Our purpose as an organization is to provide Cascadia’s community problem solvers with practical vision and innovative thinking, inspiring and empowering them to bring about a healthy, lasting prosperity. We like to think of ourselves as sowers of seeds—planting ideas and stewarding their growth so sustainable solutions can flourish.
The significance of our work doesn’t lie in the specific advances we’ve encouraged, but in the hundreds—perhaps thousands—of daily acts we help empower.
Tilling the Soil
Our research and communications tools brings together a community of thousands of northwesterners ready for change:
- On any given day, around 5,000 Cascadians rely on Sightline—via our websites, email, social media, and RSS feeds—to be inspired, stay informed, and be empowered.
- Since 1993, we’ve published 19 books, scores of reports, and thousands of blog posts.
- Our daily news service keeps Northwesterners informed about the latest, most important sustainability news from around the region and beyond.
- We inform news articles in reputable media outlets every week, reaching hundreds of thousands of regional and national readers.
- Every year, Sightline staff meet with hundreds of regional leaders and changemakers, participating in panels, briefings, and consultations.
Sometimes change happens in days, other times in years. But a good idea, once planted, is tenacious:
- Sightline Institute has long championed returning our democratic systems to the hands of everyday people, rather than leaving it to the interests of Big Money. In 2015, we helped to author the groundbreaking Honest Elections Seattle citizens’ initiative. It assembles into a single package some of the toughest corruption prevention and clean-election laws found anywhere in the United States, including a startlingly original campaign funding system called Democracy Vouchers.
- Sightline researchers have consulted with state and national delegates to lay out the most practical, effective solutions to climate change, as well as the best ways to message these solutions with the public. In 2008, British Columbia announced the most comprehensive carbon tax shift in the world, following the recommendations of our 1998 book, Tax Shift. Today, Washington and Oregon are both seriously considering legislation that would make polluters pay for their carbon pollution—efforts that Sightline research has heavily informed and helped to shape.
- Executive director Alan Durning’s latest book, Unlocking Home: Three Keys to Affordable Communities, has been used and cited by policymakers, urban planners, social service organizations, and media outlets nationwide as they seek new approaches to keeping urban housing affordable.
- Sightline’s research on Northwest Coal & Oil Exports has informed and empowered the fight against massive fossil fuel exports planned for our region, detailing everything from the local traffic impacts of the trains carrying these products to coastal ports to coal companies’ failing finances and more. As of early 2015, of the originally proposed six terminals, at Coos Bay, Grays Harbor, and Port Westward, three had canceled their development plans; the King County Council issued a strong statement against Northwest coal exports; and the Washington towns of Vancouver, Aberdeen, and Mount Vernon had all passed anti-oil train resolutions.
- Our blog series detailing legal barriers to sustainable solutions has inspired policy changes across Cascadia. These include expanded economic opportunities for African-style hair braiding in Oregon; right-to-dry legislation that would allow clotheslines everywhere; and changing the laws mandating white pages be provided to all households.
- Our cities are more family-friendly, thanks to measures like the 2013 Neighborhood Safe Streets Bill (WA), which allows cities to lower local speed limits—an idea that Sightline has helped promote since 2011. In addition, Sightline championed the newly improved stroller policies on King County (WA) Metro buses.
- Sightline has worked for years on issues related to toxics, be they in breastmilk or couches. In 2012, California—the largest US couch market and therefore a bellwether for the rest of the country—changed its rules on toxic flame retardants in couches. Our in-depth analysis and outreach in support of California-based activists, helped bring about the change.
- Sightline has championed sustainable transportation legislation, from launching Pay-As-You-Drive auto insurance to personal car-sharing—all the while documenting the region’s shifting attitudes toward driving.
- Low Impact-Development offers a common-sense solution to our region’s toxic stormwater woes. Our primer has been circulated among stormwater advocates and decision makers, and influenced the decisions of several LID projects in the Seattle area and beyond.
- Inspired by Sightline, in 2007, three talented developers created a hugely popular WalkScore online tool that rates neighborhood walkability around the US and beyond.
Each year, Sightline works with numerous other organizations to make change happen. Here are just a few of the groups who have used Sightline’s work in the past year:
Oregon Environmental Council
City of Portland
Washington Department of Ecology
Cascadia Green Building Council
Tyee Solutions Society
Simon Fraser University
City of Seattle
Washington Environmental Council
Northwest Energy Coalition
Natural Resources Defense Council
Columbia River Keepers
City of Eugene
Transportation Choices Coalition