 2016.

ESGD: (MER 0.40%)
ESGE: (MER 0.45%)

Each of these ETFs has the same proxy voting policy as the iShares US Equity ETFs (KLD and DSI).
(Additional link in case one above stops working:
commented 2015-06-15 16:19:17 -0400
We all have to do our homework. It’s still buyer beware, even with good-looking ESG products. There’s a bit of green-washing in the marketing materials. So we still need to look past the nice pictures to the basics of the offer and the costs involved.

Maybe I’m grumpy, but I find the very high MERs (almost 3% per year!) and the other fees involved with Meritas products just outrageous. Why are their fees so high? Some other firms do the same screening for less money. Does the Meritas business model expect buyers to pay a premium for being sin-free? If someone knows why their fees are so high, please let me know.

If you do want to buy mutual funds, the Inhance products (recommended elsewhere on this site) from Clarington Investments offer much cheaper MERs – if you can afford to buy $10K to start (and even lower when you buy $100K to start). No matter how much you buy to start, you still have to pay a trailing commission up front. And watch out for switching fees and redemption fees. They can be sizable. Once you buy Inhance products, plan to leave your money there for a long time (5-10 years or more) or you’ll eat up your returns with fees.

I admired the online marketing for the SolarShare project. Then I found the 5% return they offered for Community Bonds. I think that’s far too modest.

Are these Bonds just intended as symbolic gifts for kids? Ontario is paying a high rate per Kwh for solar electricity under the feed-in-tariff through the MicroFIT and FIT programs. These are 20 year contracts! So who in the SolarShare project is making the real money? Community Bond holders will feel good, but as a little investor, it seems to me they are being penalized with an excessively low return. I suppose 5% is decent compared with Canada Savings Bonds and interest on most savings accounts but the project could have been a lot fairer. If anyone knows why the return to SolarShare Community Bonds is so low, please share your insights.

Even ZooShare Community Bondholders do better at 7%. This is about the long-term average return on the stock market. That seems a fairer return to me. It’s still not optimal. People making decent money are the ZooShare Founders Club members at 11 or 12% since they put up $10K or more at the start, when there was more risk to them of the project not getting off the ground.

Buyer beware.
commented 2015-06-03 00:53:49 -0400
A quick tip for anyone looking to buy the Meritas International Equity Fund (or any other Meritas mutual fund) online through Qtrade Investor: the F-Series funds don’t appear when using the Symbol Lookup tool when you go to purchase a fund. However, you can still purchase the F-series if you manually type in the F-Series Fund Codes:

commented 2015-03-26 15:03:33 -0400
Hi Tim, I’m considering setting up a portfolio similar to this one. Have there been any changes with respect to the availability of socially responsible international equity ETFs over the past couple years? Are there any other ETFs/mutual funds you would suggest looking into that aren’t listed above? Thanks for the great work.
commented 2013-12-24 02:53:27 -0500
Thank you
Don't let your money do things you wouldn't