Adam Hammes is convinced that it’s not a lack of knowledge which prevents people from making the difference they want to make in the world. Facts and information abound. Maybe it’s something else. Hammes, a sustainability expert and Landmark Forum graduate, has written a book, Stress-Free Sustainability, on what it takes to make a difference in the face of resignation, stress, and the seemingly overwhelming nature of the issues facing our world today. Perhaps what will make the difference isn’t more knowledge, but the ability to powerfully communicate with others in such a way that they take effective action.
In the book, Hammes recounts his personal journey of making a difference through creating a more sustainable world. Sustainability has been Hammes’ passion for as long as he could remember. Hammes left college and led outdoor adventure trips and taught environmental education, living and working in seven countries on four continents. He earned his MBA then returned to Iowa to launch a non-profit, Urban Ambassadors, to promote sustainability around Des Moines through a wide variety of his projects.
Then Hammes landed his dream job – manager of sustainability for a multi-billion dollar convenience store chain in his home state of Iowa – but this didn’t stop all of his other work. He was writing a blog that would become his book. The blog wasn’t just about the environment – it was about applying distinctions of transformation to what it was actually like to be an advocate.
The project he dove into the deepest had its roots in work he had done a couple of years earlier–bringing together local food groups, urban farmers, and hunger-fighting organizations in one conference, called Hope for the Hungry (formed by his Urban Ambassadors non-profit). This led to ongoing innovations and collaborations for the next 7 years, and this work had him fall in love with school gardens.
Hammes created A Garden for Every School, an initiative created to do just that. In addition to promoting a connection to the natural world, school gardens are linked to health, wellness, and behavior and academic improvements. Hammes became fascinated with why gardens succeed or fail in schools, why they often go out of existence after a year or two, and what it would really take to get a garden going in every elementary school in the country.
He spent two and a half years studying what works and doesn’t work, interviewing teachers, students, parents, outside organizations. He partnered with organizations looking at all the barriers to success in maintaining school gardens, with the intention of creating pilot programs that create school gardens that go on forever, and that could be replicated in a national training program. He looked at what it takes to have everyone – principals, teachers, groundskeepers, etc. – buy into the program. He discovered, for instance, the necessity of a program that has annual fundraisers and local partnerships rather than subsisting on one-time grants.
Hammes has a program now with Keep Iowa Beautiful and Teachers Going Green that is being piloted at eight schools. He is now working to create a video training program that can be delivered across the country so that every school will have access to a winning program. In the process, Hammes says that he has been helped by lots of different organizations – everyone from local rotary clubs, Habitat for Humanity, Kiwanis, the National Gardening Association, and Food Corps USA have all helped to make this vision a reality. This summer, Hammes will launch a crowdfunding campaign for A Garden for Every School to have this program made available as widely as possible.
In the meantime, Hammes left his corporate job to pursue all these different community efforts. He launched the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum, works as a consultant, markets his book, and speaks at conferences across the country. In addition to “Stress-Free Sustainability”, and a new crowdfunding campaign this summer, Hammes has plans for a new book on corporate sustainability of Iowa companies and a new book about the possibility of “A Garden for Every School.”
Hammes wants readers of his book to experience and be present to the idea that anything is possible.
“This is huge for environmentalists,” he says. “It’s easy to become negative and grim, and it’s vital to keep seeing what’s possible.” From Landmark, Hammes says, he learned to “keep these possibilities present for myself, while having the tools to get unstuck when I need to.”
You can learn more and get free training on Hammes’ email list at his website: www.eco-fluence.com.