Push your limits. This overused catchphrase is applied to every corner of outdoor recreation. We are out there to pull back the curtain and see what we are at an elemental to see what we are made of. Do see how far we can go. To see how big we can go. That same mantra should be applied to our giving.

In this edition of Therm-a-Rest Explore, the Access Fund helps us apply the “go big” mentality to our giving.

Giving is good. We learned it since childhood – play nice, share your toys, give someone a hand when they are in need. We bring each other presents for the holidays to show our love and to celebrate family and friendship. What if we thought about giving bigger? How can we give a gift that goes beyond creature comforts and playful amenities? What if we give for the greater good, to alleviate pressures on the environment, to benefit society, to support a movement or a cause? This giving season, let’s find some inspiration to give beyond our typical sphere, to give bigger.

If you read the recent blog article “10 Scientific Reasons For Getting Outside”, you’ll understand the great gift of the outdoors for our emotional, mental and physical health. When we go outside, we have more energy to devote to other things we are passionate about and more patience to do the things that we aren’t. We give more to our family and friends, and we often ask for less. A bounty of eternal energy can be found in nature – it is our soul’s renewable energy source.

Beyond the personal benefits, experiences in the outdoors also build relationships between people and places. We start to learn the plants, animals and landforms. We share stories and memories by the fire or back at home. We frame pictures and make slideshows. We dream about these places when we are stuck in traffic or the office. We become invested in the care and future of landscapes where we have had meaningful experiences.

These places become so important to some of us and our loved ones, we often define ourselves by our favorite activities. We then give each other gifts for the next trip – a piece of gear, new camp pillow, or layer of clothing. This stuff will be used, probably to their last shreds or until they are passed on. But think about the impact that money would have if it was invested in protecting those places you love! Consider how far that gift would go if you donated to a cause to ensure you can enjoy those same experiences or know that place is preserved for many years to come.

In light of current events, many of us may be asking ourselves “what can I do? How can I help?” Here are some causes you can consider when identifying how you can give to help protect your most treasured landscapes.

The Environment: Degraded landscapes and decreased funding for management threaten outdoor recreation.

Let’s face it – more people are getting outside than ever before. Our favorite places are getting loved to death. In general, there is less money to go around to pay for the staff and resources to maintain parks, trails and campgrounds.

There is a wide range of non-profit organizations that work to support the environmental health of public lands. For example, a $50 donation could purchase several tools to build a new trail, get material to restore a degraded area or pay for individuals to put in time removing invasive plants. Many of these organizations also work with volunteers to get projects accomplished. Consider organizing a volunteer day with your friends and families! A significant impact can be made by group of people putting in a day of manual labor to plant trees, build stone steps or remove graffiti. The current calculation for volunteer time is $23 per hour, making a group of 10 working 6 hours worth $1,150. That is HUGE donation (and quite a gift!)

Society: Some people don’t have access to outdoor experiences.

Regardless of the amount of outdoor opportunities that exist, many people cannot access them for various reasons. They may not have the money or time to travel or acquire the necessary gear or skills. Some individuals may have physical or mental differences that limit participation. Or, some feel unwelcome because of prevailing racial or gender stigmas and inequalities. In light of recent action to increase the cost of entry to National Parks during peak seasons, more individuals may be excluded from enjoying the great outdoors.

For some, it is not so simple to just “get out there and do it”. These barriers are real and they have deep roots. There are many wonderful people and organizations that are working to break down these barriers to access and participation. As a whole, the outdoor industry is striving to make these places and experiences more inclusive.

How can you give to gain access to the outdoors for people who have previously been excluded? Identify organizations and people that are working to break down these barriers and donate to their cause. They are organizing group trips or acquiring equipment to make these places more accessible. They likely have opportunities for volunteers to help lead expeditions, plan logistics or give inspiring presentations. At an interpersonal level, we can help by engaging with people who may not look, think or act like us through dialogue and conversation. We can also do better by looking at ourselves, understanding our own biases and privileges.

Politics: Recent action has posed threats to the future of outdoor recreation.

The recent proclamation to reduce the size of two National Monuments poses a significant threat to the future of our public lands. There are many organizations working to ensure this proclamation does not set a precedent and threatens the protection of these places. Some organizations have chosen to fight by filing lawsuits and others are working to promote education and awareness about the issues. Some are working to bring unity between different groups of people to protect shared values and landscapes. These efforts help to make your voice louder and ensure that all interests have a seat at the table when determining the future and management of public lands. Your donation and your votes would help guarantee due diligence in the process, making a monumental impact on the visibility of the public over corporate interest and greed.

It’s that time of year again. The time when all of our favorite non-profit organizations are filling our inboxes, throwing parties and spraying social media feeds. Why? Because they genuinely need our financial support to continue thrive. Considering the benefits of giving, try a new approach to broaden your sphere of influence. Reach out to your friends and family to learn about organizations or issues that matter to them. Find groups working to bring outdoor experiences to people of all races, physical abilities, gender identities and socio economic spheres. Donate to a cause that serves to protect access to public places for recreation and preservation. And if you can’t give money, consider giving your time by volunteering. Happy giving!