Back in 2015, the outdoor retailer REI came up with a terrific concept: the single-use backpack. I’m kidding! That’s a terrible idea I just made up. No, REI’s idea was that instead of selling more outdoor gear on the Friday after Thanksgiving, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, it should close its stores and encourage its employees and customers to spend the day actually enjoying the outdoors (as a paid day off for the workers). REI called this campaign #OptOutside.
People got it right away. That first year, more than 1.4 million folks spent at least some of “Black Friday” outdoors, and the tradition has continued every year since. I think it’s especially cool that many people have used their time outside not only to have fun (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but also to do some kind of service activity, like trash pickup or trail maintenance.
The landscape, though, has changed since 2015 — enough so that #OptOutside needed to change too. Those wonderful public lands that we’re opting outside to enjoy? Not only are they threatened by climate change, they’re also under attack from the Trump administration. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep getting out and enjoying them, but maybe we should also be thinking about how to ensure that everyone can continue enjoying them for years to come.
So this year, REI announced that #OptOutside should also mean “Opt to Act.” Black Friday (which could really use a better name, and don’t get me started on “Cyber Monday”) has now become not only a day to get outdoors but also a day to take action for the environment. Or, even better, a day to start getting in the habit of taking action for the environment. REI even has a handy list of 52 things anyone can do each week for the next year. Because who doesn’t love a good list?
In other words, we can all take a good thing — #OptOutside — and turn it into an even better thingby adding a dash of do-gooding.
Not sure where to start? If you’re looking to #OptOutside, I can almost guarantee your local Sierra Club chapter or group has some day-after-turkey-dinner hikes listed. You can search here. And if you can’t wait to start doing some good, I’ve got three easy online actions you can take that will help a lot more people get the chance to #OptOutside. I bet you can do all of them in less time than it takes to convince yourself you deserve a second slice of pie. Ready?
Tell your members of Congress to support these bipartisan bills:
1. The Accelerating Veterans Outdoors Recovery Act, which would facilitate healing outdoors for our nation’s veterans.
2. The Transit to Trails Act, which would establish a grant program to provide transportation systems to trailheads.
3. The Outdoors for All Act, which would promote the development of green space and outdoor recreation opportunities in under-resourced areas.
Thanks! And inside or outside, I hope you have a great holiday!