REI recently made headlines for the unionization of its workers at its flagship SoHo store in New York City, part of a nationwide trend of retail and warehouse workers unionizing. But, this is not the only pressing issue facing REI.
In recent weeks, scores of REI members have spoken out on the co-op’s message board, demanding the company respond to questions regarding whether it will phase out and ban toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” in the products it sells at its upcoming member meeting. Weeks ago, REI invited its members to submit questions for the leadership to address at the meeting, and as a result, REI members flooded the message board demanding action on PFAS–totaling more than 90% of all comments! This follows emails and petitions to the company that were signed by more than 110,000 REI members and customers and a letter from 100+ organizations representing millions of people.
The message is loud and clear. REI, we hope you listen to your members and customers and lead the outdoor apparel industry away from PFAS. These chemicals are contaminating the drinking water for millions of people in the United States, and the trail of pollution that is created—from production, to use in products, to disposal—is devastating. Even what should be the purest food on the earth—breast milk—is contaminated. We are looking forward to hearing how the company plans to take responsibility for PFAS in the products it sells at its annual member meeting next week on May 16.
Here are some of the most compelling messages REI members have posted on the company’s website:
Cancer survivor calls for action on PFAS
“As a very long time coop member and a cancer survivor, I am asking you to drastically step up your commitment to ban forever chemicals like PFAS. We cannot afford to continue use of these types of products, they are killing us and making us (and all the other beautiful beings on this planet) sick. If we as a coop are really what we stand for in promoting environmental protections, we need you to take this issue seriously and act quickly and decisively on behalf of us all to stop these polluting behaviors.”
Mom and grandmother wants REI to protect the natural environment
“I am an REI member because I enjoy the outdoors. As a mom and grandmother. I am concerned about chemicals that harm people’s health. It is distressing that even in nature, we cannot easily get away from toxic pollutants that harm our health. That I take harmful PFAS chemicals into the nature in the gear I bring along, adds to the distress. It’s time for REI to get harmful PFAS chemicals out of the products you sell. When will REI take action on PFAS chemicals?”
Long-time member relies heavily on rain gear in the Pacific Northwest
“As a longtime REI member, I’m concerned by the company’s continued reliance on dangerous PFAS that not only pose a threat to human health, but also persist in the environment. I’m not just a concerned member, but also a resident of the Pacific NW where I rely heavily on rain gear to keep me dry and comfy, yet these are the products that are often made with PFAS. The good news is some companies have found safer alternatives to make rain gear that’s just as effective in my climate. Until REI stops using PFAS, I will have to be going elsewhere for my outdoor gear.”
PFAS has polluted drinking water in California
“Our family has had an REI membership since the mid 1980s. Although purchasing products at REI was sometimes more expensive than other sources, we preferred the coop because it is a coop and thought the values of the Coop aligned more with good environmental stewardship. Now I’ve learned about the problem of the toxic Per and polyfluor chemicals called PFAS in REI products. In California, I’ve read that the water systems serving over 19 million people have been tested and found contaminated with PFAS. Of course not all the PFAS come from REI-sold products, but still as a member, I want and expect REI to be leading on the phase-out of these products that harm our beautiful environment and our health!”
PFAS has polluted drinking water in Massachusetts
“I’ve been an REI member for 2 decades and have bought many boots, rain jackets, backpacks and other outdoor gear from REI. Recently I’ve learned that it all probably contains PFAS chemicals that don’t break down in the environment or my body, are linked to cancer and other illnesses, and have contaminated drinking water all across my home state of Massachusetts and the country, with devastating impacts on communities that have been the hardest hit. Please make a pledge and a plan to get PFAS out of your stores!”
PFAS has impacted cows and deer in Maine
“In Maine, we have found PFAS in our water, our soil, in cow’s milk, and even in our deer (which resulted in a deer advisory to not eat deer in the Fairfield area). Please take action on PFAS now to protect all families, farmers, wildlife, and the environment. Thank you.”
PFAS has contaminated fish in Michigan
“I’ve been a member of REI for many years. I also live in Ann Arbor, Michigan where there is a REI store, and where PFAS have contaminated the river that runs through town. The state has issued a Do Not Eat the Fish advisory, so we cannot even eat the local fish. I know REI is not directly responsible for my river being contaminated with PFAS, but it would be amazing if REI took a stand and showed support for doing something about PFAS that contaminates rivers all over the country. Like not using PFAS in the first place to make the clothes and shoes it sells. It makes sense because REI customers care so much about the environment, and REI is active in my community. Please consider banning PFAS in all your products!”
PFAS has polluted drinking water in North Carolina
“Why hasn’t REI yet made a commitment to ban forever chemicals (AKA PFAS) in the products you sell? I’ve been a REI member for years, but as a North Carolinian I’m disappointed REI hasn’t done more on this issue. Almost 5 years ago, we learned that many North Carolinians had been over-exposed to PFAS through their drinking water. Since then we’ve learned a lot about how common the chemicals are and how damaging they are to our health. NC families cannot afford one more drop of PFAS – not in our water, not in our outdoor gear.”
If Patagonia can make a commitment to ban PFAS, why can’t REI?
“I have been shopping at REI since I was a teenager…I always thought that REI was ahead of other companies since we’re a coop and our members care about the environment. I worry when I read about PFAS on Mount Everest and in every one of our bodies. How come other brands like Patagonia have been able to make the commitment to stop using PFAS and our coop has not? It makes me wonder why I keep shopping at REI. Please commit now to stopping the use of these toxic forever chemicals.”
REI should use its power to move suppliers away from PFAS
“Part of the reason I became an REI member is due to REI’s commitment to sustainability. I’d like to know how REI plans to use it’s power as one of the biggest retailers in the industry to move producers away from using PFAS chemicals in their products. PFAS are a serious and growing threat nationally and globally. You have options, and the power to be part of the solution. Make it happen!”
REI members care about the company’s values
“I agree this [PFAS] is a very high priority item for me as an REI member…As a member-owned coop we are mighty. We don’t have to shop at REI — we choose to. Not just based on price, but also based on VALUE(s). If REI remains silent or noncommittal about PFAS ingredients in the products it sells then what does that say about REI’s values (which are also, in the end, OUR values)…I look forward to seeing the CEO and Board’s response on this.”
REI must act to protect future generations
“I agree with this – when will REI phase out ALL PFAS products, not just a select few. Be a leader in the industry, reflect your – OUR – values. Listen to your members. As a member for well over a decade, this is important to me, it’s clearly important to a lot of other members judging by the comments just on this page and it’s important to the general public. For us to be able to truly enjoy the outdoors and have the ability to pass on that love to future generations, we need to do everything in our power to ensure that the outdoors is still around, clean and healthy. This is one step to do that. Phase out ALL PFAS products.”