Edinburgh has its fair share of charity shops, but there are plenty of other businesses doing so much good in the city that you’ve probably never even noticed it.
Here are ten of our favourite local social enterprises and good cause organisations you can and will want to get involved with.
Probably Edinburgh’s (if not Scotland’s) most famous social enterprise – Social Bite is a sandwich shop with a seriously sweet business ideology. The two Edinburgh cafés serve food created by a Michelin starred chef, but one in four of the staff members are formerly homeless and every single penny of their profits goes to good causes. The business has a celebrity fan in actor George Clooney who visited Social Bite earlier this year.
Last Christmas Social Bite aimed to feed 800 homeless people and – thanks to donations – raised enough money to serve 35,000 turkey dinners. If you’re feeling generous you can donate a Christmas dinner (or two) again this year, or just pop in and buy a suspended coffee or sandwich for a homeless person to collect next time they need it.
131 Rose Street, EH2 3DT / 89 Shandwick Place, EH2 3DT – more info
The Bike Station
Our shop… ready for tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/rPeMgeeezr
— The Bike Station (@TheBikeStation) November 6, 2015
The history of The Bike Station goes back as far as the late 1990s when a group of parents arranged an informal bicycle swap for their kids who had outgrown their bikes. A fair few years and a couple of location changes later, The Bike Station is open five days a week and will sell you a pre-owned bike, teach you to maintain and fix your current set of wheels or simply take that old bike gathering dust in the shed off your hands. The organisation has a team of around 50 volunteers who help to run things and they’re always looking for a spare pair of hands.
250 Causewayside, EH9 1UU – more info
Edinburgh Blues Club
— Edinburgh Blues Club (@edinburghblues) December 5, 2015
A social enterprise unlike any other in the city, Edinburgh Blues Club was established in January 2014 with the aim of bringing more live blues music to Scotland’s capital. Their monthly gigs are usually held at The Voodoo Rooms and feature some of the hottest names in blues music from both the UK and further afield. Tickets for these individual shows go on sale to the general public, but Edinburgh Blues Club members pay £10 per month and receive free entry to each monthly gig in return. Members can also influence which acts are booked to perform in the monthly live slots, so you could end up seeing your very favourite blues band playing in your hometown.
The Voodoo Rooms, 19a West Register Street, EH2 2AA – more info
Remade in Edinburgh
Want to learn to repair that shirt, book or even computer rather than throwing it away and forking out for a new one? Head along to Remade in Edinburgh’s weekly Repair Surgery on a Wednesday evening and learn how to tackle the task from one of their expert menders. On top of that, you can book yourself into a workshop and master everything from making your own wallet from scratch to sussing out computer security. Believe it or not, the Repair Surgery is totally free to attend but small donations are encouraged to help keep this amazing resource running for all Edinburgh locals to take advantage of.
17 Guthrie Street, EH1 1JG – more info
Union of Genius
Soup profile – Coronation chicken. Here's a few words from Bruce on this beautifully bright soup! "Before we opened we did have quite a debate about whether to have any sort of sandwich option. Elaine used to wake up in the middle of the night fretting about it. Eventually we decided to stick with the courage of our convictions and do just soup. It felt right the minute we settled on it but as a challenge I wondered if we could take any classic sandwich fillings and turn them into soup. That way coronation chicken was born. It was on our first ever menu and has always been popular. Lightly curried, creamy chicken with sultanas for some sweetness. It's not our healthiest soup but it's utterly delicious in a slightly naughty way."
It isn’t a not-for-profit organisation but Union of Genius famously serve up ‘soup with a conscience’ in Edinburgh from both their Forrest Road café and their travelling soup van. As well as making some damn tasty soup and selling it to the public, Union of Genius also supply other Edinburgh cafés and businesses with their wares and donate soup to homeless people in the area. Much like Social Bite, if you’re stopping by for some lunch you’ll be more than welcome to buy a suspended soup on behalf of someone who needs it but can’t afford to pay.
8 Forrest Road, EH1 2QN – more info
Bit of a detour into Hadeel, the Palestinian Edinburgh fairtrade shop, while waiting for fireworks. pic.twitter.com/UfbEPiDixh
— Aileen McGibbon (@aileen_mcgibbon) November 22, 2015
Standing shoulder to shoulder with designer stores and upmarket restaurants on George Street, Hadeel is a Fair Trade shop that helps to provide a sustainable source of income for craftspeople living in Palestine. The shop sells everything from cushions and jewellery to food and soap, all made by people in the West Bank, Gaza, Galilee and Negev. Owned by Scottish charity Palcrafts, any surplus profit the shop makes goes towards small development grants to its producers, helping them to purchase anything from computers to sewing machines. Anyone can stop by and browse or – if you’d rather – simply make a donation to the charity by getting in touch.
123 George Street, EH2 4JN – more info
Life-Pod Clutter Management
"Life-Pod is a ray of hope in my life. Linda understands the root cause of the hurricane that is my life." #PersonCentredSupport
— Life-Pod (@lifepodCIC) October 30, 2015
Life-Pod don’t sell anything you can take home but they do offer some invaluable advice for anyone who needs it. Anyone suffering from conditions that result in chronic disorganisation or who has hoarding tendencies can get in touch with the team here for compassionate and non-judgemental help. Not got time to pay Life-Pod a visit? You can download their app on Apple or Android devices for free, set organisational goals and even receive support from an expert coach electronically.
55/2 Colinton Road, EH10 5EE – more info
Community interest company Breadshare has one simple but brilliant aim – to provide Edinburgh with delicious proud, made locally and using only natural ingredients. Breadshare was established in 2012 with a team of just three people but these days the Portobello-based bakery has 17 staff members and a café. To teach the public about the perils of industrially-produced bread and the pros of baking at home Breadshare regularly sell their wares at local markets and teach members of the community how to bake bread for themselves. You can volunteer at the bakery, sell their bread yourself or just visit to pick up a loaf when you can.
11-12 Seafield Road East, EH15 1EB – more info
— MY Adventure (@MYDGAdventure) December 1, 2015
You can try everything from outdoor rock climbing to archery at MY Adventure – a customer focused and ethically minded social enterprise offering expert tutoring in any and every outdoor activity. Whether you’re organising a school trip, an office team building exercise or a hen do, the experienced instructors here can sort you out. You can even gain qualifications by signing up to a course – there’s everything from first aid to cycle mechanics. All of the profits earned at MY Adventure are re-invested into community projects, making a massive impact on the surrounding area.
23 West Harbour Road, EH5 1PN – more info
Come along to CafeLife, and enjoy morning bacon rolls with freshly made coffee. Mon to Fri. pic.twitter.com/d9lfRQebNP
— LifeCare Edinburgh (@LifeCare_) August 19, 2015
Run by local charity LifeCare – which works to provide services to support the well-being and independence of older people – Café Life in Stockbridge allows customers to give to a good cause every time they eat lunch or just buy a coffee. Open Monday to Friday, the café sources its ingredients locally and prepares all food fresh and on site. Give Starbucks a miss next time you’re in the area and swing by here for a bite to eat instead. You can take advantage of the free wifi and give yourself a pat on the back while you’re at it.
2 Cheyne Street, EH4 1JB – more info
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Main image: Getty Images