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Our Favourite Outdoor Brands That Give Back

I’ve spent a lot of time enjoying the outdoors over my lifetime. When I was little, I spent hours exploring our backyard forest. As I got older, it’s no surprise I took to hiking, camping, and road trips. But those activities require (at least some) gear and because we’re young adult just starting out, we’ve basically started from scratch. We believe that when we buy gear for the outdoors, we should support brands that help protect the places we’re exploring. Luckily, there are many outdoor brands that give back.

Outdoor brands are often leaders in environmental and social change. It makes sense, since they’re all about getting people outside. If there’s no environment to enjoy, how would their brands survive? But it’s about more than their company’s survival to these brands. They’re run by people who truly care about the environment.

There’s no denying these brands have influence and they’re positioned perfectly to make a difference. And thankfully, many of them do.

How to help

In such a huge industry, it can be hard to sift through all of the information. Which companies have quality product and help the environment? It quickly becomes overwhelming trying to research all of it.

All you wanted was a new hat, but here you are reading about the shrinking parks and dying salmon. How did that happen? But more importantly, it makes you wonder what you can do to help. We have the answers! Or at least some.

Outdoor brands that give back

Listed below are some of our favourite outdoor brands that give back, in no particular order. It’s by no means an exhaustive list — there are simply too many to list them all — so I’ve only included brands that we personally use and love. Some of them donate time, money, or resources. Others support outdoor-related legislation, increased education, or eco-friendly resources.

In a world with serious environmental problems, I believe that we should celebrate the brands that give back and defend our home. So without further ado, here are Jacob and my favourite outdoor brands that give back through your support.


This article contains some affiliate links, which means if you buy something through our links we’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We’re very grateful every time you choose to support us. Thank you!

Sam wearing a Patagonia vest, one of the outdoor brands that gives back to the environment.

Patagonia

Patagonia is arguably one of the most environmentally activist brands in the entire world — and not just among outdoor companies. Their gear isn’t cheap, but you’re investing in more than yourself when buying from them. You’re investing in the future of our planet. Their mission statement “we’re in business to save our home planet” makes it clear they’re fighting for our world.

At their core, Patagonia is a gear company. Their environmental commitment permeates every aspect of their company, including the products themselves. They take great care to create quality gear that lasts a lifetime through function, durability, and repairability. Plus, their Worn Wear program repairs old Patagonia gear and keeps it out of the landfill. They also use Fair Trade Certified products that have a low environmental impact.

Donations

Since 1985, Patagonia has donated their time, services, and a minimum of 1% of all their sales to protecting the environment. They’ve given over $85 million to grassroots environmental organization all around the world. They also co-founded 1% for the Planet and since its inception in 2002, it’s resonated across the globe and many companies have joined the movement. 

Political involvement

Patagonia also isn’t afraid to become politically involved. They’ve endorsed US senators that align with their values and openly, and loudly, criticized the Trump administration’s public land policies and tax cuts. They’ve even sued the government over it. And when the US’s tax cuts meant they owed $10 million fewer taxes, they donated it to protect the land, air, and water.

One of their newest initiatives is Patagonia Action Works, which is an online platform that connects every day people like you and me with local environmental groups and events, making it easy to get involved. 

Shop: Patagonia | Backcountry (US only) | Amazon
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“Standing atop an eroding bank of melting permafrost, looking out across the most⁠ pristine landscape I’ve ever witnessed, I felt a full spectrum of emotions from awe⁠ and gratitude to concern and fear. Climbing has shown me the wild beauty of our planet and allowed me to create powerful connections with the places and people I’ve met. This trip to the Arctic Refuge showed me the visceral impact we have on our world, and that fighting to preserve that wild beauty for future generations will likely provide the greatest challenge of all.” – @tommycaldwell⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ The decision to reopen the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling is an⁠ irresponsible mistake that benefits few at the expense of us all. It will forever scar one of the great wildernesses left on the planet, will worsen the effects of global climate change, will fail to bring about the supposed benefits its supporters claim, and will violate the human rights of the indigenous Gwich’in people who depend upon this land for survival.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Please help us protect the Arctic Refuge. In the coming weeks, we hope Congress will vote on H.R. 1146, which would STOP the current Administration’s push to lease land in⁠ the Refuge to oil and gas companies. Text ARCTIC to 40649 or check the link in bio for more info.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Check out our stories for more from Tommy’s recent trip to the Arctic Refuge with fellow ambassadors @clare_gallagher_runs and @slukenelson, and follow along in the coming days over at the @patagonia_climb and @patagonia_trailrunning⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Words and images: @austin_siadak⁠⠀

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“The nature surrounding our communities is changing. There is increasing threat of food scarcity as rivers dry and temperatures change. Life is at risk.” – Bernadette Demientieff, Executive Director of @ourarcticrefuge.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ The decision to reopen the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling threatens the food security and traditional way of life of the Gwich’in people, who have lived in close communion with this land for thousands of years. It will also irrevocably damage the vibrant and vital ecosystems of this incredible national treasure.⁠⠀ In the coming weeks, we hope Congress will vote on H.R.1146, which would STOP the current Administration’s push to lease the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas companies. Text ARCTIC to 40649 or check the link in bio.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Last month, ambassadors @tommycaldwell, @clare_gallagher_runs, and @slukenelson traveled to Alaska to attend the 2019 Arctic Indigenous Climate Summit. They were humbled and honored to listen to voices from of the Gwich’in Nation, a variety of Alaska Native perspectives from neighboring communities about the dramatic effects of climate change on the Arctic landscape.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Afterward, the trio set out on a wild overland adventure through the heart of the Refuge, hiking, climbing, and packrafting their way across this pristine and threatened landscape. All this week we will be sharing more about their trip here on our feed and in our stories, and on @patagonia_climb and @patagonia_trailrunning.⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ Images and words: @austin_siadak

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tentree

Tentree specializes in relaxed, lifestyle outdoor clothing. Their name is literal — for every item purchased, they plant ten trees in deforested areas around the world. As a buyer, you can even see where your trees are planted and its impact on local communities. Our purchases have gone towards reforesting Madagascar and planting mangrove, moringa, palm, and acacia trees. 

Environmentalism

Tentree is pushing environmental change and wants to inspire others to do the same. They’re working to reduce the negative impact the clothing industry has on the planet — we’re looking at you, fast fashion. Their goal is to become the most environmentally progressive brand on earth and to plant one billion trees by 2030. It’s a lofty goal and one I’m happy to support!

Sustainability

Tentree’s environmentalism and social change goes beyond simply planting trees, though. By working with local communities in deforested areas, they provide employment, restore wildlife habitat, and educate locals on how to prevent the problems from happening again.

They also partner with ethical factories and only source eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, hemp, cork, and coconut. They ensure that every aspect of their products’ creation is sustainable. 

Shop: tentree | Backcountry | Amazon

Lifestraw

Environmentalism isn’t the only way outdoor brands give back, often it’s through humanitarianism involvement, too. Lifestraw is known in the outdoor community for their water filters, but that’s not their main purpose. As they say themselves, they’re a “social impact brand with a retail program”, not the other way around.

Humanitarianism

Lifestraw provides safe, clean drinking water to some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. They firmly believe that safe water isn’t a privilege, it’s a human right. Every product sold provides one child with safe drinking water for an entire year.

In addition to providing water, they also educate communities about the importance of hygiene, sanitation, general health practices, and more. Lifestraw believes that it’s not only about making contaminated water safe, it’s about protecting the water so it doesn’t become contaminated in the first place.

Environmentalism

Lifestraw also ensures that their product’s production uses environmentally responsible manufacturing and sourcing practices. They’re aiming to be Fair Trade certified by the end of  2019.

And although many of their products are made of plastic, they’re durable and have contributed to a drastic reduction in single-use bottled water. They’re also actively looking into a recycling program for their products.

Although Lifestraw’s main purpose isn’t environmentalism, it’s great to see they’re taking it into consideration. 

Shop: Lifestraw | Amazon | Atmosphere

prAna

PrAna works hard to have a continuing positive impact on both our planet and its people. They have a large line of lifestyle outdoor clothing and were the first North American apparel brand to create Fair Trade Certified™ clothing.

Sustainability

Sustainability runs in prAna’s veins. They source sustainable materials like organic cotton, recycled wool, and responsible down. Plus, they partner with farmers and factory works to help bridge the gap between living and minimum wage.

They believe that small changes add up. Progress not perfection, as they say. Just like switching to energy-efficient light bulbs reduces your energy consumption, switching to sustainable materials lessons your impact on the environment. PrAna also works with local and international charities and donates a portion of their proceeds to Outdoor Outreach which helps bring kids into the outdoors.

Shop: prAna | Backcountry | Amazon

United By Blue

United By Blue is another outdoor brand that gives back. They’re committed to bringing people together to improve the health of our water. For every item purchased, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from our oceans and waterways.

They don’t just sign a cheque for this — they roll up their sleeves and actually get outside. United by Blue also hosts local cleanups and bring communities together to fight plastic pollution and ocean trash.

Environmental conservation

In addition to removing trash from the oceans, their entire brand has environmentalism in mind.

They are a Certified B Corporation, which means they’re legally required to consider the impact their brand has on various things, including their employees, community, and environment. Many of their products are created from recycled materials, which keeps plastic out of the ocean to begin with. United By Blue firmly believe, just like me, that products made for enjoying the outdoors shouldn’t be harmful to the environment. 

PS: I recently purchased numerous United By Blue products and was extremely impressed with their packaging. There wasn’t any plastic or extra packaging in sight!

Shop: United by Blue | Backcountry | Amazon

The North Face

The North Face is one of the oldest outdoor brands on our list (founded in 1968). For over 50 years they’ve been creating quality gear that stands the test of time. They’re also involved in a myriad of environmental initiatives. They support conservation and fight climate change through funding, activism, and various programs. 

Political involvement

In recent years, The North Face — along with Patagonia, KEEN, and others — has become extremely outspoken regarding the Trump administration’s public land policies. They jointly submitted an open letter to the US government which was signed by hundreds of the outdoor industry’s CEOs.

More recently, they’ve advocated for the protection of the Arctic Refuge.

Environmental conservation

The North Face’s commitment to environmental conservation and protection goes beyond outdoor advocacy.

They co-founded the Conservation Alliance in 1989 with Patagonia, REI, and Kelty which helps protect threatened habitat and outdoor recreation. Their Explore Fund provides opportunities for people to learn about and explore the outdoors.

Sustainability

The North Face also has a lifetime warranty on their products. Their Clothes the Loop program rewards people for dropping off their used products. Those products are then re-purposed, repaired, or recycled.

Additionally, the brand works with their suppliers to reduce chemicals and waste within their factories. The North Face also uses sustainable materials such as recycled polyester and responsible down in their products.

Shop: The North Face | Backcountry | Amazon

REI

REI, which has been around since 1938, is a co-op which means they can focus on their members’ priorities instead of shareholders. They sell all of the top outdoor brands, as well as their own self-labeled brand.

Giving back

Thanks to their co-op business model, their brand is able to give back very easily. They give 70% of their profits annually to the outdoor community through member dividends and investments in outdoor nonprofits.

If you’re in the US, it’s very likely that REI invests in organizations that maintain the trails and parks in your area. 

Sustainability

REI supports sustainability both through its own products and the entire outdoor industry. They do this through encouraging other brands to pledge as advocates for the outdoors.

They also believe there are more important things than profits, so every year since 2015 they’ve closed their stores on Black Friday and given their employees the day off to #OptOutside with their friends and family. They’re not the only ones, either. Since then, over 700 organizations have joined them.

In addition to that, they’ve created the Force of Nature Fund which has invested $1 million into organizations that increase opportunity for women in the outdoor industry.

Shop: REI

MEC

MEC is Canada’s REI equivalent and is the largest co-op by membership in the entire country. Created in 1971, MEC offers great prices, rentals, and a fantastic guarantee on their gear. Purchases goes towards conserving the environment and supporting Canadians in the outdoors. They want to leave the world better than we found it.

In 2019, they were even named Canada’s most trusted brand!

Donations

They are a proud member of 1% for the Planet and partner with Canadian outdoor nonprofits to promote conservation and ethical enjoyment of the outdoors. Since 1987, they’ve contributed more than $44 million to Canada’s outdoor recreation and environmental conversation.

Sustainability

It doesn’t stop there. 95% of their self-labeled clothing are packaged without plastic and unnecessary packaging. Since 2008, they’ve removed all single-use shopping bags from their stores which has accounted for about 3.4 million bags a year.

MEC’s clothing line is Fair Trade Certified™ and they’re very transparent about their supply chain and how they work to reduce waste, water consumption, and their carbon footprint.

Shop: MEC

Columbia

Columbia is another well established outdoor brand that gives back. They’re based in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and began as a family-run business more than 80 years ago. They’re well known for making high quality, no nonsense gear that performs well in all kinds of weather.

Sustainability

They place great emphasis on creating gear that’s made from responsibly sourced materials. Columbia actively tracks their supply chain so that they can continually improve their environmental impact.

They also run Rethreads, a program that keeps clothing out of landfills by rewarding customers for bringing in used clothing and shoes (even from other brands). That clothing is then recycled or donated.

Donations

Columbia also donates money and products to a variety of environmentally-focused nonprofits such as The Conservation Alliance, Leave No Trace, and the National Park Foundation, which are all working to help the environment.

Shop: Columbia | Backcountry (US Only) | Amazon

KEEN

KEEN is an outdoor shoe brand whose commitment to environmental and humanitarian efforts are a core aspect of their company. As they say on their website, they “make shoes to make a difference”. 

Donations

Founded in 2003, KEEN’s pivotal moment in their brand’s story came only a year later in 2004. They took their entire $1M annual marketing budget and put it towards disaster relief following the Indian Ocean tsunami. It shaped their culture into a brand that gives back and does the right thing.

Since then, they’ve donated over $15 million to outdoor nonprofits and organizations around the world. Their KEEN Effect Grant Program focuses on improving coast lines around the world and connecting kids with the great outdoors.

Sustainability

Many of their shoes are proudly American made in Portland, Oregon. They voluntarily push industry standards and research sustainable chemistry for their products. KEEN also uses the Higg Index (as does Columbia) to measure their sustainability throughout their products’ entire production. 

Shop: KEEN | Backcountry | Atmosphere | Amazon
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We’re proud to announce our 2019 KEEN Effect Youth Grant Program recipients! Over the next few days we’ll be highlighting each group with a blurb describing their mission. You can also click the link in our bio to read our blog post recapping this project. ⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center – Key Biscayne, FL⁣⁣ Summer by the Sea Camp (pictured above) is a co-ed, 4-week program that provides scholarships for Miami’s underserved children to engage in STEAM-related activities and learn life-enhancing skills through hands-on exploration of south Florida’s unique ecosystems. Campers participate in marine science expeditions, outdoor recreation, and multi-disciplinary arts.⁣⁣ Reconnect hours: 12,000⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Mountain Alliance – Boone, NC⁣⁣ Canoe Program for Teens engages teenagers in transformative opportunities through paddling on local rivers. MA has been providing free outdoor experiential education since 1990, and hopes to connect students with the incredible water resources in our area. These programs will be inclusive to at risk and under resourced youth.⁣⁣ Reconnect hours: 72,000⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Mississippi Park Connection – St. Paul, MN⁣⁣ Every Kid in a Park supports fourth grade students learning from national park rangers in the Mississippi River’s great outdoor classroom. Students who come on park field trips learn about geology, geography, history, environmental science, and how to play in the outdoors. For many of these students, they live just a few blocks from nature, but don’t know basic outdoors skills like how to build a fire, read a map, or look for wildlife.⁣⁣ Reconnect hours: 15,190⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ City Kids – Washington, DC⁣⁣ Job Experience Training Leadership Program connects over 70 urban high school youth to a multi-year Career and Exploration program, using the outdoors as a vehicle to teach critical life skills in order to prepare youth for future employment.⁣⁣ Reconnect hours: 17,100⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Photo: Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center

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S’well

S’well was created with the sole purpose of significantly reducing the amount of single-use bottle consumption worldwide. By combining beautiful, quality products with a single-minded, eco-friendly goal, this amazing women-owned company is making amazing strides to reduce plastic waste.

Environmental impact

A single person can displace 167 single-use bottles within a single year simply be switching to a reusable bottle. Armed with that knowledge, S’well created their Million Bottle Project. Its goal is to raise awareness about single-use plastic and how each of us, simply by making small changes, can have a huge impact on the environment.

Their project aims to remove the use of 100 million single-use plastic bottles by 2020.

Donations

S’well also partners with UNICEF and has donated $1.4 million since 2017 to provide safe and clean water to some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. Going into 2020, they’re supporting UNICEF’s water programs in Madagascar. This includes building infrastructure, educating communities about water-borne diseases, and promoting national reform for sustainable change.

Although S’well isn’t necessarily an outdoor brand, their environmental goals land them firmly in this list for me. Plus, if you’ve been following along with us for a little while, I’m sure you’ve heard about my love of S’well. Not only do I love the bottle itself and have used it almost every day since 2013, I firmly believe in their goals.

Shop: S’well | Amazon

What are you favourite outdoor brands that give back? We’d love to hear what they are!

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