They’re badasses on the trail, crag, and slopes, but they are also some of the most engaged citizens we know, leading the charge to protect the landscapes they care about and rabble-rouse on issues that matter. In this installment of our Outdoor Allies Series, Lindsey Elliott, co-founder of Wylder Goods, spills her secrets on what she wishes more executives knew about advocacy and how her company is a game changer for women and the outdoors.
Tell us a little bit about what you like to do outside and some of your favorite places to go.
Lately I’m in love with fly fishing. There’s a perfection and a complexity to it that I’m fixated on. Everytime I catch a fish, it feels like I’m pulling a little bit of magic out of the water. I’ve also been learning how to hunt in the Wasatch Mountains here in Utah, love rock climbing, and going on national forest adventures with my pup and my truck.
How did you first start getting involved in advocacy work?
When I was 11 years old, I traveled to Oaxaca Mexico with my grandmother. She was taking a group of her art students on a study abroad trip. It was the first time I experienced real poverty and environmental degradation. I came back aware of my privilege for the first time, thankful for clean drinking water, and the ability to go school and not have to be in the workforce to support my family. I got involved in community projects throughout my teens, to then pursue a degree in International Development in college. I got my first job in advocacy when I was 18, working for a non-profit called Wildcoast, focusing on bi-national coastal conservation in the US and Mexico. After that I spent the next decade working in the non-profit and education sectors.
What led you to start Wylder Goods, and how did you decide to bake advocacy into it?
In 2014 I went through a huge life transition. After 10 years of non-profit work, I started to burn out. I began to explore new work and had just learned what Benefit Corporations were, and found myself getting interested in business. I met Jainee Dial around that same time. She was an instant friend, and a woman I knew I wanted to hatch ideas with. As outdoorswomen, we shared the same complaints about what the industry had to offer when it came to outfitting women. Over whiskeys, coffees, and time outside, the idea deepened and became this ever-present little seed in my mind. After 28 days in the Grand Canyon, and a productive trip to Outdoor Retailer, I decided to turn down grad school and slowly transition into being an entrepreneur. It was at Outdoor Retailer that it all came together -- we could build a store to bridge the for and nonprofit sectors, partner with socially and environmentally responsible brands only, found the concept as a benefit corporation, and use the profits to build the capacity of organizations focusing on conservation, environmental justice and human rights. The last day at that OR show, I went to a coffee shop and in a few hyper focused hours wrote the first environmental manifesto for what would soon be named, Wylder.
What are the big issues you care about that you’re working on right now?
There is never a shortage of work to dedicate one’s self to, and my focuses have certainly evolved and changed over time in different communities globally and throughout the mountain west. With Wylder, I am very focused on the social and environmental impacts of our consumer choices. I hope to get everyone thinking about the full life cycles of the products we use in our everyday lives. Each one draws energy and raw materials from somewhere, involves human labor, often toxic processes, and ends up somewhere in our natural systems at the end of its life cycle. Our shopping experiences often protect us from the dirty realities of this. My hope is that Wylder can provide for people looking for lifetime products that are built to last, built with social and environmental good in mind, and products that can be repaired, re-purposed, or composted. Through our non-profit partnerships, we’re also very focused on protecting wild places and creating access for underserved populations.
What do you wish more businesses knew about getting involved in activism?
I wish more businesses weren’t so afraid to take a stand. So often, I hear from executives that they are worried about alienating their audiences when it comes to political and environmental platforms. Businesses are global leaders, and we need stronger leadership if we are to positively affect the human and environmental issues of our time.
The coolest place you’ve found for sustainable apparel: I lust over many of the goods on they Wylder site, and my personal favorite when it comes to sustainability is Duckworth. They’re the only single-source verified wool operation in the US. In March I got to shear sheep with them, and learned all about their 4th generation practices of driving their herds into the nearby mountains. They’re the only ranch that doesn’t truck their flock around to pasture. Duckworth’s line strikes that rare balance of rugged and beautiful, and the quality couldn’t be better.
Favorite social media tool: I have been so impressed with how many real, in-person connections have been born out of Instagram in my life lately. It’s a pretty incredible way to find my tribe, and reach out to people far and wide to collaborate with, or simply honor what they’re doing and give them props! I also use it as a research tool quite often, for building ideas, fishing reports, etc.
Next destination on your bucket list: We’re working on a project right now that would involve salmon fishing in Alaska. To say this would be a dream come true is an understatement, and I sincerely hope it works out! I also often fantasize about dog mushing up there someday!