Be Awesome – Here’s Some Inspiration

If planning for a region is about ideas… and that region is Greater Des Moines… then the people of Greater Des Moines have to be totally awesome at two things: (1) shining a light on existing ideas, and (2) generating the new and innovative ideas, that will make us a great… dare I say, better than every other… city to live in, ever, in the universe.

Shine a Light

Since I’m only mediocre-awesome, I thought it would be most valuable to highlight some ultra-super-awesome people just like you that are taking small actions that will make a big difference in Greater Des Moines in the years to come.


Alejandro Orozco from Bankers Trust, Amelia Lobo from the Women’s Business Center, and Jason Yates from Iowa Micro Loan are working with a team of passionate residents to launch a local micro-lending program for those in poverty.  Based on the Nobel Peace Prize winning Grameen Bank model from Bangladesh, they are seeking to empower those most in need with the resources to lift themselves out of poverty.  Think of how that would impact low-income communities and the metro as a whole!


Michael Delaney, Emeritus Professor of Sociology from DMACC, has worked tirelessly to shape young minds, but also with the Raccoon River Watershed Association to protect our waterways and ensure that that we don’t lose a treasured resource.  Every great river city takes pride in its rushing waters!  To prevent our two converging streams and our picturesque lakes from becoming polluted and non-usable to the public has taken the work of overlooked hero-volunteers for decades.  Let’s let them know we care.


Retired chiropractor, Ray Meylor, works through Pheasants Forever and the Isaak Walton League to support an ever-growing local food system that includes faith gardens, school gardens, community gardens, communal gardens, CSAs, food coops, and possibly and urban farm in the near future.  Ray works with his daughter, Sarah Meylor, to locate abandoned lots for use, tills gardens for free, finds garden tools, and teaches community members how to fix and use garden tools to be self-sufficient.  I don’t know if Ray sleeps…  My deepest gratitude to him and others like him.


Ciji Mitrisin – recycling ninja – has led a young professional revolution when it comes to providing recycling where there seems to be no hope.  Apartments, small businesses, outdoor events… Ciji has a can-do-anything-if-you-make-it-cool-enough attitude that is contagious and you can’t be around her and question whether she loves kicking the snot out of waste!  She has built a great team of business and marketing geniuses around her, and I don’t think she’ll rest until every last bit of trash is no more.


If you haven’t met Kent Newman and Carl Voss, I highly recommend it.  Both were founders of the Des Moines Bicycle Collective and have grown it into a major difference-maker in growing the cycling community by leaps and bounds.  The shop downtown is constantly repairing donated bikes and selling them at ridiculously affordable prices.  You can also use their shop and tools, donate time, or buy into their B-Cycle program of rental bikes at several kiosks all over downtown.  We are a great bicycling city because of these two and many more like them.


Lynnae Hentzen and Chaden Halfhill blow me away.  Both were founders of Center on Sustainable Communities (COSC), hands down the best residential green building education provider in the nation.  COSC has trained countless Iowans in every area of the construction trades to build greener.  While Lynnae took on the monumental task as Director of COSC, Chaden launched the Natural Living Expo, ran his green building firm, Silent Rivers, and launched one of the coolest historical mixed-use renovation projects ever – Green & Main in Sherman Hill.  My hat is off to you both!


Near and dear to my heart (and ex-environmental educator) is Des Moines Public School professor, Larry Beall, who in his second year leading and expanding the Iowa Energy & Sustainability Academy (IESA).  Recruiting from both at-risk youth from Central Campus and high-performing youth from Central Academy, Larry is taking juniors and seniors on a two-year track that provides college credit and prepares them for degrees in energy-related fields, like solar and wind, but also environmentally-focused business and policy majors.  This is a one-of-a-kind education program in the country and it’s amazing to me that’s it’s in our own backyard.  Check it out!

If you liked any of these stories and want to get plugged in, contact me at  We love to plug people into the existing sustainability community, giving you the resources you need to take the next step on your journey.  That often includes meeting people who have already done what you want to do – a mentor perhaps or just a community of friends to engage with.

Please comment below to share additional stories of ultra-super-awesome people in Greater Des Moines we could all be looking to for ideas!

Adam HammesAdam Hammes is the Manager of Sustainability for Kum & Go, an award-winning privately-owned convenience store chain with over 400 locations in 11 Midwest states. Adam has 7 years of experience in environmental education and leadership training, working in 6 countries on 4 continents. Founder and president of the sustainability non-profit Urban Ambassadors, Adam has an MBA (with BA in Human Services and minor in Environmental Studies) and holds multiple professional certifications in sustainability, including LEED AP.
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