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How to Take Climate Action

We all have a role to play in reducing our impact on the environment, but taking action against climate change can feel overwhelming. After all, it’s such a huge problem. Where do you start? What does it look like to make changes on an individual level? And does individual action really make a difference? Research suggests the answer may be yes: Your actions can inspire others to make little changes, too, and all that change adds up.

It just takes a few minutes to email your representatives and make a difference with the REI Cooperative Action Network.

Take action today

Here, we’ve got more than two dozen ideas for how you can make a difference.

1. Volunteer in your community

There are dozens of ways to get involved in conservation in your local neighborhood: Plant trees, host a cleanup or work in a community garden. While you’re helping to keep your local environment healthy, you’ll also log positive mental health effects of volunteering, like higher life satisfaction and self-esteem. Visit for ideas and a way to track your volunteer hours. Or find an REI stewardship class or event near you.

Two people carrying a garbage can at cleanup event

2. Cut down on individually packaged snacks

Single-use plastics like bags and wraps are derived from fossil fuels and are energy-intensive to produce. They’re also hard to recycle and decompose slowly in landfills. Instead of individually packaged snacks on your next adventure, consider making your own trail snacks (think: Crispy Nut Butter Bars or protein-based cookies!) as one REI member did. Store them in a reusable food container and stash them in your pack for a quick waste-free nosh.

3. Take a more eco-friendly camping trip

It can be easier than you’d expect to leave a big environmental footprint while camping. For a more eco-friendly focus, pack out your trash and compost, plan DIY snacks and meals (without single-use plastics), buy organic food and ingredients, opt for biodegradable soap and follow Leave No Trace Principles. Read more tips on How to Have a More Eco-Friendly Camping Trip.

Stasher Silicone Sandwich Bag

4. Raise your voice to protect and share life outdoors

One of the most effective climate actions you can take is to contact your local representatives and members of Congress on environmental issues. Many politicians make decisions based on feedback from people living in their region. Every call and email matters! REI’s Cooperative Action Network includes many ways to act. For example, join members of your co-op community to support legislation on e-bike tax credits, outdoor job renewal or the Every Kid Outdoors program, to name a few. Or use this tool to find your local representative.

Trail crew team member with REI shirt

5. Buy used gear or trade in old gear

Before your next outdoor adventure, consider buying lightly used gear (at REI or a local consignment shop) or trade in your old gear. Shopping secondhand can save on the emissions and water use needed to make new gear, reducing a brand’s overall environmental footprint.

6. Bike more often

In 2019, passenger cars produced 762.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, making them the most polluting public transportation mode that year. (Just one vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of C02 equivalent every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency). If you can pedal to work or while running errands, you’ll log a workout, feel better and make a small but important dent in environmental pollution!

Two people wearing helmets riding bikes together.

7. Try a zero-waste backpacking trip

The goal: Produce zero landfill-directed waste while you’re out on the trails. That means no single-use plastic wrappers, composting when possible, bringing bulk foods and beyond. Watch Miranda in the Wild try out a zero-waste trip!

8. Pay attention to the sustainability attributes of your gear

Gear that’s labeled as Fair Trade Certified™, for example, is made by manufacturers who promote safe working and living conditions for farmers and employees. (Read more on How to Choose Sustainable Clothing and Gear). Also, if you shop at REI, note that all brand partners are expected to meet REI Product Impact Standards, which regard how key environmental, social and animal welfare impacts are managed.

A Fair Trade Certified label inside a dark green T-shirt.

9. Support your local greenways

Greenways are pedestrian and biking routes that connect communities and states on protected paths, some stretching for hundreds of miles. Check to see if your local community has a trails coalition, and consider joining efforts to expand those trails. For example, in D.C. the Capital Trails Coalition is working to create an interconnected network of multiuse trails. In Minnesota, the Great River Passage Conservancy connects residents along the Mississippi River. And in San Francisco, the Blue Greenway project is focused on building a network of parks and trails.

Two people wearing helmets biking side by side on a greenway.
Courtesy: East Coast Greenway

10. Vote

Voting is one of the most powerful ways you can make your voice heard. Read more about how you can take action ahead of local or national elections.

11. Set up a recurring donation

Support your favorite organizations that are fighting for life outside. When new members sign up for a lifetime REI membership, the co-op donates $5 to the REI Cooperative Action Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity. The Fund makes grants to nonprofits like Wild Diversity and the Venture Out Project that promote justice, equity and belonging in the outdoors.

12. Buy from brands that align with your values

Conscious consumerism involves shopping in a way that makes a positive social, environmental and economic impact. In other words, buying from companies that support the environment can help them grow, encouraging others to do the same. Brands certified as Climate Neutral, for example, have committed to measuring, reducing and offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions. Look for the label on products.

The Climate Neutral Certified logo.
Photo courtesy: Climate Neutral

13. Confront your eco-anxiety at a climate café

Eco-anxiety was recently described in a report by the American Psychological Association as “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” The tolls on mental health from the implications of climate change are far-reaching, the report notes, and psychological responses to climate change are growing. To combat this existential dread, consider joining a climate café. It’s a gathering of people concerned about the climate crisis, and it’s aimed at addressing feelings of isolation and shame through candid and personal discussions.

14. Eat more plant-based meals

Try new vegetarian recipes like this on-the-go avocado bowl the next time you go camping or need a trail snack. Eating plant-based meals has tons of positive health benefits (including adding important nutrients like potassium, dietary fiber, folate, vitamin A and vitamin C), plus a reduced risk for developing heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. The positive impact on the environment is worth it, too: The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization reports that the livestock industry accounts for more than 14% of global greenhouse gases every year.

An overhead shot of the ingredients that go into the avocado bowl.
Snack hack: On-the-Go Avocado Bowl; Photo credit: Maria Hines

15. Talk to your friends about climate change and outdoor equity

According to one study, discussions among one’s own social network can help drive change and acceptance. This means it’s ever more important to start conversations about climate change and outdoor equity, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. The Nature Conservancy has tips for how to start those conversations.

16. Opt out of junk mail

By some estimates, several million tons of catalogs and other direct mail advertisements end up in U.S. landfills annually. You can limit unwanted mail by visiting The Federal Trade Commission provides this guide on how to stop junk mail.

17. Calculate your carbon footprint

Use the EPA carbon footprint calculator to get a real look at the environmental footprint of your household. Once you have a clear picture, set a goal to lower it by a certain percentage within a year.

An illustration featuring various icons related to everyday things that affect our carbon footprints, such as modes of transportation, energy use and consumption, and trees.
Illustration: Emily Irelan

18. Start a composting habit

Composting reduces the amount of food waste that sits in landfills and generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Thankfully, you can start composting at home; whether you schedule a pickup or use the compost to enrich your soil—every food scrap counts. Check out the EPA’s guide for how to get started.

19. Join the Great Nurdle Hunt

Nurdles are plastic pellets that make up the building blocks of most plastic products. And when they spill—especially into our oceans—the impacts on wildlife, human health and the environment are severe. Volunteers started the Great Nurdle Hunt to encourage members of the public to hunt for and collect plastic pellets on their local beaches. Find out how you can take part.

20. Plant a garden

Get your fingers in the dirt this spring and consider planting your own garden. Listen to “plantfluencer” Marcus Bridgewater as he shares his experiences and tips in this Wild Ideas Worth Living podcast. Choose native plants that thrive in your region. For planning, we like the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder tool, which provides a list of local plants by zip code, ranked by the number of species they support.

Marcus Bridgewater is smiling at the camera while holding plants in both of his hands.

21. Ask about green energy options

Depending upon where you live, solar and wind power may be available for fueling your home. Check with your local energy company for rebates and incentives, too (many companies will pay you for installing solar panels or heat pumps). The North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center maintains a database of state and federal incentives and policies.

22. Read or watch a documentary about an environmental issue

Hoping to get inspired? Pick up a book about climate justice at your local library or secondhand store (New York Magazine has this reading list to get you started). Or spend your evening watching “REI Presents: Dear Mother Nature, starring Pattie Gonia.”

23. Mind your water

Heating water for things like showering and washing your dishes is the second largest use of energy in the home, according to the EPA. So, get savvy about your water use. Only run your dishwasher when it’s full, take shorter showers and curb lawn-watering efforts when you can.

24. Consider slow shipping

Overnight shipping may be convenient, but that expedited speed may come at a cost in the form of additional fuel and energy, which can contribute to higher greenhouse gas emissions. When possible, consider choosing the “no-rush” option or request that multiple items be delivered in a single box instead of several separate ones. Some estimates say this simple slowdown could reduce emissions by 30%.

25. Take time to appreciate nature and feel awe

Even just spending 20 minutes in nature can relieve stress. And there’s also the added benefit of respecting nature more the longer you spend in it. In 2017, one study found that kids who spent more time outside were more likely to protect nature as adults. So, schedule that hike, bike ride, camping trip or trail run. While you’re benefiting yourself, you’re also reminding those around you of how magical Mother Nature can be.

A photograph taken from a high-elevation vantage point, looking out at the sun over a mountain range.

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