Omaha, Nebraska

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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.


My family has a tradition that is probably not all that unique. When one of us has a birthday, the lucky gal/guy is bombarded with phone calls wherein the only sound heard is a terribly out-of-tune rendition of the Happy Birthday song. I always put a bit of a twist on it though, by singing the Spanish version. It’s about all I really learned in three years of Spanish class.

So when Verdis Group turned five on July 20, 2014, I was absolutely in the mood to belt out a really bad and loud version…FELIZ CUMPLEANOUS A TI!!!! But I didn’t. It was a Sunday, and it would have been awkward to call the rest of Team Verdis at 6am, even though such a call would have been in line with a five year-old’s development milestones.

But, alas, we are now celebrating. It’s been pretty crazy to reflect back on what this little experiment called Verdis Group has become, especially given where we started.

On July 20, 2009, we were a team of three. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say we were 2.25; Daniel was full-time at Metropolitan Community College so we skimmed ten hours a week from him. Our unpaid – actually, we were all unpaid – intern, Karissa Bohlen (Pinkerton) and I spent each day at the dark and cold confines of the Halo Institute’s location at 1022 Leavenworth Street.

Daniel, Karissa and I at our launch party back in 2009. Seems like it was decades ago.

Daniel, Karissa and I at our launch party back in 2009. Seems like it was decades ago.

We had just inked our first deal with Omaha Public Schools and were racing to build our processes and systems so as to deliver. I think it’s safe to say that, while we still frequently hearken back to the OPS Energy Action Plan as a positive example of a high-quality deliverable, we’ve really come a long way since those invigorating startup days.

Team Verdis has grown steadily the past five years. I often refer to it as a nice, Omaha growth curve – one that Warren Buffett would appreciate. In the consulting world, it can be difficult to mitigate the highs and lows of revenue variability, but we’ve managed to do so (and can hopefully continue).

With such a stellar team in place and exceptional clients, I am proud to reflect on the phrase that Daniel and I kept coming back to as we sat at coffee shops, kitchen tables, and park benches working through the business plan: big impact.

Our desire has always been to have a big impact, and when I look at the list of organizations we’re working with and the results we (us + our clients) have been able to achieve, I think it’s fair to assert that we are moving the needle on all facets of the triple bottom line.

The industry is quickly evolving. New technologies are constantly popping up. New regulations are changing business models. Our partners and competitors are innovating. And our clients are setting ever-more aggressive goals. As things change, it’s our focus on a positive big impact that will ensure that we remain successful.

Finally, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to those that have advised us, partnered with us, hired us, pushed us, taught us, worked with us, and helped us in myriad ways. There is no way we could have built this little vessel of goodness without a bit of help from our friends.

As we ramble on and turn the page on a new chapter, we remain dedicated to the effort and will continue busting our humps to deliver high-quality work for all of the organizations with whom we partner. It’s our calling, and we couldn’t be happier.

Until then, I think I’ll do a little singing:

Aderyn's Verdis logo copy

 


   Feliz cumpleaños a ti

   Feliz cumpleaños a ti

   Feliz cumpleaños Verdis Group

   Feliz cumpleaños a ti!

 

 

Onward and upward.

 

 

 

 

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On Thursday, June 19, Omaha Public Power District’s Board of Directors approved their 20-year generation plan and took a serious and bold step forward with its energy generation portfolio.

There are three things that stick out as noteworthy:

  1. Three coal-fired units in North Omaha will retire by 2016, and the remaining two will transition to natural gas by 2023
  2. OPPD will maintain at least 33% of their portfolio in renewables once they hit that mark in 2018 (context: MidAmerican Energy is at 39%)
  3. OPPD plans to reduce demand of 300 MW through energy efficiency and demand-side management programs

The net result, according to figures from the Sierra Club:

  • 49% reduction in CO2 emissions
  • 85% reduction in mercury emissions
  • 74% reduction in NOx emissions
  • 68% reduction in SOx emissions

With such a bold, audacious, and dare I say pro-environment (gasp!) plan, one would expect that rate payers would have to pony up some cash to make it happen, right? Wrong! (said in Dana Carvey’s unbelievable John McGlaughlin impression.) Rate payers should expect an overall rate impact of 0–2%. Yup, you read that right; basically no net financial impact to rate payers.

So what does this mean for the average Joe? Less pollution, for starters. Levels of pollution, especially SOx, in and around North Omaha are above average. Cleaner air = healthier air = healthier people = happier people.

The reduction in CO2 is nothing to sneeze at either; by reducing these emissions so significantly, OPPD has really helped those organizations that set climate reduction goals.

Finally, the demand-side programs could reduce energy costs, especially for larger customers, if and only if they participate in them. I repeat, companies will need to take advantage of them. Lighting retrofit, anyone?

A round of applause is due to OPPD, its board of directors and management team. Their stakeholder engagement process resulted in a pretty exceptional outcome, which is not always the case with these types of efforts. And kudos to those individuals and organizations that advocated for clean and healthy energy policies; it’s a pretty exceptional feeling when all that hard work culminates in such a great outcome.

Now let’s get to work with implementation!

Onward and upward.

 

 

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I’ve had Andy Williams on the brain all week. OK – that’s a little weird. Let me clarify: I’ve been humming the tune, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. Not because the kids are jingle-belling or there are marshmallows for roasting. It’s better. It’s Earth Week!

This week is when we celebrate all the great accomplishments that are creating a cleaner, greener and healthier earth.  For us, that means we live a bit vicariously through our clients, which has been a pretty exceptional experience this year.

Rather than offering a lengthy list of all the great events, awards, and recognition, I’ll hit the highlights.

Omaha Public Schools: Green Ribbon Award Winning District
On Earth Day (April 22), the U.S. Department of Education named OPS as a Green Ribbon Award winner. They were one of only nine schools school districts to earn the award this year. That’s a huge deal! Congratulations are in order for Superintendent Mark Evans and the rest of the team at OPS. This is a well-deserved honor for the district’s efforts.

In addition to the district award, Fontenelle Elementary  joined Miller Park Elementary, Lothrop Science & Technology Magnet (elementary), and King Science & Technology Magnet (middle) as recipients of Green Ribbon Awards.

University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Earth Week Activities
Our newest client hosted several events throughout the week. The new Center for Urban Sustainability held its first annual Launchpad on Earth Day. The Center, which was approved in October of 2012, is just gaining momentum with several projects underway and in the queue. On Friday, Mayor Jean Stothert joined several UNO staff to celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree and acknowledging UNO’s Tree Campus USA designation. There were several other activities on campus throughout the week; read about them all here.

UNO is currently seeking community input on the Sustainability Master Plan that we are helping them develop. If you have a brief moment (3–5 minutes) and would like to share your thoughts, take the survey here, please and thank you.

Daniel Lawse leading a retreat discussion at UNO's Glacier Creek Perserve while I work diligently to capture the insightful thoughts of the attendees.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium Recognized by the Omaha World Herald
Also on Tuesday, the Omaha World Herald ran a great story that summarized recent efforts by the country’s best zoo.  Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium does amazing conservation work across the globe, and now the Zoo has really embraced sustainability on their campus as well.

The best quote from the article came from the Zoo’s CEO and director, Dennis Pate, who said, “It has involved a cultural shift for everyone. We had to change our way of thinking. The staff jumped in wholeheartedly.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Earth Week Activities at the Nebraska Medical Center’s Campus
The University of Nebraska Medical Center and The Nebraska Medical Center teamed up to create a great week of programs as well. There was a Lunch & Learn that educated attendees about the Zoo’s efforts, and a super-cool Do-It-Yourself Challenge wherein people submitted pictures of reuse projects (the winner turns colorful surgical caps into quilts for pediatric patients). Thursday brought an electronics recycling + confidential paper shredding event, and the week culminated on Friday with an Arbor Day tree planting ceremony and Tree Campus USA celebration.

Kearney Public Schools Tree Planting
Not to be outdone, students at Buffalo Hills Elementary in Kearney Public Schools helped plant 250 trees. That’s about 240 more than UNO and UNMC combined! Check out the story here. KPS also just rolled out their Sustainability Master Plan (led by us), and they’re really ramping up their efforts to contend for Green Ribbon Awards next year.

It’s the hap…happiest season of all!

Onward and upward.

 

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We are now accepting applications for our 2014 summer internship program. Interested candidates should submit all necessary materials to me by April 18. This 2014 Summer Internship Overview provides all the details, including application material requirements, compensation, and the hiring timeline.

We work really hard to find projects that align with the successful candidate’s strengths and skills. Generally speaking, the job description falls into the following categories:

Data Analysis: Conducts a variety of different numerical and theoretical analyses at the direction of senior staff. Collecting, managing, tracking and summarizing data is an important component of the Intern’s job duties.

Writing: Preparing communications that are intended for a variety of different audiences, including both internal and external parties. Contributes technical writing to client reports. Write portions of client reports as deemed appropriate and necessary by the Principals. Other report editing and formatting as deemed necessary.

Strategy: Involved in organizational discussions intended to identify strategies that help clients be more sustainable.

Miscellaneous Project Work: Provide assistance as needed on client projects, to include but not limited to: research, report writing, data collection, meeting facilitation, taking minutes, disseminating information, preparing presentations, brainstorming recommendations, and general project management.

Administrative Duties: General administrative duties may include scheduling meetings, purchasing office supplies and equipment, data collection and entry, maintaining adequate electronic and hard copy filing systems, running errands, preparing correspondence, editing and formatting documents and presentations, arranging travel, and other duties as assigned.

We’re looking forward to our next summer intern!

Onward and upward.

 

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TINSTAFP

In high school economics I learned that There-is-no-such-thing-as-a-free-lunch (TINSTAAFL)—basically that I can’t get something for nothing. Somewhere, someone pays for what I get for free.

This brings me to TINSTAFP: There-is-no-such-thing-as-free-parking. But I bet most people probably think there is free parking all around them, especially in Omaha. How many times a week do you park for “free”?

When you park at work?
How about at the grocery store?
Going out to eat?
At the kids’ soccer game?

Chances are if you live in Omaha, you park for free (nearly) all the time. Two exceptions may exist in downtown and midtown Omaha where there are more places to live, more entertainment, and more businesses within a few blocks of where you park. Because of higher demand for land use, a parking spot is more valuable and one way to recover part of the cost is to charge for parking.

But just because parking appears free doesn’t mean you aren’t somehow paying for it. Parking has real costs and someone somewhere is paying for it. When you park for “free” at the store, restaurant, or at the movies, you are still paying for parking in the form of slightly higher prices that the business uses to cover the cost of owning and maintaining the apparently “free” parking. When you park for “free” on a city street, you are still paying for parking in the form of taxes that fund road construction and maintenance. Like I said before TINSTAFP.

You’ve Got Questions

Between the widely held notion that parking is free and a desire to quantify the value of transit came the following questions:

  1. Do transit programs reduce parking in Omaha, Nebraska?
  2. How much does a transit program cost compared to parking?

These questions were answered by a study Verdis conducted to dig into the real costs of parking specific to Omaha and compare them to the cost of transit. A summary of the answers to these two questions is below. To dig into the data deeper, you can read the Executive Summary and the full report: Parking Problems? Transit as a Cost-Effective Solution.

The full study goes into details about:

  • Effectiveness of existing transit programs at colleges like Metropolitan Community College’s Pass to Class and UNO’s MavRide and at Omaha employers like Union Pacific and Pacific Life
  • Models for setting up a transit program at your organization
  • Tax advantages of transit programs
  • Details to nerd out on all the costs associated with building, operating, and maintaining parking lots
  • Along with all the supporting data behind the numbers

We’ve Got Answers

Existing Bus Pass Programs Reduce Parking Demand

In short, what we found is that yes, transit programs do reduce parking demand at the organization that provides the transit program. In the organizations surveyed:

  • Students participating in their college-provided bus pass program are reducing the number of parking spaces needed by 172 spaces each day.
  • Employees that participate in and employer-provided bus pass program are reducing the number of parking spaces needed by 67 spaces per day.

Potential for Further Parking Demand Reduction:

The study also found that bus pass programs are not reaching their full potential at colleges and businesses. There are still students and employees who would use a transit program, or would be willing to try it out, if they knew it existed or if the program was expanded.

  • At local Omaha employers, there is potential that over 45% of trips to work by employees wouldn’t need a parking space if transit programs met full program potential (chart 12).
  • At employers participating in the study, for every 100 additional participants, parking demand could be reduced by as much at 54 spaces per day.
  • At UNO, for every 1% increase in MavRide program participation, one could see a reduced need for parking by up to 25 spaces per day.

The nice thing about transit is that you don’t have to use it every day. Some people ride the bus a couple days a week and drive the others. It is about finding what works for you and the people at your organization. Remember, for every person who rides the bus even one day a week, that is a parking spot is freed up for that day.

So you may be thinking this is no big deal, transit programs get more people on the bus and fewer driving their cars to school or work. The big deal is that each parking space saved means real dollars saved. For every parking spot that isn’t built, the organization saves over $20,000 for a single garage space and over $3,500 for a space in a surface lot. And when the monthly cost over the life of a parking space is compared to the monthly cost of transit, transit wins out nearly every time.

How Much Does A Transit Program Cost Compared to Parking?

Through research of parking costs at several Omaha locations and the cost of existing transit programs, the study was able to pinpoint an apples to apples comparison of the cost per space per month to compare to a 30-day unlimited transit pass.

Bus Pass Program Costs: Regardless of who pays, a 30-day unlimited ride pass will cost between $42-$55 per pass. Organizations who become Metro Partners can receive bulk discounts reducing the cost of the 30-day unlimited ride pass to $42. Tax advantages can bring this cost even lower.

Parking Costs: Parking costs vary based on several factors. Is parking provided by the employer or leased? Is it a garage or surface lot? Is there a shuttle provided between the parking lot and the college or business? Regardless of who pays, the following are the costs of parking in Omaha:

  • Employer Leased + Provided Parking: Monthly leased parking ranges between $48 per space for surface parking and $70 for garage parking.
  • Employer Provided Surface Parking: The cost for providing surface parking, including land, design and construction, and operations and maintenance, ranges between $73 – $163 per space per month. (20 years at 4% interest)
  • Employer Provided Garage Parking: The cost for providing garage parking, including land, design and construction, and operations and maintenance, ranges between $119 – $224 per space per month. (35 years at 4% interest)
  • Parking Shuttles: When needed, parking shuttles can cost on average between $13 – $28 per space per month.

Conclusion

Simply put, transit programs reduce parking demand and transit programs cost less than providing parking for employees.

Transit programs work for some employees and students, it never will be used by everyone, nor should it be expected to be. The point here it to provide better transportation options so those who choose to enjoy their commute on the bus can do so, making it more pleasant for them and for those who choose to drive on a now less congested road.

So what are you waiting for, get a transit program set up at your organization today! Feel free to contact Daniel or Metro if you are interested in setting up a transit program.

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As we approach our five-year anniversary this summer, we have been spending time reflecting on all that is good with Team Verdis. There are many reasons life is pretty exceptional here: wicked-smart and passionate colleagues, forward-thinking clients, organizational core values that resonate, and work that we love are all huge parts of the picture. But another reason we’re all pretty darn happy is because of our digs.

We’ve been an Alley Poyner Machietto Creative Collaborator (CO-LAB partner) since October 2010, which means, in a nutshell, we rent a few workstations in APM’s studio and they give us the run of the place. OK, that might be a bit of a stretch, but we do enjoy amenities – a kitchenette, conference rooms, projectors, fitness room, showers, indoor bike storage, great art, rooftop deck – that we would never be privy to were we renting 1,000 SF in some random office building.

But it’s more than the amenities. We love the open floor plan that spurs creativity. We love the informal interactions with people that aren’t on Team Verdis. We love our location in North Downtown. We love the copious amounts of natural light that flood the studio every day. We love being on a bus line. We love APM’s family-like culture and are working hard to emulate many of their idiosyncrasies. We love the crazy stuff that happens on 16th Street, just outside our windows. And we love the leftover food when APM has firm-wide meetings or lunch ‘n’ learns.

The view of APM's studio from Verdis HQ. We dig the open-office environment.

I especially love the open floor plan, but not everyone is a huge fan. A recent article in the New Yorker highlighted a few bodies of research that, when compared to a traditional, enclosed-office setting, suggest that open-office settings inhibit creativity, decrease employee satisfaction, are bad for your health, and decrease productivity. Yikes! When digging into many of those studies, however, researchers are comparing an open-office setting to one wherein everyone has an office, which is completely unreasonable for a firm like ours and an architectural studio that values collaboration and teamwork. It’s an apples-to-oranges comparison. The better comparison would be open-office settings to cubicles. Having worked in a cubicle previously, I can safely say that they result in nothing other than misery and despair, and an open-office environment wins out every time.

The Harvard Business Review blog recently suggested that when it comes to an office environment, one major factor that impacts employee satisfaction is an employee’s ability to control their work environment. Companies that allow their workers to help decide where, when, and how they work often have workforces that perform better, are more satisfied, and view the organization as more innovative than their competitors. I think this autonomy and flexibility is a huge component of why it’s great to be in the CO-LAB, and why we allow our team to work pretty much whenever and wherever they want – from the standing workstations in the studio at 7am to their favorite coffee shop at midnight.

APM is actually expanding their space so as to take on more CO-LAB partners. There are currently three (Verdis, Omaha Creative Institute, and Steve Jensen Consulting) with four more (SecretPenguin, Revolve Fine Art [note the showcased piece from the artist featured on the website!], Live Well Omaha, and artist Mary Zicafoose) committed once the new space is built out.

We consider ourselves pretty lucky to be in the CO-LAB and have no intention of leaving (voluntarily) anytime soon. If your team is interested in joining the fun, there’s more room in the CO-LAB. Come on down; it’s a great place to call home.

Onward and upward.

 

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Over 1,700 sustainability coordinators, faculty, students, and staff descended into Nashville, TN this week for Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) 8th Annual Conference & Expo. This year the theme was Resiliency and Adaptation, taking a hard look at how we can be resilient in the face of climate change and how we can adapt to the changes that are already being observed across the country, from increased numbers of severe weather events to animals moving their habitats north. There are even impacts that include where I live in the Midwest.

If attendance is an indicator of the importance of a topic, then behavior change is definitely one of the more important conversations that happened this week as adaptation and resiliency were discussed in depth. The sessions where employee and student engagement were connected with behavior change were overflowing with attendees. In the past there has been a big emphasis on technological and an organization’s structural solutions, but now more than ever the sustainability profession is talking about the importance of each individual’s choices – that is, their behavior. There are currently gaps in the industry around how to effectively create a culture of sustainability among an organization’s faculty, students, and staff. People are hungry for this information.

There are many questions, studies, and pilots of new products and programs. By trying new programs with proper monitoring and evaluation, people are beginning to get a better understanding of how best to engage in the creation of sustainable culture. Colleges across the country such as the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Minnesota, and American University in D.C. are engaging students in a variety of ways.

One great example of innovation occurring in creating a culture of sustainability comes from the University of Minnesota. They developed five key green measures that help organizations inventory existing sustainability behaviors and identify motivations and barriers to sustainable behaviors. After an initial assessment, the GreenFive are used to help identify the best combination of programs and outreach that will help foster a culture of sustainability.

One of the questions I asked over and over of the speakers and product developers was “How long is this behavior sustained after the program is over, or after participants sign on once to create an account?” At this time, no one could say for certain. However, in programs that ask participants to track individual behaviors such as recycling a can or making a trip by bike instead of car, speakers were sharing that it is relatively easy to get people to sign up initially, but to get them to sign back on more than once to continue to track behaviors was a challenge.

Since we work with organizations specifically on behavior change, we were honored to have been selected to co-present with the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) on their very successful Live Green Pledge program. The room was packed with 75 attendees eager to hear how the UNMC pledge program was helping people “Make it Stick”–to actually change their habits for the long term. The way this pledge program is structured is not just as a tool that gets people to change one behavior once, but as a tool that helps foster long-term sustained positive behavior change.

Over 1,700 total students, faculty and staff have participated in UNMC’s Live Green Pledge. This is a simple to deploy, yet sophisticatedly designed tool using the best environmental behavior-change psychology to help increase the success rate of participants. Our research has shown that between 70%-85% of pledge participants are still engaging in the positive behavior one full year after they took the pledge. No one else at the conference had evidence of sustained behavior change a year after participating in a green competition or other pledge program.

Fortunately so many bright people from across the country are working to find the best ways to foster sustainable and thriving organizations through culture and behavior programs. As Verdis continues to use our pledge, we will continuously improve it as new research comes out about behavior change programs

The AASHE Conference and Expo provides a great forum every year to advance best practices, research, and ideas that are helping create a brighter future for everyone.

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It’s budget season for the City of Omaha, and the 2014 budget for the Planning Department excludes funding for the City’s Office of Sustainable Development, also known as ECO-Omaha. It’s a short-sighted move, to say the least, and we’re incredibly disappointed.

First, a little history.

ECO-Omaha was formed in 2009 with a grant from the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant. Its primary purpose is to strategically implement the Environmental Element, a planning tool created in 2008 that establishes a comprehensive new environmental vision for the city. (Daniel and I were both involved in the creation of the Environmental Element; it was a lot of work, involved stakeholders from across the community, and maps an excellent path forward for the City.)

Since its formation in 2009, ECO-Omaha has been working on and achieved the following (list not all-inclusive):

  • Implementation of several energy efficiency projects, which reduced municipal energy consumption by 16% (from 2009–2012) and resulted in roughly $775,000 per year in avoided costs. These projects also reduced the City’s municipal greenhouse gas emissions by 13%, equivalent to removing 3,125 cars from the road.
  • Earned and implemented a Department of Energy grant to build an energy upgrade market in Omaha through a program called reEnergize*. The result: over 1,300 energy upgrades for Omaha residents, which should result in collective savings approaching $1 million. Yup, you read that right…$1 million.
  • Led the completion of the City’s first Comprehensive Energy Management Plan**, which provides the framework and implementation strategy for effectively managing the City’s use and supply of energy.

So, what’s next.

The office has been grant-funded since it was created. Grant funding is expiring at the end of this year, which means it’s time for the City to chip in. Unfortunately times are tough (aren’t they always?), and cuts are being made across all City departments. ECO-Omaha falls under the purview of the Planning Department, which is an early focus for reform by the Stothert administration, and the Planning Department’s budget cuts will result in the complete elimination of the ECO-Omaha office. Not good.

Does it matter?

Yes, it does. the case for retaining the Office of Sustainable Development is very strong. Ready for more bullets? No? Alright, let’s use numbers this time.
  1. In a 2011 City Practice Brief, the National League of Cities highlighted four cities that have leveraged sustainability into economic development. The first sentence of the brief read, “Sustainability is a fundamental component of building a strong community, not only in terms of the physical environment, but also for economic prosperity.” Does anyone know a politician that doesn’t like economic prosperity?
  2. Investments in these kinds of positions pay for themselves. To date, Omaha’s team has brought in $15 million in grants. As mentioned earlier, annual avoided costs are in the $750,000 range, and Omahans across the city are benefitting from recent upgrades through reEnergize. Seems like a reasonable Return on Investment to me.
  3. The City of Omaha’s budget and operations are huge (2014 budget = $800 million in revenue), and far smaller businesses have dedicated – no, invested – in sustainability FTEs. Greenhouse gas emissions associated with Omaha’s municipal operations are nearly 100,000 metric tons of CO2e. That’s the equivalent to the annual emissions of 20,800 passenger vehicles. There is simply a lot to manage, and if an entity as big as the City doesn’t have someone dedicated to limiting its environmental impact in a strategic way, that spells trouble.
  4. The vast majority of Fortune 500 firms invest resources (time, money and people) into sustainability programs. These firms typically don’t make hasty decisions. Sustainability is good for business. Could it be the case that it’s also good for cities?
  5. Sticking with the “everyone else is doing it” theme; a quick survey of Omaha’s peer cities shows that most do have sustainability coordinators of some sort, although we were unable to determine how many are grant funded versus paid for via general fund dollars.
  6. If the Office is successful, emissions go down. When emissions go down, the air is cleaner. When people breathe cleaner air, they’re healthier. Omaha is currently ranked 142nd out of 182 on a healthy city index; a little clean air couldn’t hurt.

We might also be a bit myopic in thinking that the only way to fund the office is via grant funding or through the general fund. There are plenty of other cities that have tied their sustainability office’s existence to the savings they produce. Cleveland set up such a program and has fared quite well. Such an arrangement holds the Office accountable for its achievements, something not often seen today in City Hall, and has a nice little “out clause” if things don’t work out. Voila!

Do people care? 

One question a nay-sayer might ask is whether Omahan’s are supportive of sustainable energy in general. A fair question. Fortunately in February 2011, a statistically significant survey was conducted to ascertain Omahan’s views on energy. The findings clearly show widespread support for renewables and energy efficiency programs. Here are the highlights:
  • Omahans prefer increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy
  • In ten years, Omahans say the most significant sources of energy should be natural gas, wind power and solar energy
  • There is broad agreement that increasing the use of renewable sources and measures to conserve energy will create jobs
  • More than nine-in-ten are willing to pay higher energy prices per month to increase the amount of energy needs met by renewables

Action Jackson

We recently submitted a letter to the Mayor and City Council Members supporting the retention of the office, and I’m hoping to get to the public hearing on the City’s Recommended Budget for 2014, which is scheduled for Tuesday, August 13, at 7:00 pm in the City’s Legislative Chambers (just in case you looooove public meetings like I do). And if you’re inclined to send a note to your representatives, here’s a little contact information:

  • Mayor Jean Stothert, jean.stothert@@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5000
  • District 1: Pete Festersen, pete.festersen@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5527
  • District 2: Ben Gray ben.gray@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5524
  • District 3: Chris Jerram, chris.jerram@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5525
  • District 4: Garry Gernandt, garry.gernandt@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5522
  • District 5: Rich Pahls, rich.pahls@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5528
  • District 6: Franklin Thompson, franklin.thompson@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5523
  • District 7: Aimee Melton, aimee.melton@ci.omaha.ne.us and 402-444-5526

Omaha: Soon to be Without a Sustainability Coordinator?

Onward and upward.

C

* Disclaimer #1: I participated in the reEnergize program, both as a resident and as a business owner. Both were mostly good experiences.

** Disclaimer #2: We partnered with the Rocky Mountain Institute to bid on the CEMP work. We didn’t get it, and I still hold a little grudge for squashing my dream of working with RMI.  

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