Think about the most sustainable soccer team in the world. Forest Green Rovers? This is probably where the smart money is – they are clearly the class leader all over the planet, taking care of themselves the way they do. Hibernian? Self-proclaimed ‘Scotland’s Greenest Team’ and another early signatory of the Sport for Climate Framework for Action. Real Betis and Wolfsburg? Betis have launched ‘Forever Green’, an environmental action program to encourage companies to work through football to actively contribute to the fight against climate change, while Wolfsburg assesses and reports on its own efforts in the field of sustainable development for years.
But maybe there is a new challenger, coming from the United States. Maybe they have an ace card to play, which is the strength and profile of their athletes, including perhaps one of today’s greatest sports activists, Megan Rapinoe. On this occasion, it is not in fact Rapinoe who is piloting the change but his co-captain at OL Reign in the National Women’s Football League, Lauren Barnes.
Lauren is currently gearing up for the new NWSL season, but even with the distractions of the coronavirus pandemic, the 31-year-old’s attention has remained as sharp as her defensive instincts as she focused on a new sustainability project. . It’s a trip she’s been on for a while, but that particular bulb moment came during the Challenge Cup in Utah last year.
“We were in our bubble, and because of the protocols for Covid there was so much going on around the plastic utensils – it was all single use stuff, you had to use it and throw it away for safety reasons. , and that’s totally understandable, but we were like, ‘ok, how can we change that?’ Barnes recalls. “So I contacted three companies and they were all very excited about what I had in mind, mixing the sustainable world – which is very small in itself – and then the world of sport which is also a small community. “
But broaden that example, go from three companies to 20, and quickly move forward a few months, and so the MAD travel kits were designed. Lauren’s latest brainwave is a sustainable kit meant to provide professional athletes, in this initial case her teammates OL Reign, with a range of products that meet their daily needs and prioritize saving the environment. We’re talking about everything from dental care to deodorant, from razors to reusable coffee mugs, from eco-friendly makeup remover to kitchen utensils, and of course the case itself.
MAD stands for “Make A Difference”, so it does what it says on the box, and to say it had a ripple effect is to say it lightly. “There are so many girls who bought into it and cared so much about it, and wanted to make a more conscious impact in their daily life and habits, so I think a lot of them started educating themselves. . You can see in our locker room, so many people bring their own reusable plates when we have lunch, reusable cups so all that stuff is done. I think at this point we’re probably the most sustainable club in the NWSL and that’s our goal, ”says Barnes.
It’s a powerful statement, especially when you think of the popularity of women’s football in the United States and the platform of the players in particular. Nothing more than Megan Rapinoe who was happy to offer her support for Lauren’s cool new concept.
“’Pinoe’ is so down to earth, and she’s one of the biggest advocates, I wouldn’t even just say the sport anymore, she’s just an advocate for life. She’s been in Seattle for a really long time, so that’s something people are also absolutely away from and I think she tries to be as aware as possible, like all of us in the locker room, ”says Barnes. “I haven’t had a lot of in-depth conversations with her but whatever, because we’re doing it as a team, she’ll want to support that as well. She’s been a backbone for our club here and I’m just thinking about going from there. before … with something like that, she’ll be really excited about it. “
Lauren’s own excitement is contagious, almost like it’s her first foray into space, but it clearly isn’t. Hailing from Southern California, his love for his immediate surroundings quickly turned into love for the planet as a whole: “Growing up by the ocean, being able to be outside, being in a safe space every time. that I could every time I went out was instilled in me at a very young age. ”There were other triggers as well. She credits being vegan for the past six and a half years as a big motivation. “This change in lifestyle, which is important, made me more aware. I was doing it primarily for my health, but when I started educating myself there was so much that was obviously related to the environment and that’s where this love for sustainability started. to get even stronger, ”says Barnes.
She’s in good company here in many different sports, with a few illustrious compatriots who are also giving up on meat and dairy: her compatriot NWSL (recently with Spurs Women) Alex Morgan, seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady, star of NBA Kyrie Irving … and even the Williams sisters of tennis went on raw vegan diets.
Certainly, Lauren’s immediate environment is part of the world where many are already converted to the cause. Washington state as a whole is very sustainable and this is reflected in the work of its sports franchises in Seattle: The Sounders in MLS, Seahawks in NFL, and Mariners in MLB all lead plastic-free initiatives, while that Lauren’s teammate, Jasmyne Spencer has her own line of eco-friendly clothing in addition to being a professional athlete.
MAD kits will soon make their way not only in the dressing rooms at OL Reign, but also in other NWSL teams (a few asked about the initiative and how to replicate it in their own). clubs) and ultimately to the general public, where Lauren hopes the sustainability message will arrive and have the greatest impact.
“There’s going to be a commitment that anyone can make, so I think it will be interesting to see how that commitment spreads and if the fans take it and want to be a part of it, because it’s one of the best things for me – I love community outreach, I love fan based stuff, ”says Barnes.“ I’ve been engaged with the Seattle community for six years and now we’ve been in Tacoma for three years, I’m hoping to reach out to the fan base a little bit more and be able to have these conversations, be open and honest with her and hope to see a little change with that. Who knows where these MAD kits can go? “
In addition to developing her product, Lauren lives and breathes a sustainable lifestyle, and is definitely making her speech. Sometimes it even consumes her. She calculated her entire carbon footprint for this 2020 Challenge Cup series in Utah, and even determined how many trees needed to be planted to offset those emissions. But it does make a difference and as a result, OL Reign is considering a community garden linked to the team’s carbon footprint.
Longer term, Lauren wants to use her MAD kits as an educational, league-wide tool with the NWSL, but then wants to integrate them into other sports and even mega sporting events like the Olympics and Cups. of the world. For something that started out as a team-only initiative, turning it into more than just a side hustle would be hugely impressive.
With all of these ambitions, it’s clear Lauren enjoys leadership, and she’ll need to show those very qualities on the pitch as the new NWSL season approaches. OL Reign has been close to glory on several occasions, most notably in 2014 and 2015 when they made the league game and the last two campaigns where they reached the semi-finals.
With the players having gone through an extended preseason, Megan Rapinoe back and fit to join a strong squad and a consistency they’ve gained over the years, Lauren feels something special is building. This could be the year its impact and purpose reap its fair rewards – certainly in terms of sustainability, but maybe in terms of silverware too.
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