The Importance of Sustainability

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As demand for sustainable shopping alternatives increases, The Leith Collective prepares to come back even bigger than before


Lockdown restrictions may be easing, but one person hoping the temporary pause in human activity over the past few months may prove to have a long-lasting, positive effect on consumer behaviour is Sara Thomson, founder of The Leith Collective.

The Leith Collective comprises more than 90 artists and makers from all over Scotland, brought together by a common aim to reuse, recycle, reclaim, and resell items that may otherwise have been destined for landfill. Sustainability is at the heart of all they do, and their approach is proving popular with consumers whose eyes have been opened to the issue during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, The Leith Collective has moved to bigger premises in Edinburgh’s Ocean Terminal to accommodate this increase in demand.

Commenting on the link between the coronavirus pandemic and the increase in awareness of sustainability, Thomson explained; ‘I think there are a number of factors at play. Firstly, with shops and attractions closed, more people have explored their local countryside, and thanks to the reduction in traffic, wildlife has flourished and birdsong heard more clearly. All this has helped many people connect with nature as never before.

‘Secondly, with many people on furlough enjoying more time on their hands, we’ve seen a marked increase in hobbies such as gardening which naturally opens one’s eyes to sustainability.

‘Thirdly, the closing of the rubbish dumps may have presented some people with a stark realisation of just how much we throw away without thought. I believe it has no doubt spurred some people on to consider how many household items could potentially be repurposed.’

The Leith Collective is anticipating an increase in the number of customers wanting to embrace a more sustainable way of shopping and living as they prepare to open the doors to their larger premises on Monday 13th July. The all-new Leith Collective store features an outdoor area, with increased space to shop whilst safely socially distancing. 

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The new shop location is just the latest way The Leith Collective has successfully pivoted in light of the coronavirus pandemic. When Lockdown restrictions were first announced, The Leith Collective launched an online shop and offered local delivery throughout the Scottish capital. They then turned their attention to making a range of reusable masks, created using recycled material – designed to offer a sustainable alternative to disposable masks, with the added bonus that it would help keep their resident makers in business.

The success of this initiative has been tremendous – not only has it provided a genuine lifeline to many makers not eligible for government assistance, The Leith Collective was also able to donate hundreds of pounds worth of masks to children in care and care leavers, and give proceeds to the mental health charity, North East Edinburgh Counselling Service. 

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