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REI says its #OptOutside movement is growing

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
Clerks work in front of a large photo of Mount Rainier in REI Co-op's flagship store in Seattle. For the fourth consecutive year, REI said it will close all 153 stores, process no online payments and pay more than 12000 employees on Black Friday.

For the fourth year running, employees of Seattle-based REI have the day off on Black Friday. The co-op’s stores are all closed on the biggest retail day of the year – and its website won’t process any sales.

REI says its #OptOutsidemovement is growing.

“We’re blown away really by the scale of the #OptOutside movement,” said Alex Thompson, vice president for brand stewardship and impact.

The idea behind the #OptOutside campaign is to encourage people to get outdoors and enjoy nature instead of working or shopping, especially on Black Friday. REI estimates more than 700 other organizations are now taking part. And they think about 15 million people are joining, too.

This year, the co-op has teamed up with the Trust for Public Land to rank the 200 largest cities in the country on access to the outdoors. Thompson says they looked at proximity to local parks – within a 10 minute walk of where people live – and to public lands, within a 60-minute drive.

“And what we're really trying to do with this list is to encourage people to think about going outside on Black Friday instead of going indoors," Thompson said. "And we're also equipping decision-makers with information, should they want to make the places they live in and influence better, in terms of outdoor access.”

Seattle, Bellevue and Vancouver, Washington, all made the top-50 list. Tacoma did not.

REI and the Trust for Public Land say these data sets can be used to influence decision-makers. David Patton, TPL Northwest regional director, says there's still a lot of work to do.

“About one in three Americans don’t live within a 10-minute walk of a park," Patton said. "And I would say that holds true for the state of Washington and the western region of the state. About a third of our residents don’t have quality access to a park within walking distance of their home.”

This year REI is posting the top 50 list on the Opt Outside website, with links to the complete info on the other 150.

The co-op has also announced a $1 million donation to the University of Washington for a new center of academic excellence. It will invest in studies of the link between health and time spent in nature. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to