What we do in our woods and on our waters is only possible because the generations before us recognized their value. Conservation is the driving force behind sustainable wildlife populations, fisheries, and ecosystems. That’s why so many of us give back to these wild places through conservation organizations and donations. Today, there are several hunting, fishing, and outdoor brands that also recognize the value of protecting the places we all enjoy so much, especially as the number of us enjoying them grows.
According to Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation among Americans increased by more than 7 million people from 2019 to 2020. That’s a pile of new people on the landscape and a lot of new customers buying equipment. With significant sales gains across the industry, many makers of that gear are sharing their wealth with our natural resources.
These gear brands have not only started making financial contributions to conservation initiatives, they’ve also begun to source, manufacturer, and distribute their products through sustainable practices. I broke down some of the leading outdoor brands fighting for conservation and our wild spaces into four categories:
- Rivers: Fishing and rafting companies
- Ridges: Hunting brands
- Rides: Vehicle manufacturers
- Drinks: Beverage companies
Every time you contribute to these brands, you’re supporting conservation, public lands, and our wild places.
Rivers: Companies Striving to Protect Our Waters and Restore Our Fisheries
The pandemic put sense of place into perspective for Simms, based in Bozeman, Montana. They’re partnering with the Trout Unlimited Home Rivers Initiative to protect their home water—the Gallatin River. It’s a $250,000 commitment over three years, and staff is encouraged to request time off for boots-on-the-ground conservation efforts without having to use vacation days.
Started over a decade ago, the Simms wader recycling program is still going strong. You can earn a $50 credit toward new waders when you give your spent pair to a retailer upon purchasing a new pair. That retailer sends the old pair to Simms, and Simms sends them to be recycled for repurposing as pouches and packs. But take note, it might be a few years before your pair is worthy of recycling.
“Not only do we build our products to endure everyday abuse season after season to benefit our consumers, we build products that last to limit what goes in the landfill,” says John Frazier, Simms marketing manager. “We are not in the business of making disposable gear. We build for the long haul.”
Orvis is decades deep in conservation initiatives, which have generated millions of dollars for our natural resources. The 5% for Nature program started 30 years ago, and has funneled more than $20 million to various causes over the years, including the fight against Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, The Everglades in Florida, and Angling for All, started by Brown Folks Fishing.
Gill Fishing not only focuses on sustainability efforts in their products, but also in their packaging. Its plant-based, water-repellant fabric and plastic-bottle-derived yarn transform into durable, foul-weather apparel. Rather than displaying the gear on plastic hangers, Gill Fishing packs the gear in recycled bags.
Alpacka’s approach is simple. Operations are powered by solar energy. Staff reduces single-use bottles by refilling cleaning supplies and soap dispensers. Their packrafts are all made in Mancos, CO and they source American raw materials to decrease their carbon footprint. The company continues to cut down on packaging and other harmful materials like single-use plastics. Alpacka also continues to recycle scrap materials for repurposing as tote bags and wallets.
Ridges: Brands That Put Public Access and Wildlife Conservation First
Kor Cases, launching in October, does more with less. Instead of making a case for each gun, Kor makes one case for all guns. The interior can be formed and reformed. Picture bean bags cushioning the barrel instead of clothes wedged around your firearm. Kor is new but already has a plan to give back with one percent of gross sales going to non-profit organizations that help protect our natural resources.
“We didn’t want to limit ourselves to just one conservation group,” says G.P. Searle, Kor Cases founder. “We’ll accept customer input and support their efforts by donating quarterly to Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Sheep Foundation, and others.”
Gunner gives back by matching what you give. Add a Ducks Unlimited donation to your cart in $1 increments when you buy a Gunner kennel for your bird dog—and Gunner matches your money dollar for dollar. Don’t need a new kennel? You can still donate. Check out with only donation dollars in your cart.
Gunner also just released their new limited-edition Los Banos Flyway Series that will benefit California Ducks Unlimited. Gunner will make a direct donation to Ducks Unlimited from the proceeds of the series. If you are looking for a quality kennel to keep your dog safe and a way to contribute to wetlands conservation, the new Los Banos series is the way to go.
onX puts its money where its maps are. The app that layers topography navigation on your phone is improving access to 150,000 acres of public land and building 150 miles of trail by 2023. So far, onX has helped secure and improve 58.4K acres of access and restore and build 28 miles of trails.
Their Access and Stewardship Grants program opened in August. Access grants purchase land for public access and help secure access routes that aren’t normally guaranteed. Examples of these access projects include land purchases, land swaps, conservation easements, trail easements, private landowner access programs, and trail building.
Stewardship grants are those that repair exploited and overused land that is negatively impacting wildlife and the ecosystem. Eligible stewardship projects include ecological restoration, trail maintenance, rebuilding trails, and recreation infrastructure. You can apply for the grants here.
Rides: Get to the Backcountry, and Give Back While Doing So
Thor, makers of several trailer brands, wants you to get out of town and pick up as you go. Thor launched Pick Up America in 2019. The goal? Fifty tons of garbage removed from public lands throughout the country. They’ve exceeded that goal by 480 percent, with RVers well on their way to a trash heap weighing 240 tons. Watch the pile peak here.
Airstream wants you on the road too—but in a carbon-neutral manner. It launched Caravan to Carbon Neutral this year. It’s a program that offsets carbon emissions by partnering with National Forest Foundation to plant nearly 120,000 trees.
Toyota embraced planet giveback decades ago. It publishes an official North American Environmental Report annually. In 2002, the report was 52 pages. In 2020, it thickened to 84 pages. Toyota targets carbon, water, materials, and biodiversity. The new Toyota Tundra launched in September, right about the same time Monarchs migrate. Those butterflies have 17 new pollinator garden sites across the U.S. and Canada maintained by Toyota.
“Respect for the planet is a core value of Toyota and the driving force behind our environmental initiatives,” says Becky Martin, Toyota Motor North America environmental sustainability manager. “If we don’t protect our natural resources, we will face great risks, both in terms of business and society. We must all do what we can to be good stewards.”
Drinks: Beverage Companies Donating to Conservation Causes? We’ll Drink to That!
Tincup Mountain Whiskey sends up to $100,000 of its sales to habitat protection and sustainable fishing. Tincup’s giveback includes abandoned mine cleanup in places like Colorado’s Animas River and water quality improvements in the South.
The insulated container maker launched Parks for All in 2017. It’s already garnered nearly $2 million for trail maintenance and green space globally. The company has also distributed more than 60,000 reusable water bottles in place of single-use plastics.
I’ll close with cheers go to 10 Barrel. A portion of these five beers are donated to the following organizations through their campaign #drinkitforward: