The North Face is taking advantage of Earth Day to launch a global campaign focused on making April 22 a national holiday, with a Change.org petition signed by the retailer and 15 other organizations, according to a company press release. In observance of that movement, 113 of the outdoors retailer's stores in the U.S. and Canada, along with its global headquarters, will not operate on Earth Day.
The retailer's efforts are tied to a series of events it's putting under the title of "Explore Mode," which will take place in major cities across the world, including New York City, Munich, Paris, London and Manchester, England. It includes partnerships with musicians, artists and culinary influencers, all focused on encouraging people "to disconnect digitally and engage with their surroundings."
Prior to Earth Day, The North Face's stores are offering customers "all the resources they need to spend Earth Day off the grid," according to the release. Customers who attend one of the retailer's activities will also receive "an exploration kit that includes analog gear to stay present and capture memories without the need for digital devices."
The North Face seems to be taking a page out of REI's playbook with this latest move, using Earth Day as a platform to talk about the outdoors and encourage both its employees and its customers to head outside and explore. REI for years has made a similar move on Black Friday, shuttering its stores and giving employees the day off, with orders to #OptOutside instead.
Explore Mode seems to be founded on the same principles, and Earth Day is a natural choice for an outdoor retailer trying to position itself as a champion of the environment and exploration alongside competitors like REI and Patagonia.
Interestingly, while REI's #OptOutside campaign emphasizes spending time in the outdoors, the retailer has in previous years encouraged user-generated content by asking customers to post photos of themselves with family or friends on social media. The North Face, on the other hand, is discouraging the use of digital devices at all, including smartphones, saying the experiences "will only be accessible to those who put down their phones and digital devices to be present in the moment."
The retailer's analog exploration kit could include a polaroid camera or other method for photo capturing, but the possibilities for social media sharing seem to be fewer than REI has encouraged, at least at first glance. The North Face is also deviating from hosting strictly nature-driven activities, with an "ultimate 90s throwback party" hosted by Ella Mai and Brian Procell, as well as a culinary exploration alongside chef Angela Dimayuga and an art exhibition curated by Gabrielle Richardson.
"We believe that when people take time to appreciate the Earth, they feel more connected to it and are more likely to protect it," Tim Bantle, global general manager of lifestyle at The North Face, said in a statement. "Explore Mode urges us to unplug from our digital lives to connect in real life to the world, each other, and ourselves in the effort to move the world forward."