Skip to main content

Parks Project: Look Cool and Help National Parks

parks project
Image used with permission by copyright holder
What if you could buy a bitchin’ t-shirt or leather key chain or baseball cap, made in limited runs and designed by amazing artists that helped the national parks? You can! Thanks to Parks Project. Granted, the co-founders are hoping you’ll also get out and volunteer, but thanks to them, at the very least you can be a fashionable lazy person and still benefit nature.

Sevag Kazanci and Keith Eshelman
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It all started in 2013 when Keith Eshelman and Sevag Kazanci were good citizens. They volunteered to help restore a habitat ravaged by fire in the Santa Monica Mountains. The duo enjoyed the work so much, they were inspired to try to get others involved. “The original vision was to get friends…volunteering in our parks so we could make a difference and support our favorite places.” Says Eshelman. “We got out as a group, did work, felt good about it, and would celebrate after a day’s hard work with a cold one or two.”

But then it occurred to them, what if they could wear their good deeds on their sleeve? “We thought it would be cool if people could wear this cause, so the idea evolved into products that interpreted various projects in the parks,” explains Eshelman. Between the two of them, Eshelman and Kazanci had 11 years of experience at TOMS, the socially conscious brand that championed the idea of get a pair of shoes and they give a pair to someone in need, so the idea of helpful apparel felt right. “We started reaching out to park conservancies and really learned how much support was needed, and how we could really contribute. Now, we think it has come full circle because we are still driving volunteer events but using apparel as a way to tell stories that need support across all our favorite national parks.”

Keith Eshelman
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Surprisingly, the National Parks Service didn’t jump at the idea of someone handing them money. “At first it was a bit of a struggle to become an official partner, but we were able to prove ourselves and turn an aspirational relationship into a great business partnership. I think National Parks team appreciates the new approach, it speaks to a new consumer, and helps conservancies connect with more people!”

The shirts and accessories they sell all tell a story, forming a connection between the wearer and the cause. Eshelman’s favorite is the Muir Woods collection, partly because it’s close to where he grew up, and partly because it’s the story of the reforestation work it’s supporting in the park. For every item in the Muir Woods collection sold, Parks Project makes a donation that will cultivate one native plant in one of the Conservancy nurseries. $36 for a limited edition t-shirt, made in the United States that helps reforest Muir Woods? That’s a bargain.

All the designs are unique and a lot are stylistically vintage. Pick based on design or parks: the Rockies, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Rainier, Zion, Santa Monica Mountains, Joshua Tree, Big Sur, the list goes on and on. Each product page lists exactly what the item is supporting. For example the Grand Teton National Park tee supports wildlife conservation in partnership with the Wildlife Brigade, a group of dedicated volunteers who roam the park dealing with unsecured food, helping with “wildlife jams,” and acting as educators for visitors.

As of now, thanks to Parks Project, “…a few thousand meters of trail in Yosemite have been fixed up, a thousand native plants have been cultivated and planted in Muir Woods at their nursery and Joshua trees are now being planted back in the park daily with the success of our Joshua Tree tee!”

The designs are constantly changing as Parks Project keeps updating their artists. According to Eshelman: “We happily host a revolving door of designers to keep it fresh and new. We work with ten different creatives all who have a similar interest in supporting the parks.”

Accessories tend to benefit trail cleanups and restoration, wildlife conservation, and invasive plant removal: leather key chains, water bottles, hats, basically anything you’d need to look cool volunteering in a park, or in a bar, just looking like you volunteer in parks.

For those looking to get their hands dirty, Eshelman says it’s actually quite difficult to find ways to volunteer since a lot of volunteer coordinator positions are gone. However he’s got suggestions: “Organizations like the Sierra Club and local friends of groups are a great resource to check out getting involved. https://www.volunteer.gov for some light work and http://21csc.org if you want to get serious with it!”

“At the end of the day,” Eshelman reveals, “we hope to look back in ten years at some serious impact, we will be able to say through people supporting our business, Parks Project built native plant nurseries in parks, funded animal conservation efforts, engaged countless first time volunteers who look at their relationship with the parks differently now, and that we have made a lot of friends along the way.” And made them look damn cool doing it.

August 25th was the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, so if you’re looking for a birthday present for them, Parks Project has got it covered.

Elizabeth Dahl
Elizabeth Dahl is a southern girl in the heart of Los Angeles who lived far too long before learning what an incredible food…
What you need to know about mountain bike tires: A complete guide
Better understand mountain bike tires
Schwalbe Styx MTB tires for the rear wheels of mountain bikes on a sales stand, Hannover, Germany, September 17, 2022

One of the most critical components of a mountain bike is the tires. Think about it—what is the only component actually coming into contact with the trail? Mountain bike tires. But they can be easily overlooked.

Contrary to popular belief, mountain bike tires are not all the same. They come in a vast array of options, each designed to enhance your riding experience in a specific way. The choices are endless, from tires tailored for different mountain bike disciplines to various sizes, brands, rubber compounds, and sidewall casings.

Read more
All the camping toiletries you need for a weekend (or a week) in the woods
Just because you're in the wild doesn't mean you have to look and smell like it
Man shaving outside

Hiking, camping, and exploring the great outdoors give you a much-needed perspective change on just about all of life's greatest mysteries. It's like pushing the reset button on our human operating systems. When you return to "the real world," you're often completely refreshed and performing optimally across all facets of your life. Among other things, it shows you just how few things you need to exist in blissful harmony with nature.

Out there in the woods, you don't need much aside from the best camping tent, a good sleeping bag, and cooking gear to prep your favorite camping meals. But just because you pack light doesn't mean you have to skimp on the toiletries. It's an essential step that many people forget, but you want a few items to clean yourself up after an all-day hike or fishing adventure.

Read more
The best hiking snacks to fuel your time on the trail
Consider these foods to have with you on your hike
Man eating a hiking snack

Warmer weather is here, and it's finally time to dust off the hiking gear that’s been hibernating in the back of your closet all winter, and make some hiking snacks that will get you ready to hit the trails. From getting fresh air and exercise to enjoying scenic vistas, hiking is one of the best ways to get outdoors and enjoy nature. But, whether you're taking on one of the most physically challenging hikes in the U.S. or embarking on a short and simple day hike, it's important to be prepared with the right equipment -- and that includes the best hiking snacks. 

If you're keeping your hike relatively short, there's no need to reach for the dehydrated meals. What you do want are snacks that won’t spoil, don’t take up a ton of space in your backpack, and help you stay energized and feel good all day long. That means you'll want a mix of carbohydrates and protein, both of which your body needs to perform at its best during the hike and recover properly once you're done.

Read more