The Eco Larder is a zero-waste social enterprise food store in the Haymarket area of Edinburgh. It opened in November 2018 after a successful crowdfunding campaign helped the couple to raise £23,000. Their vision was inspired by their daughter, who was only six months old at the time. “She’s a really big driver for why we do what we do,” explains Stephanie. “We just wanted to bring her up in a world that takes better care of the planet than we have been seeing over our lifetime.”
Juggling a newly established business and a small child is a challenge. Add a global pandemic into this mix? “It was total chaos”, laughs Stephanie, who is currently staying on the Isle of Bute with her mother and daughter. They travelled there before any of the lockdown restrictions came into force so that her mother, who shares their flat in Edinburgh, could recover from a period of ill health, which included a week in intensive care.
Until she is able to return to Edinburgh, Stephanie is handling ordering for the store remotely while Matthew keeps the shop doors open with the help of assistant Charlotte Wood.
Yet despite the physical divide, they have worked together to adapt their business model as circumstances changed. As soon as the store’s local Post Office shut, for example, they stopped orders of lifestyle products through the website. They also reduced the store’s opening hours to manage deliveries and the extra cleaning now required.
The couple are both qualified yoga instructors and have a studio at the back of the store. While the physical classes have had to come to an end for now, Matthew is managing to find time on Sundays to offer a Zoom class for their regular yogis who are still keen for their weekly fix.
The lockdown has resulted in more positive innovations too. As well as introducing cargo bike deliveries, The Eco Larder now offers click-and-collect. “It’s a contactless service,” says Stephanie. “We leave the goods outside the shop for people. That’s been really popular now that lockdown is easing.”
Although this has been a challenging time, The Eco Larder has thrived. The store has remained open seven days a week and turnover rose by almost 22% in one month alone. Much of this extra custom has come from people who are new to The Eco Larder and the concept of a zero-waste store, allowing Matthew and Stephanie to share their vision with a wider audience.