How Gu Uses Clout, Flavor to Protect the Places We Play

A photo of Bears Ears

[Updated March 7, 2019]

GU Energy Labs is an ardent defender of public lands. From million-acre National Parks to local greenways, GU uses its influence in the outdoor industry and products like Hoppy Trails to protect the natural places it loves.

At the beginning of 2017, the winter OR show was right around the corner when GU (along with most of the outdoor industry) caught word that two massive national monuments were under siege. The fact that OR was held in Salt Lake City, Utah, made matters worse.

Utah’s state legislature and governor signed in 2017 a pair of resolutions to alter two national monuments in the state: Bears Ears and Grand Escalante. Bears Ears is a swath of 1.3 million acres of southeastern Utah desert designated in December 2016 as a national monument by then-President Barack Obama. Grand Escalante, another 1.8 million acres of southern Utah land, was protected as a national monument in 1996.

Legislators wanted to rescind the designation of Bears Ears and reduce the boundaries of Grand Escalante.

Utah’s representatives in early 2017 brought the issue to newly inaugurated President Donald Trump who in turn ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review the size and scope of the monuments. Zinke’s recommendation on the national monuments was clear: Slash them.

In a December announcement, Trump and Zinke carved up Bears Ears, reducing it to 201,000 acres, and trimmed Grand Escalante to about 1 million acres.

Outdoor companies, environmentalists and Native American groups sued Trump over the decision, putting the cuts on hold until the cases are resolved.

A cyclist eats a packet of GU Energy gel

GU Gets Involved

In the aftermath, GU took a stand: GU and other outdoor industry companies boycotted the bi-annual OR tradeshow, which brings in millions of dollars to the local economy in Utah.

They made a plan with several companies in the Conservation Alliance. The Conservation Alliance is a group of like-minded companies that, through annual membership dollars, contribute to programs that help “protect and restore America’s Wild Places.”

The entire outdoor industry responded, too. Organizers moved OR to a new location in Denver, Colorado, the next year. GU also responded in a very GU way: They created a brand new flavor, Campfire S’mores, and partnered with the Conservation Alliance to give 10 percent of the sale of every Campfire S’mores Energy Gel directly to a Conservation Alliance fund.

“We chose to align with the Conservation Alliance in their newly-formed program, the Public Lands Defense Fund, which is a fund designed to contribute to legal efforts needed to defend federally-protected lands,” says Brian Gillis, of GU Energy Labs. “To date, we’ve donated over $60,000 to that fund. And we’re committed to continuing to raise money with the flavor for another year.”

More than that even, as a member of the Conservation Alliance, GU is part of a larger multi-brand effort to help provide grant money for organizations that work to protect public lands and waterways. In fact, according to the Conservation Alliance’s website, they're on track to give $1.9 million to such causes before the end of 2018.

“We believe that as a company that supports recreation in the outdoors, we have an obligation to stand up to any threats to natural places for both the intrinsic value of historic archeological sites and habitats as well as the general protection of natural environment as the places that inspire us as athletes,” says Gillis. “And, it’s our obligation to do what we can to make sure future generations of athletes will be motivated and inspired to push their limits in these special places.”

Two runners look off into the distance during a run

How You Can Get Involved

As a brand, GU is dedicated to supporting the protection of wild lands both through donations and through education. As a runner and GU consumer, you can support public lands, too. GU offers the following advice to be a public lands advocate:

  • 1. Learn about what it means to be a public land, and think about how that place inspires you.
  • 2. Look for opportunities to create a personal investment in that space, whether that’s volunteering for trail days or making a monetary contribution to a protection agency or local nonprofit. “Once you get your hands dirty in a place, you automatically increase your connection to that place,” says Gillis, “and you’ll feel personally invested in its future.”
  • 3. GU also suggests researching local politicians to better understand their positions on public land protection. Says Gillis, “We encourage people to make sure they are voting in a way that supports public lands.”
  • 4. For more information about how you can give back by purchasing GU products, click here.
A runner holding a packet of GU Energy gel in Hoppy Trail flavor

Hoppy Trails

Like with Campfire S'mores, GU is using another product to protect the places we love.

GU Energy released its newest gel flavor, Hoppy Trails, in 2019 to help bring its national initiatives to the local level.

Hoppy Trails is a beer-inspired energy gel that brings the flavor of your favorite IPA to a run-friendly pouch. Brewmasters imparted the gel with hop-forward flavors and mild citrus notes while packing it full of potent energy from carbohydrates and sodium.

But it's not just for flavor: Part of the proceeds from Hoppy Trails raise money for local parks, trails and anywhere else where people play outside. GU then gives that money away to individuals and groups through its grant program.

The goal is to help fund community based projects — think trail building, park upgrades and beach cleanups — that bolster local public spaces and natural habitats. Anyone can apply online for a GU grant to kickstart a project in their community that makes spaces better for running, hiking, swimming or whatever else they do outdoors.

Photos courtesy of GU Energy Labs

By Ashley Arnold. Ashley is a storyteller, ultrarunner and cat person. As Fleet Feet’s content marketing manager, she manages the Fleet Feet blog and its roster of writers.