Outdoor Brands That Give Back to Their Community
Feel good about the gear you purchase—it’s likely that part of your cash is helping to save the world.by Adam Riser
The employees of outdoor industry businesses tend to spend as much time in the backcountry as they do behind a desk, often instilling their companies with an incredible ethic for preserving our natural environment. This phenomenon extends from established brands to the newbie upstarts. By giving inner-city children a chance to experience the joys of nature or protecting wilderness from development, the companies that manufacture your gear are working to ensure that future generations have the same, if not improved, opportunities for outdoor adventure that you have.
One company that stands out for their work to protect the environment is Patagonia, which spearheads the movement to make technical outerwear from environmentally friendly materials. They have recycled over 86 million plastic bottles in their quest to create a fully recycled product, and since 1985, they’ve used only 100% organic cotton. In September of this year, Patagonia is launching the Common Threads Recycling Program. They will accept old Capilene products and reuse the material to make new ones, saving your long underwear from a doomed end at a trash dump. A member of 1% For The Planet, Patagonia contributes 1% of all sales to the preservation of wilderness resources. That 1% has added up to over $20 million in donations to aid in conservation movements including alternative energy research.
Black Diamond Equipment
The epitome of corporate activism is Black Diamond Equipment (BD), a ski and climbing gear manufacturer based in Salt Lake City. BD’s employees drove the campaign to save Utah’s Castleton Tower area from development. Through fundraisers, petitions and community involvement, BD helped to preserve this incredible landscape. A company full of backcountry fanatics, Black Diamond also makes vast contributions to the Friends of Utah Avalanche Center (UAC). Along with donating office space and contacting senators to help the UAC, Black Diamond hosts the annual UAC fundraiser. Last year over 700 backcountry skiers participated to raise more than $35,000 for the UAC.
Burton SnowboardsProtecting the environment is important, and so is introducing as many people as possible to the fun that can be had outdoors. In 1995, Burton Snowboards started the Chill program, which introduces disadvantaged kids to snowboarding. With the help of donations, Burton provides each child with transportation, food, lift tickets, gear and professional instruction. Once a week for six weeks in a row, these kids get to leave the city and hit the slopes. To date, the Chill program has helped over 8500 underprivileged kids learn how to ride and, more importantly, gain a life-long passion for the outdoors.
MarmotLittle groms from the city have a chance to learn telemark skiing as well. Similar to Chill, the Marmot sponsored TELE (Teach, Explore, Learn, Enrich) Kids brings underprivileged youth from the Salt Lake Valley out of the city and into the mountains. By linking turns at Alta—the resort donates tickets to the young free-heelers—TELE Kids have an incredible opportunity to enhance their lives through their experiences on the mountain. With instruction from nationally recognized skiers like Molly Douma and BJ Brewer, they’re likely to finish the season skiing better than you.
The North Face
One of the largest outdoor gear and clothing companies in the world, The North Face (TNF) routinely makes large donations to a number of environmental organizations; one example is Global Giving, a supporter of worldwide economic development projects. As a member of Global Giving, TNF routinely receives reports on the progress of the projects to which they have donated. The North Face also helped to create the Conservation Alliance in 1989. Since its inception, the Conservation Alliance has contributed more than $4 million to local community-based environmental groups and helped save more than 34-million acres of wild lands in the United States.
Metolius, a climbing gear manufacturer based in Bend, OR, has contributed gear and bolts to the American Safe Climbing Association (ASCA) for years. Founded in 1998, the ASCA is made entirely of volunteer climbers who’ve replaced over 5000 “coffin nails” through out the country. Metolius is also a major supporter of the Boulder Project, a special project of the Access Fund targeted at addressing the impact and access issues specific to bouldering areas across the country. With the support of several outdoor companies, the Boulder Project strives to increase awareness and local activism, so that the future of bouldering may be preserved.
This is a very small sampling of the companies and organizations that use the money we spend on outdoor gear for altruistic purposes. Next time you buy a backpack or a tent, take a moment to research the company you’re buying it from. When you spend your hard-earned bucks on gear from brands that work to improve our natural world, other companies will notice and make an effort to follow a similar path. In the end, everyone benefits.