Playing outdoors has always been REI’s way to #OptOutside on Black Friday. This year, the Co-op store is doing something a little different

REI OptOutside Hiking Photo

REI has closed its brick-and-mortar co-ops and online stores every Black Friday since 2015, instead encouraging shoppers and employees to #OptOutside—i.e., to get outside to hike and play—and employees are fully paid for that day off. That engagement with the outdoors has encouraged a love of nature, but this year, REI is doing something a little different.

CEO Eric Artz has made it clear: you can have your fun and do something good while you’re at it. You can #OpttoAct.

“#OptOutside has always brought out the best in this community. We’re still going to go outside and play—but this time we’re bringing our work gloves. And we’re inviting you to join us. It’s time to fight for life outdoors—and life on this planet.”

Instead of merely going for a hike, #OptOutside participants this year can hike along the awe-inspiring red, pink, and white sandstone outcroppings at Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods and then #OpttoAct by gathering at Palmer Park for a group cleanup. In San Francisco, volunteers can rally up at Candlestick Point Recreation Area with Leave No Trace and Literacy for Environmental Justice for a beach cleanup, plant restoration, and environmental education sesh. You’ll remove ice plants and learn how to preserve the ecology of the area. (If you’re feeling ambitious and have energy to burn, you could hike the Crosstown Trail before or after and walk all the way across the city.)

Check out all the #OpttoAct clean-up opps, and if there’s not a clean-up near you, you can organize your own local event or commit to picking up trash you find while on your hikes. REI employees have been doing so for the past month, and collected four tons of trash. To do more, check out the co-op’s newly-created 52-week Opt to Act plan—sourced from REI employee tips—which encourages you to change daily habits to lessen your footprint and promote biodiversity.

Artz believes climate change is not just a political issue, but a human issue: “the greatest existential threat facing our co-op.” Impressed and inspired by the Youth Climate Strike, he and other REI members decided to develop this year’s clean-ups and recycling events.

REI #OpttoAct plastic recycling

REI, for its part, is reducing packaging and waste in its products and stores, and Artz says the co-op is also thinking deeply about how to be a business that encourages the circular economy with more used and rental gear choices. 

“As a single company, our impact is limited, but as a community, we can drive change that powers meaningful action beyond our walls,” Artz says. “As a co-op, we know that many people taking many small steps together can add up to big changes. Because when the next generation asks us what we did when the outdoors and the world needed us most, I want to be able to say, ‘we did our best.'”