Green Sanctuary

Mini-Forest Project

Iowa’s First Mini-Forest is getting ready to grow and we need your help!

This Green Sanctuary project is moving fast.  Located on land the city of West Des Moines has made land available in Brookview Park, preparations are underway for planting on May 3 and 4.

A mini-forest is a fast-growing forest that has been densely planted with native species in a small area.  Based on research by Japanese botanist Dr. Akira Miyawaki in the 1970’s, mini-forests around the world and across North American are producing significant environmental impacts.  More biodiverse than forests planted by conventional methods, they store large amounts of carbon, help reduce runoff and erosion, and improve air quality. They provide habitat for wildlife, particularly birds and beneficial insects, and are often important sites for environmental education and research.

The City of West Des Moines has helped provide leadership and significant support. We also have partners at Iowa State University who plan to do research on the project and partners who will use it as a site for environmental education and curriculum development for elementary students.

Volunteers Needed:

  • Sunday, April 28: plotting and digging planting holes
  • Thursday, May 2: driving fence footings
  • Friday, May 3: helping children from the local elementary school with planting

Planting trees, spreading mulch, and erecting the fence

Sign up HERE.

Contributions are still needed for a number of expenses that include signage, fencing, and supplies. Help complete a generous match that has been offered by a member of the congregation by giving HERE.

Green Sanctuary Designation

Since 2015, our church has been accredited as a Green Sanctuary by the Unitarian Universalist Association. The designation recognizes the work we’ve done in support of the UU Seventh Principle: “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”

Our Green Sanctuary Team is focused on engaging church members with both environmental justice and related social justice issues, such as energy efficiency, recycling, composting, etc., for our building and grounds. The team also promotes outside activities that our members can get involved with to improve the greater Des Moines community.

Our Vision:

1) Congregational Evolution

2) Anti-Oppressive Climate Work

3) Collaboration and Mobilization with organizations throughout the state of Iowa and the UUA.

Our Mission: Bring forth an environmentally sustainable, socially just, spiritually resilient world where we share and use resources to benefit all. Dedicate time and space for education, action, and reflection. Living our UU Values and the Seven (and proposed 8th) Principles into our climate and social justice activism.

We adopted a Statement of Conscience addressing the threat of global warming/climate change. It includes:

  • Treat environmentally responsible practices as a spiritual discipline;
  • Educate ourselves, our children, and future generations on sustainable ways to live interdependently;
  • Practice environmentally responsible consumption and encourage voluntary simplicity among members.”

We have adopted shared leadership. Members are not elected by the group but rotate on or off leadership based on their willingness to serve, and their availability and interest in leading.

We meet monthly. Members are welcome to join us.

To join the Team’s work, please contact Ron Heideman at

Learn about your Carbon Footprint!