Like many other college students, Holly Barney lives a pretty routine life going to classes, soccer practices, and navigating her freshman year. However, in between her busy schedule you can also find her advocating for climate change and encouraging others to do the same by considering a vegan lifestyle.
On Nov. 5, Barney stood outside the science hall on campus with other environmentalists who handed out pamphlets that explained the effects of cutting meat out of people’s diets. She was first inspired by her sister who convinced her at a young age to make a change.
“At first I had not really cared about the ethics or anything,” Barney said. “And eventually I was so tired of her being like, ‘Watch this, watch this,’ that I watched it.”
When Barney was shown the ways that people’s decisions have been affecting the environment, she was inspired to help do more by first becoming vegetarian.
“Once I went vegetarian, it went more from ethics to other reasons,” Barney said. “It turned into health, it turned into environment, it turned into climate change prevention...I eventually found myself being passionate about the environment.”
Not only was Barney’s sister a huge influence on her, the Olathe West High School she attended also made a large impact. They offered a 21st Century Academy program that gave their students the opportunity to take a green technology class over the course of four years.
In this class, Barney was taught about all the different ways she could help and began by advocating with her sister at places that educated others.
“When she lived in KC, I would go with her and there is one called ‘The Cube of Truth,’ and they show what happens in the industries,” Barney said. “People would come and if they were standing there watching we would start a conversation with them.”
Although their efforts have made positive impacts on people, there are still many who have shared negative opinions about the activism that Holly and Brooke Barney are doing.
Barney’s sister, Brooke Barney, is currently working in Egypt visiting slaughterhouses to take documented footage that she can share to others in order to reveal the ways animals are treated. Her Instagram posts have gotten lots of attention, however not all of it has been positive.
“I think that’s why you get this really negative reaction from people,” Brooke Barney said. “Because even just hearing you say that you’re vegan makes them defensive. Because deep down I think they feel like ‘I’m doing something wrong.’”
Holly Barney has received very similar reactions from people on and off campus. One reason is due to the fact that she is an athlete which causes her choice of food options to be questioned frequently in relation to energy she may need for games or practices. One may ask her if she is lacking the protein that she needs but Holly says this is not the case.
“If I should be worried about anything, it’s not the protein,” Holly Barney said. “It’s more like B12 and certain vitamins that maybe the agriculture and factory farms put into these animals so we get those through eating them but there’s different ways to do that. So, one of the biggest things vegans need to watch is their B12 so I take supplements for that.”
According to an article written by Rachel Nuwer, if everyone decided to become vegetarian by 2050, it would have a tremendous impact. Research done by Marco Springman from the Oxford Martin School’s Future of Food program, says that “food-related emissions would drop by about 60%. If the world went vegan instead, emissions declines would be around 70%.”
Barney continues to work towards spreading awareness about this and says that she is currently considering ways to get students on campus more involved.
While she knows the struggle of adapting to food options on campus, she claims it is far from impossible.
“If I can adapt in Emporia, Kansas,” Holly Barney said. “I can adapt anywhere.”