The Outdoor Industry Unites to Battle Single-Use Plastic

Going to Outdoor Retailer next week? Leave your plastic at home.

words :: Kelly Blake.

Brace yourself for some seriously depressing facts.  According to The UN Environment Programme, the world produces about 300 million tons of plastic waste every year. More than 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced worldwide since the early 1950s. Most single-use plastic is used for a minute or two, then discarded, where about 60 percent of it languishes either a landfill or the ocean for hundreds of years. By 2050, there will be more plastic garbage, pound for pound, in our oceans than fish.

We can stop using single-use plastic—we just have to make an effort.


Clearly, we need to nip our plastic habit in the bud and find new solutions. The outdoor industry agrees and they’re banding together to do something about it.

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More than 330 companies—brands, retailers, nonprofits, PR firms, marketing agencies, media outlets, and travel professionals—have aligned with the Plastic Impact Alliance to eradicate single-use plastic from their businesses, one bottle at a time.

The Plastic Impact Alliance (PIA) launched just under a year after Kristin Hostetter, editor-in-chief of the outdoor trade publication, SNEWS (, wrote an editor’s note about the flagrant use of single-use plastic at the industry’s largest trade gathering, Outdoor Retailer. The message resonated with outdoor leaders, who began reaching out to Hostetter asking how they can help. That’s when the idea to build the Alliance was born.

One example of the Plastic Alliance at work, teaming up with Yeti.

“It quickly became really clear that I was not alone in feeling hypocritical,” says Hostetter. “As an industry that is built around a passion for the outdoors, and one that relies on a healthy environment and does so much good work on the sustainability front, it just seemed like the very least we could do is eliminate single-use plastic from our big trade show.”

By the time the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market rolled around last June, more than 170 exhibiting brands had agreed to abolish single-use plastic from their booths and host water stations so attendees could refill their re-usable bottles. “It was awesome to see the excitement around the PIA build so fast,” says Hostetter. “With so many of its exhibitors expressing passion around the PIA, the trade show management really leaned in. They gave out 25,000 Nalgene bottles at the show, installed huge water tanks in partnership with YETI, and even got rid of rolls and rolls of single-use carpet that lined the aisles.” . 

At the upcoming Outdoor Retailer Snow Show, the PIA is working with Outdoor Retailer to establish soft-film recycling. “We’ll be collecting things like polybags and plastic pallet wrap, and making sure that it gets delivered to local recycling centers, rather than ending up in the dumpster. And there will be even more water stations on the show floor, and more sustainable happy hours and events than ever before, as brands find alternatives to the compostable (but still single-use) plastic cups that used to be the norm at happy hour time,” says Hostetter. 

Plastic is an amazing material—but this? Not so special.

The Plastic Impact Alliance, currently more than 330 brands strong and growing every day, has big plans for the future. “There’s so much more we can do,” says Hostetter. “Recycling is only a temporary solution and eradicating all single-use plastic from our show and our businesses won’t happen overnight. But the awareness and urgency is growing every day, and there are so many companies that are working really hard to find better solutions. I believe we can get there, through this huge collaborative effort.” 

How to join?

All companies on a journey (at any stage) to eliminate single-use plastic from their business are invited to join the PIA. Just email P[email protected] and include your logo. 

The Alliance has also created a Took Kit that includes trade show resources and marketing assets for anyone to use.  And for anyone attending Outdoor Retailer, SNEWS just published an article with tips on how to prepare for a plastic-free show. This is definitely one place that you won’t want to be caught dead with a Dasani bottle. 

Kelly Blake is a co-founder of the Plastic Impact Alliance and has been working in a marketing capacity in the outdoor industry for many years. Blake has been attending Outdoor Retailer since 1994.