Introducing The Colorado Footprint, a monthly column that follows stories about Colorado’s environment and the solutions-based projects, people, and ideas bettering the Centennial State. OutThere Colorado is driven by our deep respect for our environment, and our passionate commitment to sustainable tourism and conservation. We believe in the right for everyone – from all backgrounds and cultures – to enjoy our natural world, and we believe that we must all do so responsibly. This column aims to highlight those engaged in the vital work of protecting and preserving Colorado’s environment.

Next Monday morning, the first Outdoor Retailer Summer Market trade show in Denver, Colorado will officially kick off with a 7 a.m. breakfast lecture. Florence Williams, celebrated author of The Nature Fix and contributing editor at Outside magazine, will take the Hyatt Regency’s stage and, while trade show attendees sip coffee and munch their burritos, she’ll share a few things she’s learned as a science writer, namely how the “powers of the natural world” can “improve health, promote innovation and, ultimately, strengthen our relationships.”

Florence’s speech won’t contain much breaking news for many in the audience—most being heavily steeped in the outdoor recreation industry who need little, if any, convincing of nature’s intrinsic value to human society. But it’s the perfect message to kick off a week of environmental education, advocacy and relationship building among outdoor recreation industry brands, nonprofit environmental organizations and municipal agencies.

Outdoor Retailer is the largest outdoor sports expo and conference in the world, bringing together tens of thousands of people from all corners of the earth, involved in every recreation activity from sea kayaking to hammock lounging, to high-altitude rock climbing and landscape painters, photographers and beyond.

For the past two decades, the multi-million-dollar bi-annual trade show (with a summer and a winter rendition) had been held in Salt Lake City, Utah. But after Utah government officials announced a series of political decisions that starkly contrasted with outdoor industry interests in 2017—like when the state supported Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s review of public lands that eventually led to the reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Monuments—the outdoor industry decided to band together and take measures into their own hands looking for a new home that would reflect the value of public land, prioritize the environment and encourage harmony between humans and land. Denver, it seemed, was the perfect fit.

The trade show’s move to Colorado is something of a special bookmark in the history of the outdoor recreation industry, which relies to an incalculable degree on the health of environments around the globe. By taking a firm stance against a state government that refuses to prioritize the environment, and planting secure roots in a state that does, the outdoor recreation industry is building upon a widespread environmental movement from the ground up.

The big move wasn’t the industry’s first major announcement about its interest in climate change politics, however. An earlier message had come in the wake of President Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. Since June 2017, all kinds of companies across the outdoor industry have pledged to “fill the void,” or to commit to climate-solution action that the government won’t. As the Outdoor Industry Alliance (OIA) has reported, since June of 2017 “many brands have signed the “We Are Still In” declaration, including almost 80 [OIA] members that understand there is power in collaboration and that by standing together, through both advocacy and mitigation, the industry can be a formidable force in the fight against climate change.”

Over the past year, the industry has continuously sent an effective message: If the government won’t protect the health of our environment, they will. This shows clearly in a survey OIA conducted during January 2018’s Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show, where they found 25 percent of companies said they had set annual goals related to climate change or carbon reduction. Additionally, major brands like The North Face, Smartwool, Vans, Timberland, Icebreaker, Eagle Creek, Patagonia, burton, Fjållråven, among others, have all pledged major carbon-reduction targets for their companies in the near future. On top of that, OIA reports more than 300 companies have joined the Science Based Targets initiative—a collaboration between the World Resource Institute, the World Wildlife Fund, Disclosure Insight Action (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC)—which “helps companies set targets to reduce GHG emissions to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celcius.”

This upcoming trade show promises to continue building the environment-first momentum within the industry and gather even more companies and organization on board. As the summer conference mission explicitly lauds, “Here, buyers, suppliers, retailers and market experts join to share new ideas, explore best practices and unite as a powerful advocate for environmental issues and the protection of public lands—that and have a good time while growing businesses and making new friends and connections.”

Opening the conference with a direct acknowledgement of environmental issues and bringing advocacy to the forefront, emblemized in Williams’ selection as the keynote speaker, is one way to ensure the message is not only loud and clear over the course of the show’s four days, but will also resonate throughout the entirety of the industry’s next chapter.

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We are driven by our deep respect for our environment, and our passionate commitment to sustainable tourism and conservation. We believe in the right for everyone - from all backgrounds and cultures - to enjoy our natural world, and we believe that we must all do so responsibly. Learn More