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Use Your Outside Voice

By Steve Reinhold, Friend of AppGear

On September 21, 20 million volunteers in 175 countries put on a pandemic display of solidarity as they picked up the Planet for World Cleanup Day. In Earth’s history such a coordinated and global environmental movement had only been witnessed once before—the day before. On September 20, over 4 million students and activists—led by Greta Thunberg—a force more magnetic than the north and south pole combined—struck out against climate change with the Fridays For Future campaign. Whether you like it or not, the Earth is hot right now! Not just in degrees but on all forms of media climate change is all the rage. These large scale, coordinated efforts are leading a great awakening and as we teeter on the tipping point in the fight to shift our pollution-paradigm it is time to add your outdoor voice to the outcry. 

I’m well aware that millions of kids skipping class, parading around with clever signs won’t save the Planet. I’m also aware that millions of people posting pictures of themselves picking up trash will not literally save the Planet but the visibility of these movements shines light on social media’s potential to transform social norms. Having #trashtag stoke the fires of #worldcleanupday was amazing! In the weeks leading up to the event I got to speak with individuals from six different continents and was able to help organize #trashtag cleanups in 14 different countries. Poetically, many of these newfound friends live in countries that I have been conditioned to fear. Now, thanks to #trashtag, I have friends and standing invitations to Algeria, Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Turkey and Ukraine. During the World Cleanup Day campaign I was able to help a handful of environmental groups in Nepal band together and we have officially started a pilot program known as #trashtagNEPAL! By far, the most entertaining #trashtag of the event went to a road tripper in Portugal, Andreas Noe, who inscribed #trashtag on his chest, cleaned up an entire beach and then remixed our #trashtag campaign slogans into a #trashtag anthem! That very anthem eventually made its way onto the official World Cleanup Day Instagram account and has now been seen by thousands! Then, of course, their is Egor Lesnoy! An ultra badass Siberian who made #trashtag’n look so incredibly cool in his cleanup video that it transcended all language barriers and made anyone who watched it want to upgrade their haircut and pick up the Planet!

Regardless of your race, your religion, your politics, your identity or your love the climate crisis  will affect you. Earth is literally the only common ground we stand on and as we teeter on the fulcrum of this potential tipping point I implore you to use your outdoor voice to join the movement and keep building our momentum. As many of you know, the #trashtag project was born in the wilderness and was first championed by the outdoor tribe. Outdoor companies and enthusiasts have earned the right to stand on the vanguard of the fight to save our Planet. I’ve always been inspired and educated by the work put out by Patagonia—they even closed their doors for the climate strike. Leave No Trace principles were the guiding force behind me wanting to erase the trace with #trashtag. United By Blue, tentree and 4Ocean continue to amaze me with their creative and epic environmental efforts and I’m stoked to help Appalachian Gear Company change the game with their naturally sourced, biodegradable Alpaca based apparel.

It is an honor working in an industry with so many companies and individuals that actually care about the environment. Together, we are a force and I have witnessed the potential of that force firsthand through the Plastic Impact Alliance. That alliance was spearheaded by Kristin Hostetter from SNEWS and I was lucky enough to chat with her about it during its earliest stages. Our chat took place in Nepal, off the Annapurna Circuit, about 10,000’ high, in the pouring rain, on the last 5 miles of a ten-day trek. Kristin helped us pick up enough #trashtag’s to fill two huge trash bags with 50 pounds each. Once they were filled, my good friend Zig Lewon—son of BACKPACKER Magazine’s editor in chief, Dennis Lewon—and I hauled those bags out through some really rugged conditions. It was soaking wet and we had to take a scrambled detour around a landslide. We clamored our way through a steep gorge above a raging river and eventually made it back to the Trailhead. Of course, we paused for the cause before crossing the final swinging bridge for our obligatory #trashtag picture. Zig proudly hoisted both of our #trashtag bags into the air and that hero shot of him became the foundation for our new #trashtag logo and the trash in those bags could be considered the first tangible impact from the Plastic Impact Alliance! The Plastic Impact Alliance was about so much more than eliminating single use plastics from the Outdoor Retailer Show—which it did—it showed how a combined effort can have a serious impact. It completely changed the pollution narrative at Outdoor Retailer and proved that as a unified voice we will be heard loud and clear!

This is my call to arms for you to utilize your Outdoor Voice in the fight to save our Planet. #trashtag isn’t just about picking up trash. #trashtag is about using your social influence to institute a change in social norms. I implore you to speak out while the world is listening! Speak out against social or ecological injustice and #trashtag it. Proclaim your thoughts on climate change and #trashtag it. Tell us how you are reducing your carbon footprint on the front end and #trashtag it. Tell us which candidates most closely reflect your environmental platform and #trashtag it! Stand with us, use your outdoor voice and utilize your social media as your perpetual climate strike sign—#trashtag, you’re it!

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