REI Co-op will reach a major impact milestone this year—$100 million invested in stewardship of the outdoors. To celebrate, the co-op on Monday is launching Loving Our Local Outdoors and is inviting its members to help decide how $1 million in philanthropic giving will benefit their local communities.
From March 11 to April 8, members who make a purchase in-store can help REI choose outdoor nonprofit organizations in their local community to receive additional funding. The investment is part of the co-op’s broader impact program, which will contribute over $7 million to life outside just this year.
“As an outdoor co-op, giving back to the places our members love is at the heart of our work to awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors. Through listening sessions and focus groups, we learned that our members want to play a bigger role in helping the places nearest and dearest to them,” said Kristen Ragain, REI philanthropy and community partnerships manager. “That’s why, this year, we’re tapping into our members’ local expertise to shape how our dollars benefit places in their local communities.”
The goal of Loving Our Local Outdoors is to engage REI members in driving change. REI members are at the heart of how the co-op inspires millions of people to live life outside. REI members engage with the co-op in a number of ways, including sharing in the co-op’s profits through an annual dividend, engaging with REI leaders at an annual member meeting and electing the co-op’s board of directors. In addition, REI members participate in the #OptOutside movement, where REI closes all its stores on Black Friday and encourages individuals to spend the day outside with friends and family.
“This is an exciting shift. We want to involve our members directly in our work to awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors and this is just the start,” said Alex Thompson, vice president of brand stewardship and impact for REI. “We recently published The Path Ahead, an examination of humankind and its relationship to the outdoors. It asserts that we are at a crossroads and makes the case that we cannot wait to act. Our hope is that people will be inspired to get even more deeply engaged and our job, over the coming months and years, is to provide clear ways to play a role in the fight for life outside.”
Founded more than 80 years ago and organized around the idea that a life outdoors is a life well lived, REI invests deeply in stewardship of the outdoors, annually reinvesting nearly 70 percent of its profits in the outdoor community. Loving Our Local Outdoors will benefit projects ranging from improving trails and campgrounds, to cleaning up parks and supporting restoration efforts in National Parks.
Each of REI’s 154 stores will highlight three projects in the local region. Every project will receive funding, with REI members deciding the percentage of funds dedicated to each organization. The investment will touch nearly 200 nonprofits, including:
- Friends of Joshua Tree National Park – Members in the greater Los Angeles area can support recovery efforts of campgrounds and trails that were impacted by the recent government shutdown, in addition to re-bolting popular climbing routes throughout the park.
- Santa Monica Mountains Fund – Also in the Los Angeles area, members can support the restoration of The Backbone Trail, a popular hiking route that was devastated by the Woolsey Fire last year.
- Friends of the Chicago River – Members in the Windy City will have the option to support efforts to revitalize the Chicago River water and greenway trails, a popular area for residents and visitors to get outside.
- Mass Audubon – Members in the New England region can support adding ADA-accessible trails and enhancements at the Allen Pond Wildlife Sanctuary on Massachusetts’ south coast, and the Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, just west of Boston.