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REI to Boycott Black Friday, Encourage Americans to #OptOutside
For many retailers, Black Friday is one of the most profitable days of the year, and it is no different for specialty outdoor retailer REI. As CEO Jerry Stritzke told CNN, "Black Friday has been among the company's top 10 sales days in past years."
But this year, they are shuttering all 143 of their retail locations, headquarters and two distribution centers and giving their 12,000 full- and part-time employees paid time off not only on Thanksgiving, but on Black Friday as well. Instead of business as usual, they are encouraging their employees and customers to do what they love most and go outside. As for online shoppers, they can still place orders, but they won't be processed until Saturday, and the site's "homepage will try to divert buyers with a 'cover screen' encouraging them to explore the outdoors instead," reports CNN.
“Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected and complete when you choose to spend it outside," said Stritzke. "We’re closing our doors, paying our employees to get out there and inviting America to OptOutside with us because we love great gear, but we are even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks.”
REI, founded in 1938 and headquartered near Seattle, ended 2014 with $2.2 billion dollars in sales. But it's not your typical company. It's now the nation's largest consumer co-op, with 5.5 million active members. The company is devoted to its members, who make up at least 80 percent of its sales, according to USA Today.
In a letter to his members, Stritzke invokes naturalist John Muir, who said in 1901, “thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.” I can only imagine what John Muir would have to say about people getting trampled to death at a Wal-Mart in the shopping frenzy that has become Black Friday.
“As a member-owned co-op, our definition of success goes beyond money," writes Stritzke. "We believe that a life lived outdoors is a life well lived and we aspire to be stewards of our great outdoors. We think that Black Friday has gotten out of hand and so we are choosing to invest in helping people get outside with loved ones this holiday season, over spending it in the aisles. Please join us and inspire us with your experiences. We hope to engage millions of Americans and galvanize the outdoor community to get outside.”
The move is part of a growing Anti-Black Friday movement. Last year, Patagonia encouraged customers to swap their used items for other used items or new ones, if needed. Patagonia has actually been encouraging its customers for years not to buy products they don't need.
In an email to its subscribers on Cyber Monday last year, Patagonia said:
"Cyber Monday, and the culture of consumption it reflects, puts the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. We’re now using the resources of one-and-a-half planets on our one and only planet.
"Because Patagonia wants to be in business for a good long time—and leave a world inhabitable for our kids—we want to do the opposite of every other business today. We ask you to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else."
Groups such as Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir have been urging Americans to turn Black Friday into "Buy Nothing Day" to fight the overconsumption that they say plagues the U.S.
You can share your Black Friday plans with REI by uploading a photo to their website or by using the hashtag #OptOutside on social media.
Watch CEO Jerry Stritzke explain why REI will be boycotting Black Friday this year:
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
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The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
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