Introducing Our 2021 Nonprofit Partners: The Venture Out Project
For every candidate Climate People places, we donate 1% of the placement fee to an environmental nonprofit of the candidate's choosing. We hand-selected five stellar nonprofit organizations that fully exemplify our diversity and inclusion initiatives — one of which is The Venture Out Project.
We wanted to find an organization that fights for not only the livelihood of the planet but for the equality of all of those who inhabit it. We believe it's crucial to have a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce in order to meet the challenges faced by climate change. We strongly believe in the mission of The Venture Out Project and are honored to help fund their initiatives.
Meet The Venture Out Project
The Venture Out Project provides a safe and fun space for queer, trans, and LGBTQ+ people to experience the outdoors. Alongside their outdoor excursions, they provide education and support to help schools and organizations affirm their LGBTQ+ community members.
The team at The Venture Out Project uses the natural world as their classroom and office, and therefore believe they’re obligated to prioritize its care. They’re committed to leaving the natural world a bit better than they found it.
An In-Depth Interview With Ana Seiler, Communications Specialist at The Venture Out Project.
Describe The Overall Mission of The Venture Out Project
- At The Venture Out Project, we have two different missions working towards the same goal. First and foremost, our mission is to provide a safe and fun space for queer, trans, and LGBTQ people to experience the outdoors. We like to say that we build community and use the outdoors as a means to do so. The other portion of our work is to provide education, support, and counseling to schools and organizations to support them in affirming their LGBTQ community members.
In your opinion and experience, does outdoor immersion correlate to environmental passion? If so, how?
- I love this question so much! I've done a lot of work in agriculture so I hold this topic really close to my heart. I absolutely think exposure cultivates this relationship. Exposure to nature encourages folks to immerse themselves in that relationship and has the capacity to remedy a lot of disconnect we have been feeling as a nation. An example of this is the fact that Western culture demands that we all keep our noses on the screen as much as possible to “stay connected.” This also means that we're not really looking around, we're not seeing the trash in the gutters, we're not seeing the beautiful flowers blooming that don't seem to have any pollinators around them, and we're not educating ourselves on invasive species. Organizations like The Venture Out Project are creating that space where people can kind of unplug for the weekend and come together and see things they’ve never noticed before.
It’s hard to be alone with ourselves. When we go for a walk we put our headphones on and we distract ourselves from our own thoughts. Being in nature and allowing yourself to be bored creates so much space for creativity in recognition of the things that are happening right next to you. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are a lot of things in the world that are meant to be distractions. When you see things that are experiencing hardship — whether that be the people or the land — it's hard to ignore them. So the distractions that we’re experiencing, whether that be technology, a super busy family life, or being preoccupied with ourselves takes away from the things that really matter.
Why Is It Essential to Have a Diverse and Inclusive Environmental Movement?
- I think that environmentalism at its best is recognizing that every human has one thing in common, and it's that we live on earth. That is undoubtedly the one thing we have in common with each other, but because of all of the structures that have been put up over many many decades, our common accessibility has been limited. The outdoors can be unknown and can feel scary and dangerous due to the identities that we all hold or a lack of education. There’s a whole swath of things that are not welcoming people to the environmental world, which is unfortunate because these people have lived experiences that can greatly contribute. Many are living in cities and have lived experiences about how pollution is impacting their families. Western culture really teaches us to value people in power over people in pain. This is a shame because it really should be an opportunity for us to practice compassion and empathy for others' experiences. I also think those other experiences aren't currently welcomed to the table. By welcoming them and creating a space where they feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable and share those experiences can only grant us a wider berth of information to come up with solutions to best solve these problems.
In What Ways Does Shared Outdoor Adventure Promote Community, Leadership, and Confidence? How Does This Travel Further Than the Trip Itself?
- Speaking specifically for The Venture Out Project, nature is meant to be a space where people can go and let their walls down and relax and feel what their bodies do. When you go into nature you bring your excitement, your wonder, and your joy, but you also bring your trauma and your fears which means you also bring your walls. The Venture Out Project aspires to create a space where queer and trans people can come and learn and experience for themselves that it's okay to put those walls down and to be vulnerable. This, of course, means that you are creating the most authentic community that you can. People are connecting to each other without their walls up, cultivating an environment for natural community building and natural confidence. This micro-community stays with them well beyond trips.
What Are Some Active Steps that People/Organizations Can Take to be an Ally Outdoors?
- Recognize the land that you’re on and share the name of the Indigenous people who have lived there or currently live there. Indigenous culture hosts such an appreciation for nature so if you're looking to host a similar amount of appreciation for the land that you live on, it's only fair to pay respects to the people who have cultivated that appreciation from the get-go.
The other one is more related to The Venture Out Project on an identity level. I encourage you to get comfortable in understanding your own impact, whether that’s physical or emotional. I encourage you to pay attention to your emotional and identity impact with how much space you are taking up on the trail. We all carry a slew of various identities and all of those identities have different privileges within them. You should understand how those identities impact strangers. It's important to recognize that some identities — for better or for worse — make other identities feel certain ways. So for queer and trans people, anybody who may or may not present in certain ways may cultivate a trauma response or fear. That doesn't mean that the person who holds that identity that is causing fear needs to necessarily limit their own access, it’s all about understanding that we all come from different places and we all have different experiences that allow us to feel comfortable or uncomfortable in a space. It’s a really good opportunity for us to practice some compassion — understand that you might not understand but that's ok.
As we all know, the outdoor industry has traditionally been a place for white, privileged men. How does The Venture Out Project work to reverse this?
- First and foremost, The Venture Out Project creates a trans community and uses the outdoors as a place to do so, so we aim to support folks of all identities who need or want to get out on the trails. That means a large percentage of our participants are men, white trans men, or white men in general. Of course, we’re actively working at diversifying our trips, but we’re also actively serving the public that’s ready to engage with us. We’re also trying to challenge the narrative that there’s one correct way to have a body, to live a life, or to hike a trail. Welcoming people of different ages and abilities on our trips is also super critical to us. While gender and sexuality are at the forefront of our mission, it's also that we understand that people are intersectional human beings.
Do you have any advice for employers or hiring managers on how to make their workplaces more inviting and/or inclusive?
- We offer our Beyond Bathroom Training. In this training, we talk a lot about how important it’s to educate and how that’s the fundamental driver of change. It's plain and simple, you don't know what you don't know. I would encourage employers who want to genuinely share their care for their queer and trans employees to provide managerial staff — people in power especially — with accessibility to training like our Beyond Bathrooms training. Those sorts of things are really monumental in showing employees that their managerial staff cares about them.
In our industry, in particular, we see a lot of what we call ‘rainbow washing’ which is the corporate world kind of slapping rainbows on things and donating some couch-cushion change to queer organizations in order to sell a product that has a rainbow on it. When employers are looking to show their employees that they care about them, then care about them more than and just in the month of June. I'd really work on cultivating a relationship that invites those types of conversations year-round, it makes people feel celebrated all year.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
- We do get a lot of people reaching out from 1% for the planet specifically about environmental justice, something we’re striving to incorporate into all of our programs. We’re obviously really passionate about outdoor recreation, so it’s very important that we know how to nurture the land that we’re using.