REI last week announced $603,000 in grants to foster outdoor recreation opportunities in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Since 2015, REI has partnered with local nonprofits to help city-dwellers reconnect with nature; with the latest grants its total contribution to what it calls its "rewilding" effort totals $1.6 million, according to a company press release.
The projects include developing and/or improving areas for water paddling, hiking and cycling in parks, forests and trails in or near urban and suburban areas of the five U.S. cities.
"Rewilding" is a conservation term that usually refers to the reintroduction of wild animal species that have been driven out of their natural habitats, often by the encroachment of urban development.
But REI is borrowing the term to apply it to humans, which, especially in the U.S., are increasingly found in cities — and indoors. The average American spends 95% of their time indoors, REI says.
"[O]ur goal is to reimagine how people connect with the outdoors while living in large metropolitan areas," Kristen Ragain, REI philanthropy and community partnership manager, said in a statement. "As more of the population moves to urban areas, and cities continue to develop, it's important to ensure there are outdoor spaces for people to enjoy the rewards and benefits of a life outdoors."
This effort is just the latest on-brand maneuver for the outdoor gear co-op, which has infamously shut down its in-store and online retail operations on Black Friday for the past few years so that its customers and employees could spend the day after Thanksgiving out hiking in nature. Despite that #OptOutside campaign during one of retail's biggest shopping days, the co-op is grabbing market share from rivals.
Branding and philanthropy-based moves are popular among outdoor retailers in particular, as with Eddie Bauer's #WhyIHike campaign, which raises money for outdoors-related nonprofit companies, and L.L. Bean's recent announcement of an outdoor co-working pop-up, which will travel to four U.S. metro areas this summer before landing permanently at its Freeport, Maine headquarters.