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The latest news and announcements from the Bullitt Foundation

Announcing New Program Changes at the Bullitt Foundation

on Mon, Jan 18, 2016 at 4:12 PM

Grantees, Colleagues and Friends:

Starting with the next round of grant applications submitted this spring, the Bullitt Foundation will shift its grant making exclusively to the Emerald Corridor—the region bounded by Vancouver, BC to the north, Portland to the south, and the Cascades to the east. Our goal is to transform the Corridor into a global model of urban sustainability. This letter very briefly summarizes the reasons for this change and what it means for the Foundation’s future.

Over the next few decades, three billion people around the world will move from small towns, villages, and the countryside into cities—mostly very large cities. The result could be an unparalleled disaster. There are no examples, anywhere, of large, “sustainable” cities. In general, the larger a city is, the higher the probability that it is an ecological and social mess.

Moreover, demands by humans aggregated in cities already drive, directly and indirectly, the environmental phenomena—climate change, water shortages, toxic pollutants, loss of topsoil, and endangered species, for example—that are wreaking havoc globally and locally.

There is no fundamental reason why this must remain true. The underlying causes of metropolitan dysfunction and of irresponsible supply chains can all be eliminated if we bring the necessary creativity, and if we have the will to be bold.

This initiative is not about adorning conventional cities with a few ‘bolt-on’ bike lanes, community gardens, and solar panels. Rather, we seek to help create integrated urban ecosystems designed to nurture humans to achieve their full potential. Such cities would encourage the most promising technological innovations while also being informed by 2 billion years of beta testing by Mother Nature. We envision an Emerald Corridor deeply committed to clean air, clean water, healthy food, non-toxic materials, resilient energy, efficient transport, and social equity. This is a big lift.

We freely admit that we don’t have all the answers. We strongly encourage prospective partners to think far outside the box. We look forward to learning from creative proposals authored by grantees, innovative policies from think tanks, and successful experiences from other cities. This will be a deeply collaborative undertaking.

We aspire to make Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver “leapfrog cities” in much the same sense that the Bullitt Center is a leapfrog building—raising the bar for the planet by demonstrating what is possible. The Bullitt Center has proven that affordable investments in innovative design and existing technology can provide tenants increased comfort, health, and productivity while dramatically slashing their resource consumption. In similar fashion, the Emerald Corridor initiative will prove that deep green cities are far better places to live than conventional cities.

This is the right location for this initiative. Through innovations in science, technology, commerce, and culture, the Emerald Corridor already exerts a disproportionate global impact relative to its size and population. As the gateway between the economies of North America and Asia, and with dominant global companies like Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, Nike and Starbucks, it is big enough to make a difference yet small enough to test the new models of urban sustainability that the world needs right now.

The Corridor is a place worth fighting to protect. It encompasses crucial parts of the Cascades, the Columbia and the Fraser Rivers, and the incomparable Puget Sound. It contains three amazing cities, linked by rich productive farmland, forests, and parks. It is the best-educated, most abundantly resourced, greenest, most progressive corner of the wealthiest nation in human history. If humans can achieve a deeply sustainable culture anywhere, it will likely happen first in the Emerald Corridor. We intend to catalyze that transition.

In partnership with our grantees, the Bullitt Foundation will cultivate bold new models of urban resilience. We will continue to embrace high-risk, high-return ideas, with a clear understanding that many will not succeed. Those that flourish will represent opportunities not just for the Emerald Corridor, but also for cities around the world. In turn, we will seek to learn from the experiences of Copenhagen, Freiburg, Curitiba, Malmo, Brussels, and other innovative centers that are striving to create a livable future today.

The Bullitt Foundation will now support five program areas:

  • Energy, Climate & Materials
  • Regional Ecosystem Health
  • Resilient Cities, Healthy Communities
  • Deep Green Buildings
  • Thought Leadership and Innovation

For more information about these programs, please visit our website.  This change will take effect in the first quarter of 2016 as we begin to receive applications for Fall 2016 grants.


Denis Hayes