Originally published on Huffington Post
I hate shopping.
So you sure won’t find me in line at Best Buy, Target or Toys R Us this week on Black Friday. In fact, I’ll do anything to avoid going inside a store any day of the year, and if I can buy it online I will. In the past six months I’ve bought everything from patio furniture to a rubber chicken via the Internets. (Yes, a rubber chicken — for my nieces in West Virginia who were envious of mine.)
This is why it’s more than fitting that my company, EnviroMedia, has joined 475 other businesses to #OptOutside this Black Friday. #OptOutside is REI’s way of giving their 12,000 employees a true break over the holiday – on the day retailers traditionally recoup tepid sales for the year thanks to a massive holiday shopping free-for-all.
For the second year, REI’s putting all bricks-and-mortar and online sales on ice on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. The catch – they’re asking their employees and the rest of the world to bypass the TV binge watching and enjoy the great outdoors on Friday.
Me? I’ll probably go cycling and maybe enjoy a meal outside. It’s Thanksgiving weekend and we’ll have some of the best grill masters in the family staying with us, so opting outside while pigging out a second day in a row is pretty easy for me.
EnviroMedia is always closed the Friday after Thanksgiving, but this year I’m urging all 20-some-odd of us to #OptOutside with REI. I love what Subaru just signed on to do for #OptOutside. For every OptOutsider who posts a photo of themselves with man’s best friend (outdoors of course) with the hashtags #MakeADogsDay and #OptOutside, Subaru will make a donation to the ASPCA.
Last month, our company had its annual retreat at Tipping T Ranch just outside of Austin. (We #OptOutside whenever we can.) At one point on retreat we each told the rest of the group what we’re passionate about, and I’ll be damned if every last one our people didn’t say something about protecting animals. Great move, Subaru! I’ve passed along your hashtags to the team.
During the South By Southwest Eco Conference (SXSW Eco) in Austin in October, I met with REI’s Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Alex Thompson.
“I get to wake up every single day and think of ways to encourage millions and millions of people to live life outside,” said Alex, who earlier in the day had appeared on a panel about value-driven businesses with Jonathan Atwood of Unilever.
Like EnviroMedia, REI of course opts outside whenever possible but in perhaps just a smidge of a bigger way than we might.
“We do our leadership conferences fully outside in 30 degree temps out on the side of ski slopes,” said Alex. “I do a bunch of meetings either cycling or walking, sometimes trail running.”
OK, Alex, you win. But of course, he’s supposed to. Alex is VP of a company founded on the very idea of the outdoors. REI (which stands for Recreational Equipment Inc.) was founded in 1938 by 23 hiking buddies who wanted to “build a business around a life outside.” You can view a nifty 94-second animated history of REI here. “And because they [the founders] loved mountains more than money,” says the video, “they formed a co-op.”
Today, with 6 million members, REI is the nation’s largest co-op, and they return 70 percent of their profits back to the outdoor community annually. The list of their nonprofit and government partners includes organizations as diverse as Black Girls Run and Families in Nature.
When I met with Alex at SXSW Eco, he mentioned the positive impact being outdoors has beyond just having fun, including reducing stress levels among those suffering from PTSD.
“If you look at the research in some of the urban environments,” said Alex, “some of the research indicates that you have a 40 percent more likelihood to develop a behavioral disorder in an urban environment versus an outdoor environment. We are investing a bunch of resources in the study of the cognitive development of children who have access to the outdoors.”
I’ve been at this awhile (writing about protecting the environment and health), and I know there are always cynics out there. Example #1: “Climate change does not exist.”
When reading this blog, I know some people will roll their eyes and think, “Save the righteous guilt trip. Just let me go shopping already!”
To you I say, go! Enjoy! Shop with all the masses on Black Friday. It’s your money, your time, your stress.
But when you get home, at least go online to Twitter and search for the hashtags #MakeADogsDay and #OptOutside. After all, who can resist protecting animals?
Become one of the 2 million REI #OptOutsid-ers by registering here! Parks in 22 states will be open for free on Black Friday. Plus, you can click here and REI will help find you great places near you to #OptOutside. You might discover some places you never knew about! PS: Thank you REI for sponsoring the Violet Crown Trail leading south from Lady Bird Lake, through the Hill Country, and eventually to Hays County where I live.