Denis Hayes, Bullitt Foundation

TITLE: President and CEO

FUNDING AREAS: Marine ecosystem conservation, clean energy, and green infrastructure

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Hayes was one of the people who helped put together the first Earth Day. He was serious about the environment before it became an issue of both political and social import. Anyone taking a run at Hayes better make sure their proposals are on point.

PROFILE: In the field of environmental activism, Denis Hayes is considered a rock star, and the Bullitt Foundation considers itself lucky to have him on its team, let alone heading it. If you've ever celebrated Earth Day, thank Hayes for that, because he was the coordinator for the first one. He then formed the Earth Day Network and expanded the celebration to more than 180 countries. In the Carter Administration, he was appointed head of the Solar Energy Research Institute (which is now called the National Renewable Energy Laboratory), but he left the post when the Reagan Administration drastically cut his budget.

Hayes joined the Bullitt Foundation in 1992 as its president and remains there to this day. He continues to lead in areas of environmental policy. Time magazine named him "Hero of the Planet" in 1999, and he has won a Jefferson Awards Medal for Outstanding Public Service and other awards from groups such as the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, and the American Solar Energy Society.

Through the Bullitt Foundation, Hayes aims to turn the Pacific Northwest (Bullitt's main office is in Seattle) into the most environmentally conscious region in the country and to create a sustainability model for the world. The foundation recently opened the Bullitt Center in Seattle, which Hayes bills as "the greenest, most energy efficient commercial building in the world." The building was designed to meet the exacting standards of the Living Building Challenge, which is considered the most difficult benchmark for sustainability to date. The building features a solar array to meet all of its power needs, and it will collect rain water in a 56,000-gallon cistern and treat its wastewater onsite.

The Bullitt Foundation's Ecosystem Services program prefers to support and invest in those environmental groups that are engaged in scientifically sound methods for restoring as much of the nation's green infrastructure as possible. The program operates from the viewpoint that the ecosystem is our human life support system, and when that is damaged, so is our ability to support life. It supports programs that work to restore as many aspects of the ecosystem as possible, including air, water, and soil. And while doing so, it intends to educate the public and policymakers to a greater degree, in order to develop policies that support and maintain restoration of the environment and also implement sustainable development.

In a recent interview with National Geographic, Hayes reflected on the very first Earth Day within the context of it's approaching 50th anniversary in 2020. His hopes and goals moving forward with the event—both practically and sociologically—may also reveal his vision for Bullitt granting:

"As we move toward the 50th anniversary in 2020, I think we have a chance to once again to redefine [Earth Day]. You come in with a tailwind when you have the 50th anniversary of anything, and in this instance we hope to move it away from a day and into a full month of different kinds of things circling the world, everything from protecting big game on the Serengeti to talking about the impacts of poverty and war on the global environment to what have you. Just keeping this stuff in the public attention long enough in our increasingly attention-deficit-disordered digital world to have people think about it and ask what it means for them."

The foundation's grantmaking is very open, albeit subject to some very specific parameters. The grants are project-based, meaning that a number of grantees receive more than one or two grants per year. In fact, a search of Bullitt's grants history database shows a number of grantees receiving a dozen or more grants within the space of a year or two, with many receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in total. The grant application process starts with a letter of inquiry, and that process has to follow a specific set of instructions. The foundation makes its grant decisions on May 1 and December 1 every year, with the related application deadlines being March 15 and September 15, respectively.