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Promoting an unplugged life

A Petaluma couple is relying on social media to promote a line of branded apparel aimed at getting people to put down their digital devices.

The irony of turning to high tech to push back at technology is not lost on Anna-Claire Decker. She and her husband, Ray, launched PlugOut a year ago to promote old school communication and entertainment with contemporary gear - everything from hats and T-shirts to totes and water bottles.

“We’re not against technology,” Decker said. “It’s how people market these days. We’re just marketing a lifestyle brand that says, ‘Don’t forget to be in the moment.’ Sometimes life is better without technology.”

With the help of communications interns from Sonoma State University, the couple have turned to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to spread the word that there is life beyond the little screen.

The business is an extension of their regular business, Imagine Promotion Group, which provides custom branded merchandise for corporations, trade shows and special events, with products that run the gamut from address books to yo-yos.

“The PlugOut idea came several years ago when our youngest was 4. My husband was vacuuming and she said, ‘Daddy, did you plug out? Are we done?’ At the time we thought it was funny and the term stuck with us,” Decker said. “The thought we need to do something with it some day.”

They at first set up a website and blog filled with tidbits and tips pushing a “balanced lifestyle” in a fast-paced, tech-driven world. Eventually, they concluded that the same people willing to wear clothes that advertised their favorite sports teams, colleges and brands might also want to wear a hoodie that declares they’re commitment to plugging out or to some personal hobby, art or activity.

They’ve recently crowdsourced artists from around the world to submit designs for apparel that allows people to message what they like to do that doesn’t involve a digital device, like cycling or making music. The business is still very “grassroots,” Decker said. But they’ve pledged to donate 1 percent to environmental causes.

PlugOut logo apparel, featuring a smiley face that resembles a three-pronged electric plus, is sold primarily online at PlugOutToday.com, although some items are featured at The B Street Mercantile in Petaluma.

As for the Deckers, their favorite unplugged pursuit is getting outdoors, camping and hiking.

“We get lost in our technology,” she lamented. “We just want to remind people there is a potential human interaction behind everything.”

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