REI’s Opt-to-Act plan will lower your carbon footprint, one week at a time

Nov 8, 2019 by


REI's Opt to Act plan

Because a single day of #OptOutside isn’t enough for real action.

Five years ago, outdoor gear retailer REI closed its doors on Black Friday to encourage people to go outside instead of shopping and has continued the tradition ever since. This year, however, the campaign has been expanded to include a 52-week action program for people who want to continue their environmental activism year-round.

The Opt-to-Act campaign is an impressive list of 52 actions, one for each week of the year, that kicks off on Black Friday 2019. Many of the action descriptions have links to additional resources to allow for more research. The weekly format tackles that sense of apathy that can descend upon people who have been trying for years to reduce their footprint, yet may feel they’ve stagnated.

I read through the list and particularly appreciated the following suggestions:– Go bagless. Don’t use either plastic or paper bags, only reusables. “You can drive a mile on the petroleum it takes to manufacture 14 plastic bags, and paper bags typically require four times as much water as plastic, according to Stanford Magazine.”

– Count the number of single-use plastic items you use in a week, and try to cut that number in half. (I merged two weeks of action there.) Apparently REI is doing the same, by striving to minimize the number of disposable polybags used to ship apparel.

– Don’t wash your jeans all month (and other laundry-related activism). Learn about plastic microfibers and how you can wash clothes in a more environmentally-sensitive way, including hanging out to dry (another action).

– Plant a native species of tree, bush, or flower in your yard this week. “Instead of relying on imported plants, which are often sprayed with pesticides and can carry a hefty transportation burden, shop for and then pot plants that are native to your region.”

– If you don’t need an item immediately, consider a slower shipping option. “Fast, custom deliveries can require vehicles to take inefficient routes, according to a recent CNN Business report on the issue, which can lead to heightened fuel emissions.”

– Attempt to create zero food waste this week. REI encourages people to visit the Zero Waste Chef’s website for tips on cooking with what you’ve got in the pantry/fridge and storing food in glass.

It’s a good, solid list that, if followed closely for a year, would make a decent dent in one’s carbon footprint. It would be nice if REI set more aggressive targets, such as becoming a weekday vegetarian or vegan before 6, rather than just saying “go meatless for a single day,” or if it called out cars as the mega-polluters they are, rather than encouraging people to inflate tires properly to improve efficiency, but I suppose any guidance is better than none.

REI itself is looking pretty bad these days, in light of a new report by that ranked it at the bottom of a list of fashion companies claiming to care about sustainability standards. Its practices, if allowed to continue, “will put the world on a path to climate catastrophe, with 3+ degrees of warming.” So perhaps it should take its own advice and spend the next 52 weeks cleaning up its own act.

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