Apparently, it started with an ice axe.
Recreational Equipment, Inc. – best known as REI – is an outdoor adventure store that formed in 1938. Three years prior a Seattle-area couple, Lloyd and Mary Anderson, lamented the difficulty sourcing high quality outdoor equipment.
Hence the ice axe. In 1935, a knock-off professional ice axe cost $20 through a middleman. Tired of paying too much for too little, the Anderson’s sourced direct from Austria for $3.50 postage included.
Then the aha moment. Gather more of their fellow outdoor enthusiasts, using a one-dollar lifetime membership, thus increasing their buying power. REI was born.
You are correct thinking this sounds like Mountain Equipment Co-op – or MEC for short. Same concept. A lifetime membership for a lifetime of outdoor pursuits.
The REI story has a modern twist. For the fifth year in a row, and on one of the busiest shopping days of the year known as Black Friday, REI stores won’t be open.
And they are paying their 13,000 employees wages for the day to go outside and make a difference. It’s part of a bigger initiative, using the hashtag #OptOutside (https://www.rei.com/opt-outside), for people to make a difference outdoors.
REI is using Black Friday 2019 to kick off a campaign described as "52 simple weekly challenges for a year of action”. Many of these involve consumer choices. Things like "plant something native and green”, "volunteer for a trail clean up”, "repair an item instead of purchasing a new one”, and "hang dry your laundry”.
It’s radical and maybe too much for most. "The suggestion to not wash my jeans for a month would never make my list”, said Gary Lewis, Landcare Supervisor, "along with a few others”.
Lewis cautioned to not dismiss the idea completely, "Anyone can create their own list of small, collectively significant things. Maybe it’s twelve ideas done on a monthly basis versus weekly for one year”.
Lewis shared some ideas.
Food Freedom Day, which falls in February, is when the average Canadian has earned what is annually spent on food. With one-sixth of our annual earnings going into the refrigerator and pantry, there are ways to stretch those expenditures and reduce waste.
May is the month for highway or shoreline cleanups. Although not glamorous, these improve wildlife habitat and increase public safety. "It’s an extension of Sasquatch’s backyard message to show respect for wild places”, said Lewis.
February features Family Day and could be used to experience nature. Lewis encouraged, "If the weather outside is frightful, the BBC documentary series Planet Earth is so delightful.”
Come holiday shopping season, consider ideas that benefit the environment. In lieu of traditional gift giving some families choose to support conservation groups. Some exchange gifts based on the three R’s of reduce, reuse and recycle.
Some use birthdays and other family/ friend milestones to give in lieu to a conservation cause, participate in a habitat venture – like tree planting.
Even calendar items like Arbor Day, although not an official holiday, become ways to give back to nature by planting a tree for the next generation. Some schools use the day to clean up and enhance their grounds.
Cleaning out the closet or the garden shed? Explore giving versus throwing something away. Could that pile of lumber become nesting boxes built by a youth organization?