omaha, nebraska (402) 681 - 9458 | info@verdisgroup.com

Our home to share our thoughts and host an (e)discussion about the opportunities sustainability presents and how our world will be changing as a result. From savvy strategies for clients to our fleet of Schwinn 10-speeds and everything in between; we invite you to the conversation and hope that we can explore true.green. together.


We’re officially ready to add to our small but mighty team! Job description is below and can be found here. Please pass along to all worthy candidates and consider applying yourself!

SUSTAINABILITY ANALYST

Verdis Group, LLC is seeking qualified individuals for a staff position. Ideal candidates will have a passion for and knowledge of sustainability, excellent communication (both verbal and written) skills, be adept at managing multiple responsibilities simultaneously, and have good data analysis capabilities.

SUMMARY
The skills and abilities necessary to sufficiently perform the duties are varied and require the individual to be adept at many tasks. The position requires flexibility, attention to detail, and enthusiasm for the work. Generally speaking, the successful candidate will perform a variety of qualitative and quantitative analyses, effortlessly advise clients on how to be more sustainable, and effectively communicate with colleagues and clients.

ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS
The successful candidate will perform the following tasks:

  1. Data Analysis: Conducting a variety of different numerical and theoretical analyses. Collecting, managing, tracking, analyzing, and summarizing data are very important components of the job; we will be placing a high emphasis on these abilities.
  2. Sustainability Knowledge & Strategies: It is our job to consult organizations on how they can be more sustainable; having in-depth knowledge of the industry and the sustainability strategies organizations can and should pursue is imperative.
  3. Communication: Effectively communicating, in verbal, written, and in some cases visual/graphical form, is an important component of the job. The ideal candidate will be able to communicate technical information in a clear, concise, and accessible manner.
  4. Project Management: The successful candidate will be expected to lead some smaller projects with an opportunity for increased project management responsibility.
  5. Other duties as assigned: We’re a small business, which often requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. New responsibilities will pop up, and the ideal candidate will be able to effortlessly handle many of them.

KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, AND ABILITIES:

  1. Thorough and accurate in all duties and responsibilities. Attention to detail is a key component of the position.
  2. Ability to think critically, problem solve, and trouble-shoot issues.
  3. Excellent planning and organizational skills and an ability to prioritize and manage multiple duties and tasks simultaneously.
  4. Ability to collect, organize, input, and analyze data in an extremely accurate and efficient manner, and an ability to effectively communicate the information.
  5. Knowledge of sustainable best practices as they pertain to businesses, organizations and communities.
  6. Skilled in using Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Apple software. Proficiency with Adobe’s Creative Suite would be a nice bonus.
  7. Skilled in demonstrating cooperation and professionalism.
  8. Ability to work well with minimal supervision in a team-oriented environment.
  9. Ability to effectively work and interact with various cultures and ethnicities.

SCHEDULE
Our current expectation is for this position to be full-time.

COMPENSATION
Compensation is $35,000 – $40,000 commensurate with experience. The firm also offers several benefits, both monetary and otherwise, that the successful candidate will be eligible for. They include but are not limited to group health insurance, bike and bus benefits, extremely generous paid time off, professional development stipends, short-term disability insurance, and flexible work schedule arrangements.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS
All individuals interested in being considered for this position should submit the following information:

  1. A letter of interest not to exceed one page
  2. Resume
  3. List of three references, at least one of which must be from a previous relevant employer

Interested parties should send the requested information to Craig Moody via email at craig@verdisgroup.com. Submittals will be accepted until the position is filled.

CONTACT INFORMATION
Craig Moody, Principal
Verdis Group, LLC
1516 Cuming Street
Omaha, NE 68102

ABOUT VERDIS GROUP (READ THIS. IT’S IMPORTANT.)
Our mission: we integrate sustainable strategies that help organizations flourish. Our work commonly falls into two categories: 1) sustainability master plans and 2) ongoing advisory services to assist clients with implementation of operational and behavioral strategies. In both cases, it’s important for us to be extremely knowledgeable of the subject matter at hand. We dig into the data, find trends and opportunities, crunch the numbers, and then effectively communicate the relevant information. Once the plan is in place, we work hand-in-hand (yes, we literally hold their hands sometimes) with our clients to get things done. The implementation can and does take many forms: helping to facilitate green teams and their projects, leading lighting retrofits, studying institutional-scale composting programs, overhauling a waste and recycling process, identifying ongoing energy conservation measures, and then tracking all of the progress.

Our culture is extremely important to the work we do. We love the work and it shows in how we approach it. We involve the entire team in decision-making, and we expect everyone to work hard but not too much.

Our culture guides our ship and ensures we are focused on our mission. To that end, we work hard to adhere to the following Verdis values:

Passion. We believe we have the power to transform business as usual and make our world ‘green by default’.

Integrity. We’re not going to greenwash, and we won’t let our clients either. Seriously, it’s not an option.

Balance. We recognize the interdependence of the world’s economic, ecological and social systems and believe every decision made should reflect consideration of all three systems.

Collaboration. We believe we’re not in this alone and rely on our friends, clients, business partners and colleagues to help us create a resilient future.

Innovation. We believe it’s no coincidence that the edge of ecosystems is exceptionally innovative, creative, resilient and dynamic. We’re not going over the edge, but we’ll hang out there for a spell; it’s a great place to be.

Continuous Improvement. We have a thirst for learning and are always searching for ways to do our work better.

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I’m really hoping this is not news for most of you, but I’m running to represent Subdistrict 5 on the Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors in the upcoming general election. Running for office was not something I was ever planning to do, but life threw a few things at me, and I decided it was time to step up.

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Why am I running, you might ask? Three reasons.

First, I think I’m actually well suited for the Board. Given that I work in the energy industry on a daily basis, I have a really good level of knowledge that will be immediately advantageous for the Board. I also have a background in finance with an MBA so I’m also able to fully understand all the financial implications of OPPD’s activities.

Next, I would really like to see the Board be more open and transparent. It’s a public utility; we own it. And OPPD can do a much better job of sharing and soliciting information from its customer-owners.

Finally, the energy industry is changing very quickly right now. New technologies are popping up all the time. Wind and solar energy are not only getting more efficient, but they’re decreasing in cost. That pace of change is only going to continue. My hope is to help OPPD take advantage of all these changes. They’re coming whether they want them to or not. How can we pursue them as opportunities? What must we do to ensure we have a long future of clean and affordable energy?

You can learn more at craigmoody.org. Or call me anytime if you’d like to discuss further. I’m always more than happy to chat!

And, of course, I would greatly appreciate your vote!

#GetintheMoody

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We have several new projects underway that we’re really excited about and wanted to let you in on a little of what we’re up to. Let’s get right to it!

Methodist Health System brought us on board to complete some preliminary Sustainability Master Plan work. Our main objectives are threefold: 1) identify and articulate their previous accomplishments, 2) establish benchmarks in key areas such as energy and water consumption, waste diversion, commute modal split, and our Sustainability Engagement Index, and 3) set their sustainability vision and goals.

Countryside Community Church is in the process of building a new church, and we were brought onto the design team to ensure all involved are really taking a thorough and meaningful approach to sustainability. Their aspirations are impressive, and we’re excited about having such a great, sustainability–focused house of worship in Omaha.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, a long-time client of ours, has us hard at work this year with several different projects, including the development of a new master plan for the Wildlife Safari Park (as a partnership with ASD Stanley J. How Architects), re-evaluating the goals in their Energy & Sustainability Master Plan, many of which have been met, and technical assistance with a new solar installation. We’re also continuing our implementation work at the Zoo.

The University of South Dakota (my alma mater) hired us to conduct our Sustainability Engagement Survey and to provide a suite of recommendations on how they might re-engineer their waste and recycling collection processes so as to increase their diversion rate.

In partnership with WELLCOM, we created and rolled out the Active Commuting Toolkit to help employers develop comprehensive active commuting programs. These programs support employees’ transportation choices such as walking, biking, riding the bus, and carpooling. Active commuting saves employees and employers money, improves health, and keeps our air cleaner. Our efforts earned recognition from Omaha by Design with the 2016 Access & Mobility Award.

Omaha’s Metropolitan Utilities District brought us on board to write their first ever Sustainability Annual Report. It’s been very exciting to learn about their past efforts and future plans!

Duchesne Academy engaged our team to help carry out a school-wide sustainability initiative this year. By engaging students, faculty and staff, we are helping them to hone in on the best opportunities for sustainable improvements and to implement them in ways that are smart, efficient, and fun.

Morrissey Engineering hired us to conduct a waste audit, and Soil Dynamics engaged our expertise to help them navigate the changes being considered to Omaha’s waste collection system.

Creighton University , partnered with us earlier this year to design and implement a peak energy reduction campaign that primarily focused on operational and behavioral strategies. We also conducted our Sustainability Engagement Survey for all CU staff and students and developed a sustainability engagement plan for one of Creighton’s residence halls.

New Mexico State University, our newest client, recently hired us to conduct our Sustainability Engagement Survey, which, for all you institutions of higher learning out there, will help them fulfill AASHE STARS credit EN-06: Assessing Sustainability Culture.

Last but certainly not least, our implementation work continues with the Omaha Public Schools, Kearney Public Schools, and UNMC/Nebraska Medicine.

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We are beyond excited to announce that Kim Morrow will be joining our team on May 31, 2016! Originally from California, Kim has worked in the sustainability and climate fields in Nebraska for the past six years. She has experience in sustainability consulting, clean energy advocacy, faith-based climate advocacy, higher education, policy work and fundraising.

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Prior to joining us, she served as Executive Director of Nebraska Interfaith Power & Light, a non-profit leading the faith community’s response to climate change. She also served as Climate Change Resource Specialist at the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, partnering with Dr. Don Wilhite to deliver a series of sector-based roundtable discussions on the implications of climate change to Nebraska. In July 2015, she was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” for her efforts on climate change with the faith community.

Kim is passionate about finding smart, compassionate, and community-based solutions to the environmental challenges of our time. She is thrilled to join the team and looks forward to making great things happen in Nebraska and beyond.

Kim currently lives in Lincoln, and we’re excited to report that she’ll eventually be spending roughly half of her time there – consider this a Verdis expansion into the Lincoln market!

Kim lives with her two kids. When she’s not trying to save the world, she enjoys roller skating, ice skating, biking, walking and jogging. She has recently started playing guitar, and has an unusual delight with her backyard composter.

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Omaha’s waste and recycling programs have been in the spotlight lately as new proposals from Waste Management to reform the current collection methods draw public attention. These changes could not come sooner, with the current state of Omaha’s recycling program lagging behind all neighboring states. A recent World-Herald analysis found that Nebraskans rank fifth in the country in the amount of garbage they send to landfills. Omaha has hovered around a diversion rate (% of total materials recycled) of 11% for many years, which is discouragingly low (the national average is 34%) and well below the EPA’s estimate that 75% of residential trash is recyclable.

We can do better, and it is time for change at all levels of the system.

Waste Management recently submitted proposals to overhaul waste collection in Omaha. Mayor Jean Stothert requested these proposals to address “frequent complaints about the current level of service and plan for the future.” However, overhauling Omaha’s waste and recycling programs is a complicated matter, and the decision our leadership makes must carefully consider many alternatives and criteria.

In our work we see first hand the challenges and opportunities our clients have related to waste and recycling. The reality is that it is far more complicated than most people realize. Residences and businesses alike obtain, use, and need to discard many different types of materials, and most people want a reliable, simple process.

In order to improve Omaha’s recycling rate, there are a few key things that should be considered. First, start at the source. Omahans need to do a better job of considering what they are obtaining at the point of purchase. The best way to limit the volume of outgoing waste is to not obtain those materials in the first place. A major missing piece of both Waste Management proposals is any programming to decrease the amount of waste/recycling/yard waste that is produced. Less waste means less cost to taxpayers to manage the waste. MAPA’s Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan (ISWMP) recommends the City hire or contract out a Source Reduction Specialist to do just this—reduce waste generation.

Yard waste in particular is a material that retains a great amount of value, and Omahans should be encouraged to consider ways to keep yard waste on their property. This can be done in the form of mulching grass clippings, composting leaves and grass clippings at home, and using some landscaping materials for other purposes (art, fencing, walking sticks, nature nooks, etc.). The City’s own policy directs City staff to mulch leaves and grass clippings on City property. Shouldn’t we all do the same?

Next, the addition of larger, lidded recycling containers is good and important. Several studies have shown that such a system will result in higher recycling rates, which is something Omaha desperately needs.

Third, one of the more contentious issues in Waste Management’s proposals relates to the plan to mix all landscaping materials with regular trash and send it all to the landfill, effectively shuttering the City’s Oma-Gro composting operation. Claims have been made that sending landscaping materials to the landfill, which is where some electricity is generated by burning methane gas, is better environmentally than composting. These claims have not been peer-reviewed and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, MAPA’s ISWMP, and the Environmental Protection Agency share a common waste hierarchy (see below) wherein composting is a better use of organic waste than energy capture. The City does not have enough information to determine which approach is environmentally superior. Further analysis is warranted.

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Finally, both Waste Management proposals effectively limit the amount of waste that a household can have picked up on a weekly basis. Such a limit is worthwhile, especially for regular landfill-bound trash, but there will have to be a strong communication and education campaign to help change how much waste Omahans generate. In one proposal option, residents are limited to five bags or cans (32-gallon maximum each) of trash and 4 bags or cans of yard waste for a total of nine containers (288 gallons) each week. This is the same as the current limit on trash containers, and it is too high. Frankly, residents should be pushed a bit to lower the amount of waste they send to the landfill.

In summary, there are some good aspects of the proposals, but there remain some significant questions that must be considered before moving forward. For example, how much sooner will our landfill close with the additional volume of yard waste? What will it cost taxpayers to build a new landfill further from the city? What is the environmental cost with longer driving distances? And what are the clear, calculated environmental impacts of all scenarios?

We hope that the City invests time and money into gathering all the right information before making a decision on a such an important and complex issue.

 

 

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When you hire exceptional people, you should expect that they’ll be regularly presented with offers for other jobs. It’s something we expect to happen. The alternative – hiring a bunch of monkeys that nobody wants – may mean we don’t need to worry about employee poachers, but it also means we’re not going to perform at a high level.

So when Chris Stratman broke the news that he’ll be leaving the firm, I found myself immensely disappointed but also not surprised. On November 16, Chris will start as the new Executive Director of Keep Omaha Beautiful, a nonprofit organization dedicated to litter reduction, beautification, and education on recycling and solid waste issues. You know that disappointment I mentioned earlier? That quickly faded when I learned about Chris’ new job.

Keep Omaha Beautiful has been around since 1959, and one of its focus areas – waste reduction and recycling – is really important in Omaha, which has a historically poor recycling rate. We have several ideas for how to increase recycling in Omaha, but we’re not particularly well set up to independently move the needle. Chris’ expertise, strengths, focus, and results-focused approach will undoubtedly have a positive impact not only on the city’s recycling rate, but on the city’s overall success as well. He’s really well-suited to the job, and he’s going to knock it out of the park.

Chris has been with us since early 2010 and has played a major role in nearly every one of our projects. Most notably, he has been our project lead with UNMC and Nebraska Medicine for the last few years consistently providing great leadership to our project team and impeccable service to our friends at the Med Center.

We will miss Chris. I will miss Chris. I’ve spent the last five years sitting about four feet from him. He’s an exceptional human being and our success as a firm is due in large part to his dedication to our purpose.

As they say, change is the only constant. Mr. Stratman’s (he asked that I start calling him that now) last day is slated for October 23. We wish Chris nothing but the best, and I look forward to working with him in a new capacity to make Omaha a thriving, green city.

Onward and upward.

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I’ve been a member of Omaha’s Business Ethics Alliance for over five years and was quite excited when we agreed to be a sponsor of the BEA’s most recent Executive Breakfast.

The breakfast featured a conversation with Coca-Cola’s water sustainability program manager Jonathan Radtke with a special appearance by Mace Hack, the Nebraska state director of The Nature Conservancy. The two entities are partnering on an interesting project promoting new technology that helps Nebraska farmers along the South Platte River irrigate with less water.

The conversation took a number of twists and turns, and thanks to the always exceptional moderation of the BEA’s director, Beverly Kracher, an exceptional conversation unfolded.

Coke is doing some exceptional things as it relates to water conservation and replenishment of waterways. They are well ahead of schedule in working to achieve their 2020 100% water replenishment goal.

My favorite quote from Jon was his reference to Coke’s internal view that their sustainability initiatives really leverage “the power of ‘and’ ” which is to say there are multiple benefits to everything they’re doing. They save money and help the environment and attract customers and engage employees and…you get the point.

There was a great discussion that included attendees that centered on what motivates organizations to be more sustainable. Responses were a bit across the board, with references to the Pope’s recent encyclical, our collective moral obligations to future generations, and the fact that it’s ultimately good for businesses.

Interestingly, Coke is now more than happy to pay more for the water they use so long as it leads toward a more sustainable water system and all water users pay their fair share. Publicly articulating that you’re willing to take on bigger costs is pretty unheard of, but Coke understands that it’s necessary in order for them to succeed longer term.

Radtke suggested that companies need to look beyond their quarterly income statements and should consider the long view with a reference to the 7th generation principle taught by Native Americans that says every decision should consider how it will affect descendants seven generations into the future. Not many other corporations are thinking out that far.

In talking with several other attendees over the last few days, many were challenged by the tension between Coke’s great sustainability practices and the fact that they primarily sell products that result in health challenges for consumers. I get it, but I don’t put that on Coca-Cola. In my view, it’s on consumers to change their behaviors. If society wants healthier beverages, then start drinking them. Until then, I’ll see you at the vending machine – let’s split a Coke.

Onward and upward.

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Recycling is getting a lot of attention in Omaha these days. The Omaha World Herald ran an extensive story (Why is Nebraska Recycling in the Dumps?) in the Sunday, July 12 edition that summarized the challenges Omaha and Nebraska more broadly speaking have had with recycling. The key indicator is the recycling rate, which has hovered around 11% in Omaha since 2006, a figure that’s well below the national average (34%) and lagging that of the surrounding states.

Let’s not kid ourselves, managing waste streams is more difficult than most people imagine, even at the residential level. I just took my family’s trash and recycling to the curb tonight, and while doing so pondered all the different streams that leave our house in a given week (landfill, mixed recycling, glass, plastic bags, reuse items, my daughter’s to-go applesauce containers (I think she’s addicted), and compostable waste). Each one of them requires a separate staging area in our house and/or garage. It’s no wonder that I conduct a monthly educational campaign at home to ensure we’re all on the same page.

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Moody family outgoing trash and recycling. The volume in those two (yes, we have two…ssshh) green bins is more than what’s in the black trash container. I suspect if most Omahans had the opportunity and were properly educated, the same would hold true. The EPA estimates that 75% of residential trash is recyclable.

There are unquestionably advantages to recycling more, and the good news is that there are benefits that excite both fiscal conservatives and tree-hugging liberals alike. The financial savings alone are noteworthy; if Omaha improved to a mere 26% recycling rate (a very achievable figure), the city would be saving roughly $1 million per year. Certainly not chump change.

So how can Omaha improve its recycling rate? The Verdis Team spent an hour kicking around a few ideas, some of which are offered below. First, a caveat: we have not studied the situation (but would love to!). The recommendations below are based on 1) our materials management work with all of our clients, 2) our experiences as Omaha citizens, and 3) the knowledge and information we’ve gained through community involvement with efforts such as Environment Omaha. When we’re given the opportunity (the power of positive thought, right?) to really study the issue, we would most certainly refine and add to these recommendations. OK, with caveat in place, let’s get to it.

  1. Deploy larger bins with lids. Everyone acknowledges that this would have an immediate impact. Let’s make it happen. (See the July 13 OWH story for more details.) And, yes, the up-front cost ($6 million) is a bit much, but as the OWH reported on July 19, there are funding alternatives such as the Closed Loop Fund. The City should also consider the Nebraska Environmental Trust and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality grant programs as sources of funding.
  1. Overhaul branding and communication. There are multiple layers to this one, so let’s bullet them out:
    • Develop a sophisticated brand around Omaha’s recycling program
    • Reboot the website
    • Develop a one-page summary that’s easy for residents to review, pass around, print and post at home
    • Offer several materials in other languages, especially Spanish (the recycling rate per capita was worst in Southeast Omaha)
    • Rename and redesign the Wasteline publication that’s mailed to residences regularly
    • Do NOT over-emphasize the 11% rate. Doing so conveys a subtle social norm that only 11% of waste can be recycled and/or only 11% of people do recycle. Rather, focus on the fact that the majority of Omahans support recycling.
    • Messaging also needs to tap into multiple motivating factors – catching everyone from liberals to conservatives
    • Ramp up the social media platform (Verdis has more “likes” on Facebook, and we generally stink at social media)
    • Invest in other awareness and media efforts such as billboards, radio, and so on
  1. Start delivering bins again. Assuming that we really do need to wait five years before the large bins with lids are deployed, the City should reinstitute the program where the current curbside bins would actually be delivered to households that request them, which was in place several years ago. (Today, citizens must go to one of six locations to pick one up.) Partnerships could be explored with neighborhood associations, schools, a nonprofit such as Keep Omaha Beautiful, and maybe even churches to facilitate the distribution process.
  1. Connecting with the binless. We kicked around a handful of ideas to engage those households that don’t have a bin today. Here are a few:
    • Employe and send SummerWorks Omaha employees door to door on trash/recycling day. Have them contact (leave flyers or little yard signs) at every residence that does not have a recycling container out. Heck, give them a truck full of bins so they can distribute as the come across households that want one.
    • Automatically provide bins to all of Omaha with an opt-out alternative. With proper notice and an effective opt-out alternative, this could work.
  1. Ramp up recycling in public spaces. The City needs to walk the talk and deploy recycling containers in public areas with a goal to achieve a 1:1 waste to recycling container ratio in the city.
  1. Make recycling mandatory. Yes, I know this is a stretch and not likely to happen, but it still would be one of the single most effective means by which to increase recycling rates. In essence, recyclables would be banned from going into the landfill.
  1. Explore pay as you throw. A strong motivator for recycling more is charging fees for trash (known as a pay-as-you-throw system). Yes, there’s some concern about it being a regressive tax, but those issues can be overcome with a more sophisticated system design.
  1. Launch a composting facility. If the ultimate goal is reduce landfill tipping fees, then diverting food waste to a large-scale composting facility will have a huge impact. This is extremely complicated, and there’s a team exploring options now, as we understand it. But the implementation of as much would make a huge difference, especially for commercial customers.
  1. Address the gap in services to apartments. Renters like to recycle too, maybe more than homeowners. It would be great to address this gap in some way.

Team Verdis had close to a dozen more ideas that I’ll leave on the shelf for now. Suffice it to say there are undoubtedly ways to improve recycling in Omaha, and we’re anxious to play a role in making that happen. Because, and let’s be honest here, it’s a little embarrassing that the city has hovered around 11% for ten years. Let’s right that ship, shall we?

Onward and upward.

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