Opting outside on Black Friday? Here’s where you can volunteer in your community.

This article originally appeared in The Denver Post on Nov. 24, 2019

REI launching “Opt To Act,” a nationwide clean-up effort

The toughest choice I’ll make this Black Friday will not be which television or Bluetooth speaker to buy, but rather, whether to go cross-country skiing, hiking or horseback riding. At the moment, my family and I are leaning toward the latter, as we have an opportunity to learn about bison conservation at Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserve, which spans a remote part of the Colorado-New Mexico border.

Whatever we end up choosing, we are definitely opting outside and saving any shopping for another day. I want to do something that shows my kids how important it is for us to spend time outdoors and to share an activity, so intentionally spending Black Friday away from any mall or box store seems like a healthy thing to do.

That is the goal behind #OptOutside, the movement spawned by REI five years ago.

“For the fifth year in a row,” said Jon Frankel,  REI manager of outdoor programs and experiences, in a phone interview, “we are closing all our stores nationally, processing no payments, and paying our 13,000 employees to get outside.”

REI is also launching an additional campaign, “Opt To Act,” a nationwide clean-up effort that partners with local organizations and includes a 52-week “opt to action” calendar with a variety of ways to stay aware and committed to the outdoors year round.

“We are urging our customers to join the fight for a life outdoors,” said Frankel, referring to the 18 million members of the co-op, which sells recreational gear and experiences. “And we are taking action the best way we can as a cooperative and as a community.”

You can participate in the Opt Outside movement by simply getting outdoors on Black Friday — and any day, really. Or, here’s a sampling of local events if you want to join others Nov. 29 (see a more complete list of clean-up events at rei.com/opt-outside):

Native Women’s Wilderness (Denver) is running a Platte River cleanup from 10 a.m. to noon, with lunch following at Tocabe Indian Eatery.

Native Women’s Wilderness (Boulder) will gather from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Boulder Public Library for a Boulder Creek cleanup, followed by lunch at Tocabe Indian Eatery.

REI and the city of Colorado Springs are teaming up with Leave No Trace – The Center for Outdoor Ethics to clean up Palmer Park(Colorado Springs) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be raffles for REI gear. Register here or contact Gillian Rossi (grossi@springsgov.com, 719-246-3097).

52 Hike Challenge (Evergreen) is a hiking-based event from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. You’ll hike about 5 miles out and back on the trail, with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. There will be giveaways provided by local sponsors and REI.

TranSending (Golden) is holding an event focused on recycling gear. Drop by the American Mountaineering Center between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. with your lightly used outerwear and baselayers. Grab a free coffee and a cleanup kit to take on your hike or bike ride afterward. There’s a chance you may walk away with new gear, too.

YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch (Granby) is offering overnight guests on Black Friday the opportunity to sign up for these programs at no extra cost: Moose on the Loose hiking (or snowshoeing), Thanksgiving History Stroll, Turkey Flag Football, community campfire & s’mores. The ranch has hotel-style lodge rooms and pet-friendly cabins.YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Center​ (Estes Park) is running Opt Outside programming all day, including a Woolly Worm Hunt, Treasure Trek, Bear Talks, and s’mores around the fire (in addition to hike-in access to Rocky Mountain National Park).

Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa (Avon) is organizing an Opt Out – Get Out 5K Walk — that is free, open to the public, and dog-friendly. This “vigorous walk” will start at 10 a.m. and take you to Nottingham Lake and along the Eagle River.

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