On this 46th Earth Day


“For those who say we can’t power our future let them come to the Bullitt Center!” declared Governor Jay Inslee on a brilliant Seattle Earth Day, April 22, 2013. As a crowd of several hundred gathered to listen to the governor and other speakers, we learned that many people consider the new six-story Bullitt Center to be “the greenest office building on the planet.”


We also learned that this innovative structure provides its own energy from solar panels on its roof. Its water supply consists solely of rainwater, stored in tanks in the basement. City ordinances were actually changed to make it possible to add the first self-composting toilets in any office building in Seattle. And it even has a garage . . . for bikes.

The Bullitt Center houses the Bullitt Foundation, a leading environmental foundation that provides grants for urban environmental projects in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. Denis Hayes, the head of the foundation, is one of the leading environmental voices in the United States. A college dropout, he organized the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, and can now witness its celebration in over 180 different countries. As I was heading to sixth floor, on the final tour, Denis came up behind me. I turned and said to him, “That first Earth Day radically changed my life.” He responded, “I hope for the better.” “It did,” I replied, “and I’ll tell you about it sometime.”

Three weeks later Denis was kind enough to invite me back to the sixth floor for a cup of coffee. As we sat down, I sipped my coffee and began to relate my story of that first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. “I was thirty-four and Dean of Students at Maui Community College,” I began. “I prided myself on keeping up on what we used to call ‘current events.’ However, frankly, like many in 1970, I had no idea that our world was rapidly changing and we were going to face a specter of daunting new environmental, economic, and social challenges as we careened toward the twenty-first century.

“My most vivid memories of that first Earth Day in Hawaii was the presentation by Dr. James Dator, from the University of Hawaii. He declared, ‘We are putting the future of our planet and its people at extreme risk with the thoughtless ways we dump our garbage into the atmosphere, the land and the water!’ He shared, in convincing detail, the destruction we are inflicting on the rain forests, reefs surrounding the Hawaiian Islands, and the atmosphere that supports all life.”

I told Denis, “That first Earth Day was not only a wake-up call for me but also became an unexpected vocational call. I sensed God calling me to learn more about tomorrow’s new challenges and opportunities to enable people of faith to create new ways to live and make a difference in response to these waves of change.” In fact, after much prayer and many discussions with family and friends, I moved to Seattle three months later to embark on a doctoral program at the University of Washington… It was one of the best decisions of my life.”

On this Earth Day April 22, 2016…45 years after that first Earth Day I am still trying to find creative ways to join a new generation to create a more sustainable future for God’s good creation and all those who come after us. What are you doing to renew God’s creation?