‘Let’s be the change we seek.’ Reset Normal, the new campaign from The North Face, is all about positive action for a better world.
This year’s shaken up our concept of what normal means. When you say ‘I can’t wait for things to go back to ‘normal’, what are you really saying? Are the precedented times really worthy of nostalgia?
The North Face doesn’t think so and their Reset Normal campaign wants to shake things up. Normal wasn’t working, we need to reset our relationship with the environment, with Indigenous Australia, with consuming, and with mental health. Resetting normal is about building strong communities and supporting each other to make decisions that take the world to a better place.
How do you Reset Normal? It starts with a pledge. Think of it like a New Year’s Resolution, but one that’s achievable, so that you actually do it! Think about how your pledge can both reset your normal, and give others the tools to change theirs. Above all, it’s about harnessing the privilege we have and directing it where it’s needed most.
I spoke to three legends from the Australian outdoor community to find out how they’re resetting their normal.
Explorer Project member and Upcycled Gear Maker
My Pledge – Minimise my environmental impact by upcycling outdoor gear, supporting brands that champion sustainability, and using my privilege to increase awareness, equity, and inspire positive change in the outdoor community.
I’m a minute into my Zoom call with Kale when a deep, rumbling noise fills my headphones. It’s not a motorbike, or power tools, it’s a cow.
‘Ahh yeah, they probably need milking,’ Kale says.
He’s out in the Victorian High Country, living at a slower pace than he did in the city, and living a lot more sustainably too. But which came first?
‘I’m passionate about sustainability, but really struggled to implement a lot of what I believed in, in my lifestyle, when I was living in the city. Transitioning to the country allowed me to make those changes, and the gear followed.’
‘I struggled with mental health issues for many years, and just being out in nature, being in these wild environments, that was really positive for me.’
Kale’s been making outdoor gear. His project, Bivouac Research is all about upcycling materials into affordable kit. The hat he’s wearing features canvas from a faulty swag found in a dumpster behind an Anaconda store.
‘It’s about helping the planet by inspiring others, I want it to be as open-source as possible – if someone has a sewing machine and they’ve got their own gear, they shouldn’t send it to me. Really, the underlying premise is community.’
But Kale also wants to support brands that are doing the right thing. In fact, he’s wearing a shirt that The North Face made out of plastic bottles pulled off Everest.
‘It’s about making informed decisions,’ he says. ‘You don’t need to not buy anything new, but you can make more informed decisions and buy quality stuff that’s supporting ethical practices.’
The final part of Kale’s pledge is about using his privilege to inspire positive change in the outdoor community. ‘Together we can do a lot more, we can be more sustainable, lift each other up. We’re inundated with so much going on that we’ve become apathetic. I want to use whatever platforms I can to inspire people through action.’
From expanding Bivouac Research to getting at-risk and refugee kids into the bush, Kale has some big plans for 2021. I’d say this pledge is just the beginning.
Action This Pledge Yourself!
Take a look in your wardrobe. How much is sustainably and ethically made? Think about what you can upcycle into new gear or make a pledge to reduce how much gear you buy. You could even donate clothing you’re not using to the 2nd Hike Project.
Activist and TNF Adventure Grant Winner 2018
My Pledge – Resetting my relationship with the outdoors to centre justice and self-determination of First Nations people.
‘I’ve got my grubby little bear paws in every honey pot!’
I’ve just asked Coralie how they came up with their pledge, and it’s no small question. Coz is across pretty much every social issue in the Australian outdoors scene, so it’s worth noting that their choice only reflects a fraction of what they do.
Coralie’s pledge is about bringing First Nations voices to the front of the Australian outdoors scene and tackling the privilege that’s keeping them out of the conversation. It’s also about actively challenging the colonial systems that we all maintain and benefit from and giving others the tools to do the same.
‘The connection that I have as an athlete, as an amateur outdoor enthusiast, whatever you want to call me, is absolutely not comparable to 60,000 years plus of history and sovereignty over the land. I think it’s about constantly reminding myself of that.’
We talk about the conflict between elevating the voices of others and raising one’s own. A following’s important if you’re going to make an impact right?
‘I think it’s around really constantly checking my privilege, constantly checking my access, and constantly reminding myself that access to the outdoors as a white Australian is an incredible privilege. What am I doing to pay the rent and challenge those systems of oppression that keep Aboriginal people from making decisions about their land?
Like Michaela, Coz finds social media useful, both for learning and ‘unlearning’ Western views about First Nations people. ‘Instagram is such a brilliant tool for education, and really snappy, succinct education’, they say.
‘I’ve always been taught that if you’re only seeking to elevate your own voice and your own experiences, then you’re doing activism wrong. One of the key things that outdoor athletes and enthusiasts who are getting involved in this space can learn is that, as White Australians, it’s not about us. We need to step back, listen, learn, unlearn, and cede space to people and communities who have the most at stake.’
‘But activism doesn’t end on Instagram,’ Coz is quick to point out. ‘Listen to what action First Nations voices are calling for.
Action This Pledge Yourself!
Question how you’re using your privilege to amplify the voices of First Nations people. Research your adventures, learn about the history of the land and reach out to the communities that look after them. Follow First Nations voices on socials, start with @takepridemovement @jameskstorer, @tamikasadleer, and @gwreconciliationnetwork. Head here to learn more.
The North Face Athlete
My Pledge – To continue to make changes to the things I consume, to leave as little footprint as I can on this planet.
‘I don’t want future generations to be reading about how epic the world was before we destroyed it.’
Michaela does heaps of adventuring. As a pro snowboarder on the Freeride World Tour she’s constantly in motion. But recently she’s had a bit more time to think about her impact.
‘It’s almost overwhelming when you start thinking about everything in one go. You’re like, “Oh, it seems impossible.” I’ve been starting with my toiletries, just bottles of things, razors, sunscreens, all that, trying to eliminate the plastic containers as well as microplastics.’
‘You’ve just gotta start somewhere, make it sustainable, and go from there,’ Michaela says. ‘You don’t know what you don’t know – what’s been helping me is finding things on social media [sustainable brands, ways to reduce your impact], you start liking those things and more pop up.’
‘So you’re gaming the algorithm for good?’ I ask.
Michaela’s not scared of a bigger challenge too. She recently challenged herself to not buy any new clothes for a year and pulled it off, and she’s currently nine months into a six-month stint off the beers.
‘Sometimes you just need to cut things off, other times it’s about making better choices. It’s a journey, but the point is lowering your impact and encouraging brands to do better,’ she says.
What’s next on the list? Learning more about sustainable household cleaning brands and recycled products.
‘I’ve just bought this hammock that’s made from 37 plastic bottles and this Eco Trail tent from The North Face is all recycled polyester. Brands respond to that kind of pressure, we just need to get enough people on board.’
Action This Pledge Yourself!
Take a look in your bathroom and kitchen, how much is wrapped in plastic? When can you start reducing your impact? Try and spend a week without using any plastic or do your next hike plastic free.
How Will You Reset Normal?
Keen to do your bit to Reset Normal? The best way to start is with a pledge. Whether you make it public or private is up to you, but hopefully Kale, Coralie, and Michaela have inspired you to be the change we’re all seeking.
The North Face have made a slick Instagram filter to help you brainstorm a pledge – head on over to @thenorthface_aunz to check it out! (Mine was ‘post a photo without a filter’, it’s gonna be a challenging year.)
Want to level up your impact? The North Face Adventure Grant is dishing out three grants for 2021. With $1500 of cash and $1500 worth of gear you could supercharge your expedition and your message. Entries close on the 31st of December 2020 so get in quick!