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Column: This Black Friday, do something different. Get outdoors

Holidays are a time for families and friends to gather, to spend some quality time together and to unwind from the hustle and bustle of daily life and pressures. I can’t really think of anything that goes more against the grain of the holiday spirit than rushing to the mall as doors are flung open and people stampede in to take advantage of deep discounts on the latest electronics and other gadgets.

Who is responsible? The companies who must rely on their employees – some working on Thanksgiving Day, others coming in before sunrise on Black Friday —so they can ensure profits? Or the willingness of consumers to be tempted by the deep-discount incentives?

After dropping for two straight years, the number of people who shopped on Black Friday rose in 2016, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.

If Thanksgiving is supposed to be about giving thanks, for family, for friendship, for the intangible riches of this life, it seems to me to run completely counter to running out and buying the latest and greatest materialistic product.

To borrow a line from A Charlie Brown Christmas, “Oh, No. My own dog gone commercial, I can’t stand it!”

Meanwhile, some businesses are going in the opposite direction. While Seattle Co-op Retailer REI has traditionally closed its stores on Thanksgiving Day, this is the third year that all 151 stores and online processing centers will also be closed on Black Friday, giving more than 12,000 employees the day off to “head outside.”

This year, the company is using its #OptOutside hashtag to create a search engine filled with specific activities and locations for users who are looking for ideas how to spend Black Friday outside.

Curating user generated content on Instagram with the #OptOutside hashtag, the search engine pulls in real-time data and locations of photos, and offers users information, such as the location of and directions to a hiking trail, its level of difficulty, and reviews by previous hikers.

In a press release, REI CEO Jerry Stritzke said more than 700 organizations and 8 million people have joined over the last two years.

“We are doing this again to unite people and to find common ground in the outdoors… I think people are looking for a moment to take a breath, reground themselves and come together.”

One organization that is teaming up with REI this year is Lyft, which will be offering free rides (up to $10) to local parks this Friday in 10 cities—Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland (OR), Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Tucson, and Washington D.C.

So this year, on Black Friday, take your dog for a walk, go on a hike, explore a beach, get out on the water, play a board game, spend time with those who matter.

Oh, also remember to put down your phone. The people around you will thank you.

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