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Monday, May 12, 2008

This guy stays up all night to save the planet

It is easy being Green when Chris Zurcher is on the case

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN — The New Haven green scene has its own Matt Drudge right on Eld Street.
Chris Zurcher of Zurcher Communications launched ctenvironmentalheadlines.com to keep concerned people aware of issues in other towns and in other parts of the nation.
“It’s essential,” said Nate Bixby, president of Havens for the Future, an organization that promotes a sustainable community. “There’s nobody else doing what he is doing.”
Zurcher launched the site because he realized towns across the state may face the same environmental problems, but activists may not know about it. Local newspapers tend to be the primary source of information on local environmental issues. Television networks and the Associated Press may cover the entire state, but only the biggest stories, Zurcher said.
That leaves a lot of news of interest to greenies by the wayside.
“People in different parts of the state want to know what’s going on in other parts of the state,” Zurcher said.
The issues could include wetlands protection, pollution or zoning ordinances, to graffiti and highway tolls and even social gatherings for greenies. Zurcher also runs a separate green calendar to keep his audience abreast of environmental conferences and social outings.
Other green Web site operators feel that there may be too much competition emerging among blogs focused on environmental issues.
“We have thousands of these little green blogs and nobody works together,” said Remy Chevalier, who has collected 10,000 stories in a searchable database. He wants environmentalists to channel their energy back into battling nuclear power — a power source that has become more attractive as oil prices soar beyond $100 a barrel.
Zurcher’s professional dedication to the environment arose out of the terrorist attacks of 2001, he said. Zurcher found respite in nature, from hiking and biking to flying kites on a breezy day.
“After 9/11, I wanted to get out of news,” said Zurcher, 44, who worked for AP in Hartford and for a Florida daily. He joined the nonprofit Connecticut Fund for the Environment as communications director handling outreach, news releases, op-eds and graphics. He also started collating environmental news headlines.
“It struck me that it would be of great value. People interested in the environment will be interested in this service,” he said.
Like Drudge, Zurcher works out of his home and came up with a site that keeps people coming back since he put it up in mid-December. The site has been getting 1,500 hits a month, and in a recent survey, 40 percent of the site visitors said they would be willing to pay a monthly subscription of $5 to access the site.
Zurcher leaned against the idea because he doesn’t want to lose the other 60 percent, so now he asks for donations rather than subscriptions.
The Web site turned out to be round-the-clock job. Zurcher offers a daily e-mail subscription and an RSS feed to keep readers abreast from minute-to-minute. He often scours the Internet until late into the night so his readers can get the full scoop with their morning coffee.
He uses hundreds of tabs and tags on Firefox to monitor any green news anywhere.
The results have pleased quite a number of his readers, who posted favorable comments.
Zurcher’s future plans include a national Web site, environmentalheadlines.com, where anyone can click on their state to link to their own states’ environmental headlines.
Maria Garriga can be reached at 789-5726 or mgarriga@nhregister.com.

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