Instead of shopping this Black Friday, join REI and opt outside.
With the holiday season upon us, REI has launched for the second time their Opt Outside campaign, asking people to spend Black Friday outside instead of shopping for deals. They are once again closing their stores for the day and giving their employees a paid day off to get outdoors.
When Opt Outside was announced last year, it was one of the largest campaigns I'd ever seen from the national outdoor retail co-op. I'm a huge fan of REI and their on going stewardship for the environment and outdoor recreational opportunities. This year, the campaign is going a step further, asking fellow retailers, non-profits, and organizations "Will you go out with us?," encouraging other groups to join the cause.
Every year, the frenzy over holiday shopping seems to grow more and more intense. Combine that distraction with the weather growing colder and it becomes all too easy to let the outdoors wait till spring. But the benefits of time spent outside are too good to brush aside so easily. I am a firm believer in the healing power of nature and its universal appeal to people. It has a unique ability to bring people together in way I've never experienced elsewhere.
Critics would argue that REI is not unique in shuttering its doors Black Friday, or eschewing the sales driven hysteria that is associated with that day. But I believe the campaign is bigger than just a publicity stunt, and can have a real effect on the holiday season. REI has a long history with living its values, and this is merely an extension of that mentality. One only needs to look at the long list of partners that have already joined them this year to see the impact it is having already.
Last year my wife and I rallied my family to embrace the spirit of the Opt Outside campaign and took advantage of an unseasonably warm Thanksgiving day by moving the holiday meal outside. We threw a couple table clothes over a ping pong table and set up our feast in the backyard. On Black Friday, we all headed to Theodore Roosevelt Island just outside Washington D.C. for a long walk in the woods and a visit to the memorial of our 26th president.
This year our plans are still up in the air, but we will undoubtably be spending it outside somewhere instead of shouldering our way through lines at the mall. We'll be asking our friends and family to do the same, and I hope you all will join us as well.
Visit rei.com/opt-outside to join the movement and for info on places to get outside in your area. Use #OptOutside on social media to spread the word as well.
Full disclosure: I have previously worked for REI, and my wife is currently employed at one of their retail locations, but all opinions expressed on this blog purely my own.