An REI store just opened near me. It’s a big thrill for me because our outdoor outfitter options are not plentiful, and I have great memories of childhood, driving over to the huge REI in Berkeley to get camping equipment before vacation each year. While not a bargain outdoor equipment and clothing store, by any means, I like the ethos of REI as well. It is a co-op, so members get a vote in how the company is run, and share dividends at the end of the year…but more importantly than the company’s creative commitment to me is their commitment to the environment. REI Gives annually grants a portion of profits to environmental protection projects, each store has hands-on volunteer projects for staff and shoppers, partners with VolunteerMatch to help shoppers find volunteer opportunities in their local communities, establishes PEAK (Promoting Environmental Awareness for Kids) programs for youth, and has established the REI Foundation to encourage outdoor activity among young people and families.
Another shopping option for outdoor activities that has their head screwed on straight, is Patagonia. This clothier has a superb commitment to the environment and huge stable of resources they have created to inspire customers to become activists. Freedom to Roam is their initiative to create and maintain wildlife corridors across North America; they activated a whole array of resources in response to the Gulf Oil Spill (and made it easy for the rest of us to get involved); and they have loads of other avenues that are right on course like environmental internships and grants, recycling programs for garments, Patagonian resource protection measures in that South American region, conservation alliance, percentage of proceeds going to the planet, etc. It makes me feel good about shopping with a company I would choose anyway–and certainly makes me a more loyal customer when I know they have my best interests at heart–and that is how to truly EARN profits.
Think about where you shop, and how to hold them accountable for the way they do business and the initiatives they get behind. Some great shopping options can be kind of evil when you look at their business practices, employee policies, and investments (yes I’m talking to you Marts…both K and Wal). Choose how to spend.