Change Can Change

Each jar has a brief explanation about the organization.

A new year inspires both reflection and planning. This type of contemplation typically arrives at one conclusion: change. Wild Iris Mountain Sports in the small community of Lander, WY believes that, literally, change adds up.  That’s why they created a “refuse a bag” program that annually gives back to their community.

“We believe every little bit counts. We had seen variations of ‘refuse a bag’ programs and wanted to take a simple approach that was tangible to our customers. We also wanted to encourage folks to think about whether or not they really need a bag. Everyday we try to find ways to minimize our impact and this seemed like a simple way to send a message as well support and educate our community,” explains Jennifer Barrett, Manager of Wild Iris Mountain Sports.

How the ‘refuse a bag’ program works.
If a customer declines a bag for their purchase the Wild Iris staff gives the customer a nickel – the cost of a plastic bag – and directs them to a series of mason jars representing local organizations. The customer gets to decide to which cause they’d like to donate their nickel, and at the end of the year all the money is donated accordingly.

To whom to give and why.
First, make sure the organizations you support have meaning for the store staff. If the staff is passionate and knowledgeable about the partner organizations they will be excited to talk about the program. Enthusiasm is good for everyone and leaves your consumer with a positive impression of the store while also further educating them about non-profit organizations that are contributing to the local and outdoor communities.

Second, make sure to balance the types of organizations so there are choices everyone will feel good about supporting.

Last, make sure the organizations give back to the local community and/or have some sort of connection to the store that makes sense.

How do you choose the organizations you want to support?
In the case of Wild Iris, the staff was polled to narrow down choices that had meaning for them. The chosen organizations are not just mason jars on the counter but long-term partners involved many campaigns throughout the year. Wild Iris hosts events like a local food bank drive as well as ladies’ and guys’ nights in which a percentage of sales goes back to the non-profit partner. These fundraisers give back to the Wild Iris community as well as help tighten the bond between the store and the organization.

“We have folks that will now say they don’t want a bag just so they can donate to their cause. At the end of the year we’re able to give a total amount that shows how even small amounts can add up to something meaningful. Every little bit counts,” comments Jennifer Barrett.

Wild Iris Mountain Sports was established twenty-one years ago by Amy and Todd Skinner, two very accomplished and passionate climbers. The store was created with two major tenets: to employ and provide a source of equipment climbers. It quickly became a hub for other local and visiting climbers and outdoor people. The not-for-profit organizations Wild Iris partners with are Lander Pet Connection, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Bolt Anchor Replacement Fund (aka BARF), Lander Food Bank, Wind River Alliance and Leave No Trace.