Defender Zoe Morse had an eventful rookie year in the NWSL, as her Chicago Red Stars made it to the title match, falling 2-0 to the Houston Dash. The University of Virginia grad is looking to up her game to help her club take that very difficult next step, which means hoisting the NWSL championship trophy.

Morse is also upping her game as a climate change-fighter by becoming the 33rd EcoAthletes Champion. She is not at all a rookie in this field.

Zoe Morse (Photo credit: Chicago Red Stars)

“I started Green Athletics at UVA — a sustainability-minded student organization within the athletic department focused on reducing its environmental impact,” Morse shared. “I went into college thinking I’d go premed, but ended up falling in love with my environmental science classes. These classes opened my eyes to the crisis we are in, realizing that if we don’t pay real attention to climate change and take serious action, all of the other issues will become exponentially worse. In other words, they all hinge upon how we handle the climate crisis.”

Leading on climate as a UVA student-athlete had its challenges at first for Morse, but, as with soccer, with practice came confidence.

“Once I saw that the response from my UVA teammates was positive, I became a little more confident in my ability to initiate climate conversations,” said Morse. “Most of them agreed that we have a problem here. My UVA teammates were very supportive of Green Athletics and were curious to learn more. So far, my Red Stars teammates have also been curious. I have lived with a handful of teammates over the last couple of months (and the whole team while in the bubble) and many of them have started to come to me with questions about sustainable swaps and questions about environmental issues. The conversation gets harder for all of us when we start to talk about bigger changes that need to be made. This being said, I think we are ready for these conversations.”

Gaining confidence for the more difficult conversations is one of several reasons why Morse is looking forward to joining the EcoAthletes movement.

“Some aspects of our society, including resistance to change, are so deeply ingrained,” Morse acknowledged. “This is why I am so excited to work with EcoAthletes. We are in a position as athletes to lead substantial change, and I hope to learn how to communicate the urgency of the climate crisis more effectively. The NWSL is uniquely positioned, it seems to me, to lead the way in terms of sustainability in sport, and I am excited to work with such an incredible organization in order to help accomplish that.” 

As Morse gets ready for possible Challenge Cup and Championship runs for Red Stars, she’s also excited about the myriad of possibilities that are in front of her with EcoAthletes.

“As an EcoAthletes Champion, I hope to spread awareness of the climate crisis and the tangible actions that can be made to turn things around to as many people as possible,” asserted Morse. “With my club, I hope to implement sustainable practices and partnerships within the Red Stars community. I would like to use social media to spread this message and hopefully inspire a desire among our fans to be part of a #ClimateComeback. More broadly, I hope to work with other players in the NWSL to implement league-wide sustainability standards, policies and fan engagement programs. I think my involvement with EcoAthletes will help my visions become reality.” 

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Photo at top: Zoe Morse on the attack for Chicago Red Stars (Photo credit: Robin Alam/@robinagphotos)