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On Resilience

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I’ve long had a beef with the word sustainability. 

It’s tossed around so often in the outdoor industry, affixed to so many products and claims that it loses all meaning. The concept of sustainability has allowed us to convince ourselves that by buying shoes that are theoretically recyclable or offsetting the emissions of race travel, we’ve done enough.“Sustainability” says it’s sufficient to make small changes. 

What we need is a systemic overhaul. 

It’s business as almost usual, consuming at the same rate while switching out light bulbs and recycling. We need the courage to acknowledge that where we are is far from where we want to be. 

To quote Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird, “Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” 

Resilience is a word borrowed from the world of engineering. It refers to a material’s capacity for withstanding external stress. In the world of environmental work, it refers to the ability of our human and non-human systems to withstand changes in the climate. 

Achieving climate resilience demands a much broader scope of action. It means abandoning every idea that we can escape this situation – and a more dire future – by buying green gear and recycling gel wrappers. It means leaving behind the lens of “in order to talk about this in a trail running magazine, the action must be directly related to trail running.” Because climate change  will continue to affect our trails with fires, floods, drought, air, and water quality concerns. 

But it will also affect every element of every person’s life. It will require political action and organization. It will force us to reexamine our economic and energy systems at every level. It will not be business as usual, nor will it always relate specifically back to our sport. 

We are committed to doing our part. 

Outside’s Boulder headquarters will be a zero-waste facility by the end of this year, and become climate positive by 2030. We’re ahead of schedule in achieving these commitments and have reduced our overall magazine print run, the most carbon-intensive part of what we do. Our climate partner, Cooler, calculated that Outside’s footprint in 2021 was just over 23,000 tons of carbon. Here’s how we plan to get that to zero.

For 2022, Outside has purchased and retired carbon permits that keep the equivalent to 20 percent (4,600 tons) of our carbon footprint out of the atmosphere. We’ll double that in 2023 and continue to increase by that amount until 2026, when we reach 100 percent. As of this fall, the production and distribution of Trail Runner is carbon neutral, thanks to our work with Cooler. 

Neutral is just the beginning. True resilience will require more work from us, both on and off the page. Within this magazine, we are proud to feature stories of genuine resilience from our community. 

We examine the #LandBack movement that looks to Indigenous ways of knowing as the model for stewardship. We look at how land trusts help conserve land and trails. I investigate my own relationship to nature through winter running, and learn about an adaptive athlete’s work making off-road adventure accessible to every athlete. We dive into a race series that connects runners with river restoration, and ways for every race to reduce environmental impact. We meet a scientist who uses running to engage others in climate action and a trail runner whose vision for diversity puts her on some of Colorado’s highest peaks. We look into why nature is necessary for mental health, and how you can eat in a way that centers the planet’s needs with your performance goals. And yes, there’s even some green gear. 

These stories present a mosaic of people who have moved beyond “sustainability” to build the world they want to live in. We hope their words and experiences inspire you to get outside and keep moving forward. 

Happy Trails!