On September 21st, a crowd of over 300 attendees mingled with music and delicious wood-fired pizza in the courtyard of Minnesota-based outdoor clothing company, Askov Finlayson. They were all celebrating one thing: the release of the 2017 edition Keep the North Cold hats. Amongst the cheer and excitement was a strange undertone; it was an almost 80 degree night in the middle of September. Will Steger, our founder, couldn’t help but call out the unusual heat during his speech to the crowd. From sea level rise, melting glaciers, and hurricanes of unseen magnitudes, there is no debate that climate change is happening. It is a matter of how we are going to act together to address it.
Askov Finlayson has been inspiring people in the North to celebrate our cold winters since 2013 with their North stocking hats and other North products. While Minnesota’s snowfall and northern pastimes will continue, our state’s distinct seasons and beloved winters are not what they once were. This winter, the majority of the U.S. is predicted to experience warmer than average temperatures. This could mark the third consecutive year of a warmer winter season. Due to climate change, Duluth and Minneapolis are amongst the top five fastest warming cities in the Midwest. Just as our founder Will Steger became an eyewitness to climate change on his polar expeditions, we are all eyewitnesses now.
Eric Dayton, founder of Askov Finlayson, was young when his interest in the environment and climate change began. Will Steger, a close family friend, would come over and roll out his map of Antarctica, pointing to where he was going next on upcoming expeditions.
“It was comparable to having Michael Jordan come over and shoot hoops in the backyard,” Dayton said.
Dayton grew up spending time outdoors and attending Camp Widjiwagan trips to the Boundary Waters. When he had the opportunity to join Will on the 2004 Arctic Transect expedition after college, he couldn’t refuse. For almost seven months, the expedition’s team traveled in the Canadian Arctic to Nunavut with a mission to increase awareness of climate change impacts on the Arctic region.
“Loving the outdoors and going on that expedition with Will had a big impact on what’s shaped our point of view as a brand,” Dayton said. Like Climate Generation, Askov Finlayson believes that education is key to addressing climate change and influencing solutions.
The desire to have a positive impact through the sale of North products came after the campaign stretched beyond the beloved pom hats. While the hats weren’t initially designed and sold to combat climate change, it was clear to Askov Finlayson that they could do something of service while influencing the image of pride in Minnesota’s disappearing cold. They aren’t afraid to admit that making clothes has a carbon footprint; they’re committed to asking the hard questions on how to give back, be renewable, and make a difference.
Dayton created the Keep the North Cold Initiative and, since 2015, the company has worked with Climate Generation to protect winter in the North, too. Through the initiative, Askov Finlayson supports Climate Generation’s efforts to help Minnesota youth gain climate literacy and leadership skills through our climate change education programs. For every North product sold, Askov Finlayson makes a donation to support our youth education and leadership program, Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota (YEA! MN). The North products inspired a local movement, and as a result, more than $40,000 to date from the sale of North shirts, mittens, canteens, hockey pucks, and more has helped us carry out climate literacy training, networking, and action projects happening in local high schools.
With Askov Finlayson’s support, we’re reaching hundreds of high school students across Minnesota:
- Over 1,500 students reached in the past two years through our YEA! MN program and student leaders
- 8 Metro-area schools currently involved in YEA! MN leadership team; 12 YEA! MN leaders receive deeper climate literacy trainings, leadership development, and action opportunities each
- 5 youth convenings scheduled in rural communities for a year-long mentorship program
It’s been rewarding to see the partnership grow and our goals for youth climate engagement continue to expand. This year, we’re partnering with five rural Minnesota communities to host youth-led convenings on climate change, in partnership with another high school program, Youth Energy Summit (YES!).
“What’s exciting to me is that we’re helping educate and prepare many students to not just be literate, but to go out and be opinion leaders. In many ways, this can be a training program for global leaders of the future,” Dayton said.
Follow our YEA! MN students and their action projects this year on Facebook and Twitter, and get your own North hat to keep the support going! Find the Keep the North Cold merchandise at askovfinlayson.com.