What We Learned at Outdoor Retailer

Denver, CO: For the first time ever, Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, the outdoor industry’s largest North American tradeshow, was held in Denver. Summer Market is about “buying, sourcing, strategic meetings, trend, education and networking with decision makers, influencers, stakeholders, key buyers and athletes that influence the outdoor market.”  With this new location just down the street from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics in Boulder, the Education Team decided to go check it out. We focused our attendance to events and sessions centered around youth, here’s what we learned:

 

Increasing participation is the long game for the outdoor industry. On average, kids only spend 7 minutes a day outside and <50% of adults get outside once a year. These eye-opening statistics serve to showcase this ongoing challenge for outdoor organizations. Check out this summary of Day 1 for videos and photos. Scroll to the very bottom to see a creative activity focused on breaking down barriers for getting kids outdoors!

Ask youth what works/doesn’t work for them and what they need—give youth a voice! In a session called “Building an Outdoor Nation that Thrives Outside,” young people from the Denver-based organization Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) shared their stories and led a youth panel discussion on how the industry can better provide opportunities for diverse youth to experience the awe, joy and wonder of the outdoors. Some of their suggestions: be a mentor, donate your time, help supply gear, support financially if you can!

Keep in mind that today’s youth will be the next generation of camp directors, land managers, customers, voters etc. The ways in which youth engage with the outdoors now will eventually be the way they view the outdoors later in life—whether it's filling roles as program managers, voting on environmental issues, choosing which tent to buy, you name it!

 

Youth are over-protected, over-scheduled, and over-screened. As Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix, pointed out, the area (in square feet) that youth are able to explore outside without direct supervision is drastically decreasing. Initiatives such as Generation Wild, which among other things offers a list of 100 things to do before you’re 12, have been put into place to re-establish the belief that “kids grow better outside.” While not all 100 suggestions embody Leave No Trace, which do you believe best achieves the goal of reconnecting kids with nature while practicing Leave No Trace?

 

 

Multiple generations are affected when kids don't get the chance to learn outdoor skills. With outdoor participation for young girls still falling below that of young boys in 2018, Williams points out that when young women miss the opportunity to develop outdoor skills and outdoor ethics, they are denied the ability to become leaders for the next generation of young girls. Thus, two generations lack the tools they need to have enjoyable and responsible outdoor experiences. Let’s break the cycle!