By Erika Owen
January 30, 2017
Credit: Courtesy of Parks Project

There are a lot of ways to support your favorite national parks—being a responsible visitor is one of them.

Parks Project, a group that at its most basic description makes and sells national park-themed merchandise, is working to do one thing: help you “leave it better than you found it.”

A portion of sales from the Parks Projects goes toward benefiting the parks in some shape or form: replanting trees, helping kids take field trips to the parks, organize volunteer groups to clean up the trails. But it wasn't always an apparel and accessories company—the idea actually came after Parks Project founder Keith Eshelman had spent some time working with TOMS, a shoe brand known for its social charity work.

Credit: Courtesy of Parks Project

“While at TOMS, I was on paternity leave,” Eshelman told Travel + Leisure. “My wife and I go up to Big Sur quite a bit, to get some time to breathe—this time, we brought my newborn daughter for a hike behind Pfeiffer Falls. It was closed; there was overgrowth and Caution: Closed signs. I was like, ‘What's up with this?’” Turns out, this wasn't the only area in need of help. After seeing this and signing up with the Sierra Club, Eshelman learned something else: much of the younger generation was absent from these trail work volunteer groups.

“There was nobody under a retiree age,” Eshelman said. So, he grabbed some coworkers from TOMS and set out to organize volunteer groups of his own under the name Parks Project.

Credit: Courtesy of Parks Project

“The idea eventually became to take the TOMS social enterprise model to the outdoors,” Eshelman said. “What better way to do that then find a project, create the products around it, and sell them—hopefully funding the project. Parks Project became a brand.”

Credit: Courtesy of Parks Project

If you're interested in learning more or buying your own National Park gear, head to the Parks Project website.