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Denis Hayes

Founder, Earth Day Network; CEO, Bullitt Foundation

Denis Hayes

Denis Hayes is CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, an environmental philanthropy located in Seattle. He developed the Bullitt Center, a commercial office building judged by World Architecture News to be “the Most Sustainable Building in the World” and by Engineering News-Record to be the outstanding engineering project in the United States in 2013. In April, 2015, the Bullitt Center was certified as the first major building to meet the ultra-rigorous Living Building Challenge.

In 1970, Denis was national coordinator of the first Earth Day, an event often credited with launching the modern American environmental movement.  In 1990, Denis took Earth Day international, organizing events in 141 nations that year.  In 2000, he added China, organizing the first nationwide gathering of environmental activists ever in that nation.  In 2005, Earth Day expanded to the Ukraine, whose new President had personally suffered from dioxin poisoning. Hayes is the honorary chair of the Earth Day Network, which is now active in 190 nations.

During the Carter Administration, Denis headed the federal Solar Energy Research Institute (now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory), then the world’s premier renewable energy research institution. After the election of Ronald Reagan, Hayes became Regents’ Professor of Energy and Resources at the University of California at Santa Cruz. From 1983 to 1988, Denis was an adjunct professor of energy engineering at Stanford University.  During this period, he was also practicing law with the Cooley firm in Silicon Valley.

At various times during his career, Denis served as Director of the Illinois State Energy Office, Senior Fellow at the Worldwatch Institute, and Visiting Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  He has been deeply involved in numerous environmental lobbying campaigns for clean air, clean water, renewable energy, and to protect endangered species.  

In 1979, Denis received the national Jefferson Medal for Greatest Public Service by an American under 35. In 1985, the Sierra Club presented Hayes its highest honor, the John Muir Award.  Hayes has also received the highest honors awarded by the American Solar Energy Society, National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Council of America, the Humane Society of the United States, the Commonwealth Club, and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility. For his work to spread environmental values around the world, Hayes received the Global Environmental Leadership Award of the World Bank’s Global Environment Facility—the only American so honored. 

Denis serves, or has served, on the boards of Stanford University, Federation of American Scientists, Energy Foundation, World Resources Institute, Children Now, League of Conservation Voters, Ruckelshaus Center for Policy Consensus, Earth Day Network, Greenpeace USA, National Programming Council for Public Television, and the Environmental Grantmakers Association. Hayes chairs or has chaired CERES, Green Seal, the Energy Foundation, the Solar Circle, the Prosperity Partnership, and the climate task forces of two different mayors of Seattle.

Time magazine selected Hayes as one of its “Heroes of the Planet;” the National Audubon Society included him in its list of the 100 Environmental Heroes of the 20th  Century; and Look magazine listed him among the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century. He has been profiled as "Newsmaker of the Week" by ABC News and as "Today's Person in the News" by the New York Times. He has appeared on many interview programs including Meet the Press, Face the Nation, the Lehrer News Hour, and Sixty Minutes.     

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