REI Northwest

‘Tis the Season to… Do What Exactly?

Black Friday officially kicked the holiday season into high gear. And while most retailers drool at the thought of hordes of unhinged consumers crashing through their doors, others like REI and Patagonia use the occasion to protest – and refocus on things of greater value.


The Black Friday protest of “consumption for consumption’s sake” can be seen to have its retail beginnings in REI’s #OptOutside initiative, which sees all REI store locations locked shut on Black Friday and employees and customers alike are encouraged to get outside. The movement has now grown well beyond REI to include 15 million participants, 700 organizations, and 15 states, which offer free admission to all state parks on Black Friday.

In FastCompany, REI chief customer officer Ben Steele says the mission has evolved. “When we started this…it was that consumerism was spinning out of control, in a frenzy of consumption – I’ve got to have it, I need it, I’ll leave Thanksgiving dinner early to go get it,” Steele says. “This year it feels like the cultural context has changed. Now choice is something we talk a lot about. Choice in terms of the notion of our relationship with technology – are we using it to springboard toward the things we care about, or is it distracting us from those things?”

Entering its fourth year, #OptOutside looks like its well on its way to becoming an established holiday tradition for an increasingly large part of the outdoor community. Yet REI is now using the #OptOutside campaign to reach beyond the holiday season by supporting research that explores the health benefits of spending time outdoors and endeavours to get more people into the great outdoors year-round.

Patagonia’s Urgent Gift to the Planet

True, they missed “Giving Tuesday” by a day. But Patagonia certainly made headlines with a dramatic demonstration of the season’s spirit of giving. In a November 28 press release, Patagonia’s CEO Rose Marcario declared that it would donate the company’s entire tax break – all $10 million dollars of it – “back to the planet, [it] needs it more than we do.” The tax break will go to groups committed to protecting air, land and water and finding solutions to the climate crisis.

Rose Marcario continued by taking the opportunity to besmear the Trump administration’s tax policies, which reduced the standard corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, as “irresponsible.”  “Taxes protect the most vulnerable in our society, our public lands and other life-giving resources,” writes Rose Marcario. “In spite of this, the Trump administration initiated a corporate tax cut, threatening these services at the expense of our planet.”

Not one to pull punches on the commander-in-chief (remember the “President Stole Your Land” campaign?), Rose Marcario didn’t stop here, but instead continued to tear into the Trump administration’s roll backs of environmental protections and denials of climate change as “just evil.”


Jonathan Fraenkel-Eidse

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