On the last weekend of September, the cottonwoods along Colorado’s Arkansas River were in full fall glory, burnished gold against the cobalt blue sky and snow-dusted peaks of the Collegiate Range. It was the perfect backdrop for Nat Hab’s first Fallfest, a company-wide campout that brought 65 staff members together for a weekend filled with socializing, outdoor adventure, craft beer and dancing under the stars.
When Natural Habitat Adventures first began planning the outing, the original idea was to travel to Moab, Utah, for a desert camping and mountain biking trip. During an initial discussion, however, several members of the company’s Green Team expressed concerns about spending our money in Utah, given the ongoing threats to Utah’s public lands from the federal government and from the current Utah state government. So, the Colorado-based company decided it would spend its money locally instead.
The arrangements for Fallfest 2017 began with booking an entire campground on the Arkansas River near Salida, along with a nearby zip-line and aerial high ropes course.
“Having fun is one of our Core Ideologies here at Nat Hab,” said Ben Bressler, company founder and president. “And since we love the outdoors, our idea of fun usually involves being out in nature.”
In August, the Fallfest planning committee did some advance scouting. They inspected the campground and met with the local vendors who would be helping Nat Hab make Fallfest a weekend to remember. Although we had the option to buy supplies for the weekend from bigger retailers at a cheaper rate, the Fallfest team decided that doing so wouldn’t be consistent with Nat Hab’s culture and values, so instead, we chose to use as many Buena Vista and Salida services as possible.
The phrase “Keep it Local” became the official tagline of the event, and this commitment included locally provided activities and services throughout the weekend. A local yoga instructor led a sunrise session in the crisp autumn air. We hiked up Ruby Mountain at sunset and soaked at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. We spent an evening at Soulcraft, a Salida microbrewery, with free-flowing beer complemented by a local band. And we hired local food trucks to serve food and drink at camp, including a hearty fireside breakfast of buckwheat pancakes and homemade green chile over eggs and hashbrowns.
Since conservation is at the heart of Nat Hab’s practices in the office and the field, we knew that the Fallfest weekend needed to reflect that. Staff brought their own camping gear and/or shared their extra gear with coworkers. Company-provided glass drinking mugs eliminated the need for plastic cups or plastic bottles, which are typically one of the biggest waste products produced at large events. And since we already had a lot of reusable plates and silverware in our office kitchen, we only needed to buy a few more to have enough for all 65 people. The Fallfest team negotiated with local vendors to wash the dishes once they were used, instead of buying paper or plastic or even compostable plates. While we knew that all of this would be more work, we were certain it would eliminate the majority of waste we would normally expect to produce. Finally, the Fallfest team decided to have lip balm sticks made for staff instead of buying them, while simultaneously supporting a local apothecary store in Boulder. We stayed true to our pledge to “Keep It Local” by supporting our fellow Colorado businesses and spending our tourism dollars in local communities.
The Fallfest organzing team had a great time planning the company campout in Colorado, and we’re pretty sure everyone who attended had an even better time! We found many rewards, including deeper relationships and connections with our coworkers, lots of funny inside jokes, and memories that will enhance our friendships and work culture for a long time to come.
— Natural Habitat Adventures’ Fallfest 2017 Organizing Team