Tis the Season 

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF ARC'TERYX
  • Photo courtesy of Arc'teryx

It's not necessarily Christmas-motivated PR, but recent moves by big outdoor companies to get on board (and drive, in some cases) the sustainability train continue to be impressive. This is a good thing not only for what it achieves, but for the message it sends and the smaller boats that will inevitably rise on this tide.

To start, outdoor clothing company Arc'teryx pledged to match all donations made on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 3) to the climate education group Protect Our Winters (POW), up to a total of $60,000. That's a handy leg-up for the active organization as we head into the season it advocates for. To encourage individuals to donate, Arc'teryx invoked a time-honoured mechanism that always works for gearheads: every $50 or more saw the donor entered in a draw for an outerwear ensemble. 

Arc'teryx sees its partnership with POW as an opportunity to promote climate protection, aided by the actions of the ambassadorial athletes it sponsors. This particular donation, for instance, coincided with the launch of Arc'teryx/POW/Salomon athlete Greg Hill's film Electric Greg. It's the latest electric adventuring joint by Whistler's Switchback Entertainment involving the Revelstoke ski mountaineer who has dedicated himself to climate-friendly adventuring.

And then there's Patagonia, whose latest tag line—We're in business to save our home planet—sees the company stepping up on a range of fronts.

An area that Patagonia pioneered and remains focused on is upcycling. Acknowledging that the extraction and processing of virgin materials takes a toll on land, water and air, the company continues toward 100 per cent renewable and recycled raw materials. To that end, its latest collection of Recycled Black Hole bags—a water resistant, tough-as-nails gear-hauler—also reduces the amount of waste being thrown into landfills. Some 10 million plastic bottles went into building the fully recycled body fabric and webbing for this year's line.

But buying everything new is for schmucks, right? So how about this: now you can also rent Patagonia gear. In mid-December, at its new flagship retail store in Denver, Patagonia introduced a reliable option for renting prime snow outerwear by being the first apparel brand to partner with Awayco, a premium outdoor rental platform. Building on the brand's ethos of reducing unnecessary impact wherever possible, this alternative to purchasing gear includes technical ski and snowboard outerwear, as well as packs for men, women and kids. Even better, the process is dead simple: browse and reserve premium gear on Awayco.com, pick up and return it at Patagonia Denver.

Finally, on Dec. 16, Patagonia also announced that over 17 days, its community had raised $10 million in donations to 1,043 grassroots environmental organizations. It started on Black Friday, when Patagonia committed to match individual donations made between Nov. 29 and Dec. 31, 2019, to a US$10 million limit. "We're energized by our community's response," said Lisa Pike Sheehy, who leads Patagonia's environmental activism team. "Together we made history ... This is extraordinary generosity to some of the most deserving and underappreciated efforts to save the planet."

Donations were made through Patagonia Action Works, a platform that connects individuals with local grassroots organizations that are taking action on a range of pressing issues. Plaudits rolled in from recipients. Thanks to Patagonia's donation matching, we can launch environmental campaigns in up to five more countries next year, resulting in new laws that protect rivers, oceans and forests," said Earth Law Center's executive director and directing attorney, Grant Wilson. Brian Sybert of the Conservation Lands Foundation said, "[It's] a phenomenal end-of-year boost ... which will help make sure ... 70 community-based groups throughout the West and in Alaska—[have] the capacity and resources to hold the line against the Trump administration's aggressive campaign to weaken protections and reduce public input on dozens of iconic public lands that they want to hand over to oil and gas development."

Other beneficiaries include: the Environmental Defense Center, fighting to prevent a tripling of onshore oil production in Santa Barbara County; the Native Fish Society, working to revive wild fish across the Pacific Northwest; and the City Kids Wilderness Project, providing high-impact outdoor adventure and leadership development programming for Washington, D.C., youth. 

In addition to its US$10 million donation match, Patagonia will continue its 30-plus-year tradition of donating one per cent of its 2019 sales to nearly 1,200 grantees. To date, the company has donated more than US$110 million to environmental nonprofits. Maybe there is a bit of Christmas in here.

Either way, the more companies that step up on the environmental front, the better—for us, for them, for the planet.

Leslie Anthony is a science/environment writer and author who holds a doctorate in connecting the dots.

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