People to Watch
(page 10 of 11)
Photograph by Gloria Dawson
By: John Ferro
Dan Shapley didn’t start out wanting to become one of the most respected environmental journalists in the Hudson Valley.
“I wanted to be a poet,” he says of his college days. “I didn’t have a practical idea in my head about what I would do.”
Since then, Shapley has spent his career reporting on practical solutions to complex environmental problems. The 32-year-old resident of Port Ewen is the top editor of The Daily Green, an award-winning environmental Web site based in Manhattan and published by Hearst Digital Media, a unit of Hearst Magazines. Founded on Earth Day 2007, the site aims to foster environmentally sound living practices through news, features, tips, and awards.
“The term ‘green’ can mean anything and nothing,” Shapley says. “For the Web site, it means a lifestyle that is concerned about health, not only in the way everybody thinks about it — exercise and eating well — but also in terms of the quality of the food you are eating and how it was grown, how processed it is or isn’t. I think food is a really big, really growing part of the whole idea.”
The Daily Green won a “Best New Site” award from minonline.com, a media industry Web site. In April, it hosted its first “Heart of Green Awards,” honoring people who were taking the “green” message to a mainstream audience. Among the honorees were actress Alicia Silverstone, a vegan and longtime animal rights activist; and Roger Doiron, founding director of the nonprofit group Kitchen Gardeners International. Doiron led a campaign that encouraged the Obamas to plant a garden at the White House.
Before The Daily Green, Shapley was the environmental editor at the Poughkeepsie Journal. His relentless reporting drew attention to the Hopewell Precision contamination site in the Town of East Fishkill. Wells near the site were found to have elevated levels of trichloroethylene, a chemical solvent. It was declared a federal Superfund site in 2005.
“He was an awesome and terrific reporter when he was at the Poughkeepsie Journal and helped them create a really strong environmental focus,” said Ned Sullivan, president of the environmental group Scenic Hudson and author of the “Backyard Matters” blog for The Daily Green. “I think he has been catapulted into a national and international media market with The Daily Green. I think he is having a much broader impact, and that is good for everybody — and good for the environment.”
Shapley’s appreciation for the environment goes back to his Dutchess County childhood. “Growing up in Salt Point, there were a lot of woods,” he remembers. “I was right on the Wappinger Creek. Most of my playtime was spent trespassing in other people’s woods.”
After graduating from Arlington High School, Shapley attended Hartwick College in Oneonta, where he began studying biology. He blames beakers and Bunsen burners for his switch to writing. “My freshman year, I was taking genetics, which is a pretty tough course,” he said. “I loved learning about it, and was probably one of the only people who really enjoyed reading through that textbook. But I was no good at lab work — I just didn’t get it.”