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In many ways ahead of its time, the company’s mission firmly plants sustainability at the heart of everything it does.
“We believe we all have a responsibility to look after the natural environment for future generations,” says Russell. “Our goal is to make a real difference by making quality, eco-friendly products more affordable.”
In the 1990s Russell and Beverley observed a lot of cheap synthetic products coming from China: Harsh chemicals like cancer-causing Azo dyes and formaldehyde coated sheets; polyester or "micro fibre" (which are just plastic fibres); and single-use plastic packaging.
They decided they had to do better, and so the idea for Ecodownunder was born in 1997.
Back then, "eco" was not a commonly used term and to some extent production was scarce and expensive. Progress was needed rather than perfection in a quest to turn the tide – but some things were non-negotiable: no harsh chemicals; no synthetics; and no single-use plastic packaging
Russell and Beverley used certified organic cotton and Australian-made products whenever possible, and to this day every Ecodownunder product goes through rigorous quality control systems.
By selling direct, they also avoid big mall rents and pass on those savings to the consumer.
“We regularly check the big retail chains’ pricing and believe our everyday prices are generally 10-20% below their sale prices on comparable products,” says Bev.
“Every time you buy our product, you are helping keep harsh chemicals, synthetics and plastic out of the environment.”
The couple are also hugely encouraged to see young people "get it" and those young converts are increasingly demanding that other businesses do better as well.
Currently there are three stores on the Northern Beaches, in Avalon, Mona Vale and Freshwater, with another at Paddington. The focus is very much on flagship stores in the northern beaches and online.
And when they get a spare moment away from the business, the pair are both active members of the local community; in particular, as members of local surf clubs Avalon and Warriewood. Bev competed in surf boat rowing, winning many national and international titles with her Avalon crew, and has been a volunteer bronze trainer at Warriewood for many years. Russell, first as Patrol Captain and then Boat Captain at Warriewood, coaches surf boat rowing, encouraging others to participate in the sport. – Rob Pegley