First national coordinator of Earth Day, founder of the Earth Day Network, Time Magazine “Hero of the Planet,” former head of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, Denis Hayes wears many hats.
Add to these titles one more: Developer of the greenest commercial building in the world, the Bullitt Center.
Growing up along the Columbia River in the paper mill town of Camas, Washington, Hayes recognized early the contrast between the stunning landscape and the pollution from the town’s main source of jobs. With acrid smoke clouding views of the surrounding hills, the mill installed a free sprinkler system for people to wash the acid precipitation off their cars, protecting paint-jobs but doing little for the air people were breathing. Hayes’ environmental ethic formed early in this fertile environment, where today the Hayes Freedom High School is named in his honor.
In 1970, Hayes dropped out of the Kennedy School at Harvard University when he was selected by Senator Gaylord Nelson to become the National Coordinator of the first Earth Day – an event often credited with launching the modern American environmental movement. In 1990, Hayes resuscitated Earth Day and took it international, with events in 141 nations. Today Earth Day is the world’s biggest secular holiday and more than 180 nations celebrate.
In 1992 Hayes was selected as president and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, a philanthropy dedicated to safeguarding the natural environment by promoting responsible human activities and sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest. Mobilizing the resources of the Foundation, Hayes has been working to make the Pacific Northwest a global model for sustainable development.
To that end, the Bullitt Center is first and foremost a tangible manifestation of Hayes’ vision. Designed to meet the Living Building Challenge, the Seattle-based Bullitt Center will generate all the energy it needs in a year from the most efficient commercial solar panels in the world. It will capture rainwater to meet all its water needs and avoid using common toxic materials, improving human and environmental health.
When the Bullitt Center is completed near the end of 2012, Hayes will be able to celebrate three milestones together: Completion of the project, 20 years at the helm of the Bullitt Foundation and the 60th Anniversary of the Foundation.
Hayes’ nimble mind and dry wit make him a regular fixture on conference stages and in the media. He has been awarded the Global Environmental Leadership Award by the World Bank, and has received the highest awards bestowed by the Sierra Club, Humane Society, National Wildlife Federation, American Solar Energy Society and many more.