FACETIME- Recyclist: Coast-to-coasting to save the environment

George McFadden

George McFadden has always been the outdoorsy type, and he's always been on the unusual side of science. As a sophomore in high school volunteering for Earthwatch, McFadden got his introduction to environmentalism not in the lab, but by plunging a thermometer into the business end of an unconscious Carolina black bear. Seven years later, as a recent environmental science graduate of UVA, McFadden, 23, remains unconventional in his approach to the world he's passionate about.

As a founding member of the non-profit organization Eco-Patriots, a group dedicated to loving our county and the land and air it happens to be situated in, McFadden is preparing to bicycle 3,800 miles from Virginia to San Francisco with three friends to raise awareness of environmental issues.

The New Hampshire native says his organization wants to focus on the everyday, applicable side of green issues. 

"We're trying to educate people on the pollution derived from daily habits," he says. "We want to give them tips for reducing their eco-footprint."

According to McFadden, Eco-Patriots sets itself apart from other environmental movements by being truly down to earth. "We're very young, very approachable," he says. "We're not alarmists."

But promoting environmental awareness is not the only mission the group embraces. McFadden also hopes the bike trip will raise $30,000 for Clean Air Conservancy, a non-profit that inflates the price of corporate emission credits by buying them up.

Ambitious as all this may seem, McFadden certainly does not lack drive. During the planning for his upcoming journey, he says he has been working 40-hour weeks at his research job at UVA as well as spending an additional 30 to 40 hours a week seeking sponsors and managing his Eco-Patriots duties. 

He's been so busy, in fact, that he says he has done little long-distance training in preparation for the epic trip that starts in September and will take more than a month, even at a quick pace. 

"I've never done a century ride (100 miles in a day)" McFadden says. But he's not too concerned about it; he has always been athletic, and once he gets out there, his dedication to the cause will take over, he believes: "I feel like I can will myself over the Appalachians."

Though some might be skeptical, McFadden's long-time friend and fellow Eco-Patriot Will Fadrhonc has no doubts. "He's got an incredibly strong will," Fadrhonc says. "He's never failed at any undertaking."

Unsure of what the future might bring, McFadden has conflicting feelings about his post-trip plans. "I'm thinking about living in Europe," he says. "I'd like to learn French and ski." But more immediately he aspires to go to graduate school in hydrology. 

Whatever he ends up doing, there's undoubtedly an unwavering motivation that McFadden says has always steered his life: "I love the outdoors," he says. "I want to be a steward of the environment."