Lauren “Lu” Barnes is a very busy woman these days.
She is the captain of the Tacoma, Washington-based Olympique (OL) Reign of the NWSL and also plays for Kristianstads DFF in the Swedish League, the Damallvsvenskan. And thanks to Barnes’ passion for a healthy environment, she became an internal greening consultant of sorts for the Reign, working with do-it-all staffer Santi Gallo. Oh yeah, Barnes and Gallo also helped bring green-focused sponsors into the fold.
The California native’s life just got a bit busier when she agreed to become the newest EcoAthletes Champion.
“I decided to become an EcoAthlete to further my own education on climate change,” shared Barnes. “I want to use my platform as a professional athlete to inspire not only fans but my own teammates and other professional athletes around the world to join me in fighting environmental issues, with the global climate crisis being chief among them.”
Barnes, who has eaten a plant-based diet since 2014, began her journey towards environmental activism at around the same time.
“My teammate Elli Reed and I went to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah and saw the premier of ‘Racing Extinction,’ the documentary film about the mass extinction humans are causing,” Barnes recalled. “I met vegan NASCAR driver Leilani Münter there. She really inspired me to educate myself about the environmental and climate impacts of the meat industry. By doing so, the connection between healthy lifestyle and the environment became clearer and clearer to me.”
By 2019, Barnes had teamed up with Gallo to green the Reign with support from top management. The duo started out by measuring the team’s waste, plastic and water footprint to establish a baseline, with the goal of reducing usage of all three. The coronavirus pandemic and Gallo’s return to his native Colombia due to an expired visa slowed the partnership down some but it didn’t stop them.
“The NWSL set up a summer Challenge Cup tournament in a bubble in Utah,” said Barnes. “Santi and I thought, ‘hey, this can be a test drive for a proper season,’ for our greening efforts.”
Despite the limitations of the bubble, Barnes got to work, finding three companies that ended up helping OL Reign limit plastic usage (CrazyCap environmentally friendly water bottles) as well as reduce waste (steel plates from women-owned EcoLunchBox; razors-sans-packaging that Albatross Take Back Ware, well, takes the razors back and melts them down into utensils).
EcoAthletes founder Lew Blaustein is understandably excited to welcome Barnes to the Champions fold.
“In addition to sharing first names Lu Barnes and I share a passion for helping athletes find and use their voices on climate,” Blaustein noted. “EcoAthletes will certainly tap into the perseverance, ingenuity and creativity Lu displayed by not letting pandemic get in the way of her greening the OL Reign.”
For Barnes’ part, she looks forward to bringing EcoAthletes’ ethos to life with the Reign once they gather for the 2021 season: “I believe knowledge is power and I look forward to spreading awareness about the climate crisis and to having mindful conversations with my teammates and fans about climate solutions and how to turn environmental injustice into environmental justice.”
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