Update from Salt Lake City!
It has been a whirlwind two days in Salt Lake City at the Outdoor Retailer event. Imagine every gear company you’ve ever heard of, times that by one hundred, throw in a few more and put them all in trendy booths aimed to recreate the places where that gear is used, spread it out all over a massive convention center, and you’ve got what people call OR!
Throw in a handful of the uberfamous athletes who rep these brands, and you’ve got yourself an outdoor junkie’s paradise. You may have no idea who these people are, but I'm impressed! Dean Potter, Rheinhold Messner, Lynn Hill, Ed Visteurs, Conrad Anker, and Sasha DiGiulian to name a few. Click through their links, get inspired, and go get outside!
The place is massive sensory overload and you begin to wonder at the need for 16 different sock companies. How many ways can there be to make just the perfect hiking sock? And they're all amazing.
What makes the place truly fantastic, however, is that nine times out of ten, community outweighs competition in the outdoor industry. It really is a gathering of a tribe of people, committed to their passion in being outside and making that a great experience for their customers, whatever that looks like.
There are certainly some issues the Outdoor Industry could and definitely needs to tackle in a more unified manner. They do, as a whole, conservation and sustainable business practices pretty darn well, but where there is a lot of work that needs to be done is around the issue of diversity. I had the opportunity yesterday to speak on a panel about diversity and youth in the outdoors and was pleased to see that the issue of diversity was not, and is not, in the Outdoor Industry confined to race, though that certainly is a key component of the debate. I’ll be writing more about the diversity panel in future days.
There was, however, a thoughtful conversation about the need to involve more military families, service members, and veterans, as well as youth, families, and individuals from a far broader range of socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as ensuring a greater level of gender equity in the industry.
Even in 2012, the notion that the industry as a whole can make a significant impact in creating positive change around the military and veteran community still seems like a novel idea. People just did not think about. Certainly, many companies have profited from government contracts and I think are very open to the notion of giving back to veterans and military families. Many have, but more can be done.
However, before it can be done, we as members of the military and veteran community need to outline how and what that might look like. It’s how we can meet the industry halfway. Not just a hand out, but a hand up.
So, let’s start that conversation here and now, at least in the comments. How can they help? Maybe we can even get a bigger contingent of military and veterans out here for the next OR in July to share our stories and show why the Outdoor Industry should view us, the military and veteran community, our spouses, families, and kids, as the next generation of leaders.
~Stacy Bare, OIF Veteran
Military Families and Veteran Representative to the Sierra Club
"Helping America's Military and Veteran Community experience the freedom of the land they defend"