Gallatin senior spreads environmental awareness through nonprofitPosted on December 6, 2013 | by Nathan Ho
“MEVO or the Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization is a not-for-profit organization that believes in a better future, a future where people don’t live in polluted communities, where people don’t have to choose between losing their quality of life and risking the quality of life of future generations,” Gallatin senior Eric Fuchs-Stengel said in the mission statement for MEVO.
For his work as the founder and executive director of MEVO, Fuchs-Stengel was named New Jersey’s 2013 Environmentalist of the Year by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Nov. 18, at the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards in Trenton, N.J.
Fuchs Stengel said MEVO is focused on solving pollution problems in local communities across New Jersey and has mobilized over 1,500 volunteers to carry out over 20,000 hours of service in New Jersey and New York. The group’s work includes cleaning heavily polluted communities and building organic farms on empty, unused lawns to grow food for charity and teach people the importance of sustainable agriculture.
Fuchs-Stengel and a group of friends founded MEVO in 2008, when he was still in high school.
“When I started the organization, it was just me trying to bring in my best friends to volunteer and help create a sustainable difference in communities,” Fuchs-Stengel said.
Since then, the organization has evolved into something bigger. Now, MEVO has organized over 120 volunteer events and greatly broadened its focus.
Gallatin sophomore Emma Spett said she knew Fuchs-Stengel when he originally attended Clark University in Massachusetts, which he felt was too far from MEVO’s base of operations.
“He transferred schools since he couldn’t bear to be away from his organization,” Spett said. “He was coming home every weekend to attend MEVO meetings and events.”
After transferring from Clark to NYU, Fuchs-Stengel discovered that Gallatin allowed him to work MEVO into his coursework, and he was close enough to Mahwah to return to the farm every weekend.
Gallatin professor Mitchell Joachim, one of Fuchs-Stengel’s professors at NYU, said Fusch Stengel was an outstanding student.
“He was a true delight in the classroom, an outspoken radical thinker that had a strong sense of purpose,” Joachim said. “Eric clearly has gone forward with his lessons to make a difference.”
Fuchs-Stengel and MEVO are currently working with the Bergen County Department of Parks to build a one-acre community farm in Bergen County, as they seek to provide educational organic farming programs to school children and community groups.
Fuchs-Stengel said the most important component behind his success was dedication.
“It can’t be something you do 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. one day a week. It can’t be something that you only do a few hours on the weekend. You need to very literally eat, sleep and breathe in your cause, whatever it may be,” Fuchs-Stengel said. “You need to be the most stoked person about your thing, and if you aren’t, then you can bet it will never be accomplished.”
* In a previous version of this article, there were two typos that have now been fixed. WSN regrets these errors.
Nathan Ho is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.