Making the Outdoors Sustainable for All

Have you ever thought that the outdoor industry is free of discrimination? After all, it is supposed to be “for all the people” regardless of our race, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, ability, weight, or socio-economic status.

Sadly, this is far from the case. Like nearly every industry, the outdoor industry lacks diversity, especially in management positions. But the outdoors cannot, and will not, truly be for the people until it is available, accessible, and designed for all.

Not only is diversifying the outdoor industry necessary, but doing so can lead to more diversity within the climate action movement. One of the main reasons that both the outdoor industry and the sustainability movement are predominately white is due to white privilege. Systematic racism has allowed white individuals, including myself, to be given more opportunities to spend time in nature; something that is often an integral part of shaping ones’ fight against the climate crisis.

White privilege influenced the socio-economic status I grew up in, thus influencing my ability to spend my childhood exploring nature, it influenced the level of safety I felt while being in the outdoors, it influenced the advertisements that showed predominately white individuals in the outdoor industry, and it influenced my drive for climate action. But an industry that lacks diversity will never be truly for the people. So, what steps can we take to make this industry sustainable and accessible FOR ALL?

ADDRESS YOUR PRIVILEGE

The first step to achieving equal access for all is addressing your individual privilege. Confronting one’s privilege may be uncomfortable at times, but that is exactly why we CAN’T shy away from it. Ask yourself the tough questions, educate yourself on what privilege is, read books, articles, and watch documentaries. Feeling lost on where to begin? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has the color of your skin, sexual orientation, gender, ability, size, and/or socio-economic status made it easier for you to get involved within the outdoor industry?
  • What hobbies do you have as a result of your privilege?
  • Have you ever been discriminated against in the outdoor industry?
  • Has your access to the outdoors shaped your drive for climate action?

SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS THAT HELP INCREASE ACCESS TO THE OUTDOORS

There are countless organizations out there that are working to make the outdoors accessible for all. Supporting these organizations helps provide access for groups who otherwise wouldn’t have it. In order to help these organizations, you can do a few different actions: WORK, VOLUNTEER, & DONATE. If you are willing and able to, work for a company that aims to provide opportunities to different communities. If you can’t work volunteer your time and money to organizations. Give them the support they need in order to serve and expand their positive impact.

Below are a few organizations that aim at helping various groups. Again, this list is just scratching the surface of the countless amazing organizations out there!

SUPPORT BUSINESSES THAT UPLIFT AND INVEST

There are outdoor gear companies who invest in their producers, employees, and support other organizations. However, there are also gear companies that merely claim to do these things but don’t actually do the work. Remember that with every dollar you spend you are casting a vote. Each purchase holds power, so aim to support companies that practice what they preach.

This means doing your research. Search for companies that are clear and transparent about how they support diversity within their company, organizations they support, diversity of their leadership, as well as the working conditions of those who are making their gear.

In 2019, over 50 CEOs in the outdoor industry signed the Outdoor Equity Pledge at the Outdoor Retailer.

“They are joining together to commit to equitable and inclusive workplaces that advance the leadership opportunities for people of diverse identities and backgrounds including women and underrepresented communities. The CEO Outdoor Equity Pledge is the first-of-its-kind industry-focused initiative. Beyond building a community of businesses committed to equity and inclusion, the CEO Outdoor Equity Pledge spurs innovation, builds community, and elevates the active-outdoor industries as great places to work.”

Look for companies who have signed the pledge and are committed to making changes!

CONTACT YOUR LOCAL REPS: URGE THEM TO SUPPORT BILLS THAT FOCUS ON CONSERVATION & ACCESSIBILITY

As vital as individual action is, it is essential that our elected officials vote for bills and initiatives that support increased accessibility and diversity as well as protecting outdoor spaces. You may be surprised at just how easy it is to reach out to your local representatives and express your opinion on a given issue. If you are located in the United States, use this link to find the representative for your area and demand they take a stand on these vital issues.

VOTE FOR OFFICIALS AND BILLS

Practice your constitutional right and VOTE. Elect officials who care about protecting and preserving land, are aggressive when it comes to climate action, and use their voice to advocate for ALL individuals. Also, research the bills in your local government that are up for a vote. Talk to friends, family, and neighbors about upcoming elections in order to raise awareness of what is being voted on. Again, reach out to your local officials and urge them to support measures that increase access rather than perpetuate systematic discrimination

TAKE ACTION FOR ALL

Remember that learning about discrimination, rather than continually experiencing it, is a privilege. Every individual deserves to have resources and access to the great outdoors. The outdoor industry is NOT free of racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, or ableism. Just because you have never experienced something does not mean it doesn’t exist.

Being an effective ally doesn’t just mean smiling at others on the trail. It means taking action to dismantle systematic discrimination and oppression! Know that you will most likely make mistakes along the way, but never let that stop you from taking action. The outdoor industry will never be sustainable until it is a space that is truly for ALL the people.

Marie Wilson

Marie Wilson

Marie is a plant-based ultra-runner as well as the Sustainability Blogger behind Mindful Peaks. In her free time, she loves anything that gets her outside; trail running, hiking, biking, skiing, rock climbing, or surfing. When she’s not in the mountains she enjoys working as an environmental activist, drinking tea, or rereading Harry Potter another time. She grew up in a small town outside of Seattle, WA and currently resides in Bellingham, WA.

Trail Sisters is committed to creating opportunity and participation for women in trail running. Our content is always free to read. Consider a monthly contribution on Patreon to support Trail Sisters so we can continue to inspire, educate and empower others!

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