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 are thrilled to announce our newest client, the University of Nebraska at Kearney. We will be collaborating with UNK to develop its comprehensive sustainability master plan. The project is set to kick off in January, and we can’t wait to get started!

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UNK is a public, residential university with an enrollment of nearly 7,100 students. This will be our third sustainability master planning project with the University of Nebraska system (University of Nebraska Medical Center; University of Nebraska at Omaha) and our second sustainability master planning project in Kearney (Kearny Public Schools).

 

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ZacharyStading

“My name is Zachary Stading. I have worked as an intern with Verdis group since August of this year. It is a very hard-working, but light-hearted group.

Everyone likes the satisfaction of crossing something off of his or her to-do list. One of the enjoyable parts of working with Verdis Group was that I was constantly getting small projects out of the current work that other team members were doing to supplement my personal projects. Examples include pulling together the acknowledgements page for UNO’s Sustainability Master Plan, helping analyze some of the data from surveys, compiling lists of sustainability strategies as a reference for clients, and researching alternative methods for sending out online surveys. This gave me a break from my own projects while providing great work experience, a sense of accomplishment, and made me feel like part of the team.

I had three big projects that I worked on independently. The first was researching universities in the region to assess which ones Verdis Group could potentially partner with in the future. The second was compiling survey data for the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The third was performing a greenhouse gas emissions inventory for Verdis Group.

The greenhouse gas emissions inventory was by far the most educational. I chose my own direction for the inventory such as what utilities and company activities I would try to account for. I had to make my own survey and send it out to the team to gather information. I was also able talk with other professionals to get information about our office expenses while working on my networking skills. Then I chose to compile that information into metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is the industry standard comparative tool. I wrote up my methods so this inventory could be replicated in future years and drafted a report for the team. Finally, I was allowed to present all of my findings to the team and get their responses, questions, and suggestions.

While working with Verdis Group, I found that I have a lot of learning left to do when it comes to using survey tools. I had never known the depth to which surveys could be analyzed or how critical surveys could be when it comes to making business decisions. Another important skill I learned was that not all business comes to you; you need a strategy for going to get it. I learned how to narrow down potential partners and clients by researching organizations’ previous activities. As someone who is struggling to figure out how to search for a post-graduate job over 1600 miles away, I found this to be a very helpful analytical tool. The last key thing that I learned was that who you work with is often more important than what you are working on. When you work with a nice group of people any project can be completed with little boredom and even less stress.

One thing that I was very happy to learn from this experience is that there are people out there, like me, who want to make the world a more sustainable place to live, while still being able to pay the bills. I was also happy to find that many of the simple programs and analysis skills that I have learned during my time at Creighton University can be readily applied to a work environment. I am very grateful for this internship because I want to work as a sustainability consultant for my career. This opportunity gave me confidence as a graduating senior that I will be able to compete for a position at a sustainability company and be a valuable member of the team.”

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Food waste is the loss of edible food that occurs in the food production process between post harvest and end use. The vast majority of this waste is currently sent to the landfill. Food waste is a social, environmental, and economic issue that negatively impacts producers, retailers, consumers, and communities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that food waste accounts for approximately 14 percent[1] of the total municipal waste sent to landfills. Not only is this disposal expensive, it is harmful to the environment. When food waste decomposes in the landfill it creates methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes significantly more to global warming than carbon dioxide.

Food waste is sent to the landfill for a variety of reasons, including: crop over production, damage due to transport, cosmetic imperfections, and excessive purchasing. Over 30 percent of the food available for consumption goes to the landfill.[2] There is a significant opportunity to reduce waste and when you consider that over 14 percent of households in the U.S. were food insecure (not knowing where the next meal was coming from) in 2013.[3]

FoodRpng_700pxw Two opportunities stand out when discussing food waste: diverting food that is not purchased to where it is needed and diverting the remainder out of the landfill. The food recovery hierarchy (to the right) illustrates the preferred methods reducing food waste from top (most preferred) to bottom (least preferred).

To reduce food waste going to the landfill, the most preferred method is source reduction. For residential and businesses, this means do not buy what you will not use, saving money and preventing waste. The methods that are the most preferred get the most value out of food before turning it into compost or sending it to landfills.

The movement to reduce food waste is growing on a local and national level. In 2013, the EPA started the Food Recovery Challenge, giving individuals and organizations resources to reduce food waste. A number of cities and states have instituted organic waste bans, including: New York City, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Seattle, San Francisco, and Portland. In Omaha, several organizations are working to reduce the amount of food waste sent to the landfill:

Recently, Douglas Country Environmental Services announced the idea of a pilot food waste composting operation food waste composting operation for local food waste. While the City of Omaha was not approved to use the landfill at 126th and State Street, the partnership is working to find another option.

 

What Can You Do?

There are several actions you can take to reduce food waste at home and at work:

  • Buy only what you will use. Be conscious of what you purchase and what you waste. Prepare for shopping by making a list of what you need. If possible, log your food waste and look for repeat offenders over time.
  • Be an advocate. Encourage your workplace to donate to local food banks if applicable. Food Bank for the Heartland picks up food weekly from retail locations and the Good Samaritan Act protects donating organizations by reducing liability.
  • Buy local. Long-distance bulk food transportation often creates food waste. Buying local reduces this waste (and reduces emissions associated with transportation).
  • After you have reduced or donated, divert. Once you have reduced most of your food waste or donated it to other uses, begin composting the food waste that still remains. If you have the space to do so at home, there is a variety of small scale composting options for your home. If you do not, WeCompost is currently the only company in Omaha picking up residential food waste.
  • Let Verdis Group help. If your business or organization is interested in taking a critical look at reducing their waste stream, we offer consulting services to analyze current practices and advise on opportunities for reduction.

Food waste is one of the fastest growing types of waste we send to landfills. By being conservative with purchasing, advocating for food waste reduction, and improving food waste management, we can divert a major portion of the municipal waste stream and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 

[1] EPA Municipal Waste
[2] National Geographic food waste
[3] USDA Food Security

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Team Verdis at the Pancake Party.

Happy Holidays from Team Verdis! Here we are at Verdis’ 5th anniversary pancake party where we fed over 100 of our amazing friends and clients pancakes and a smorgasbord of toppings.

I find it helpful to regularly take time to reflect on the path that has led me to where I am now. Today is one of those days when I look outside at the leafless trees. Even though they appear dead, I know their roots are throbbing with life as they store and process the energy and stories of this past year—all in preparation for bursting forth new life in spring.

As I reflect on where Verdis has been in 2014, I see a year of abundance:

  • Abundant positive impacts from our clients’ conscious actions
  • An abundance of support and recognition from you, our community
  • Abundant joy and creativity as we invest in and develop our team

Abundant Impacts

Just as we care deeply for our team, we care deeply for our clients. From our vantage point, we see first-hand the results of our clients’ intention to flourish in ways that also help Omaha’s people, environment, and economy thrive. Here are just a few of the many highlights from 2014:

As these community leaders better steward their resources, they focus their energy and resources on more fully living their core missions, setting a great example for their communities.

Abundance of Support and Recognition

We do not do our work in a vacuum. We are part of several larger ecosystems called Omaha, Nebraska, the Midwest, and earth, just to name a few. We recognize we are supported by these interdependent systems, and we see our job as paying attention to the needs present in these systems and responding to them from our strengths. Abundance naturally comes when we live in this sweet spot of listening to the world’s needs and using our strengths to create a flourishing community.

The community noticed the abundant impacts of the partnership between Verdis and our clients. This year, with great gratitude and humility, we received the following recognition for the hard work of our clients and Team Verdis.

2014 Awards

 

  • Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s December Small Business of the Month. This award recognizes Greater Omaha’s exceptional small businesses that excel in business excellence and demonstrate vision, community engagement, and entrepreneurial spirit.
  • WasteCap Nebraska’s 2014 Service Provider of the Year. This award is presented to a service provider that delivers exemplary and innovative sustainable business services and applies the highest possible standards for responsible resource management.

 

This recognition is just the tip of the iceberg of the support we receive daily from mentors, community members, friends, and family that help us succeed in living our purpose each day. Thank you to each one of you who has helped us get to where we are on our journey. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Team Abundance

As a small firm, celebrating our 5th birthday this past year, we know how important it is to develop and grow ourselves. We strive to create a culture where we can flourish and provide the best possible service to our clients to help them thrive.

  • Craig is participating in the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Omaha Class 37 where he is honing his leadership skills, gaining a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of the city of Omaha as an interdependent system, and meeting exceptional people who choose Omaha as their home.
  • Newest member of our team! Janie Moody, born just last month, is the newest member of the Moody Clan and therefore Verdis’ youngest team member. Janie gives all of us new perspective as we watch her see the world with brand new eyes and is one more person who will inherit the world we leave her.
  • I, Daniel continue to dive further into Biomimicry, the conscious emulation of life’s genius, to apply nature’s lessons of flourishing to our clients. I have also been integrating sustainability with leadership development to help individuals and organizations become more mindful in their use of energy and other resources. I continue to grow in my leadership and facilitation skills by facilitating leadership trainings in Washington, DC, Iowa, and right here in Omaha, along with attending trainings in Green Bay, WI and Iowa.
  • Chris is further refining his intimate knowledge of how humans impact and are impacted by their physical and social environment by immersing himself in behavior change and engagement research findings from top journals and webinars.
  • Kay is staying current on climate change science and its impacts through research from the global perspective of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, such as the 2014 release of its Fifth Assessment Report, down to local implications as highlighted in the University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s Climate Change Implications for Nebraska Report. She has also kept tabs on the worldwide climate movement culminating in a historic moment with the People’s Climate March in September.
  • Brent is digging deeper into the intricacies of sustainability in higher education and travelled to Portland in October for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s national conference. At the conference, he learned about many universities’ innovative sustainability programs and how their lessons-learned apply to our current and future clients. He also met peers and potential partners from all corners of the country.
  • Sally was part of the inaugural Citizens’ Academy for Omaha’s Future where she learned some of the inner workings of city government and took a closer look at how to improve pedestrian flow and safety at one of Omaha’s most confusing intersections—Saddle Creek Rd. and Cuming St. She is also immersing herself in the local community through the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Young Professional events such as the Young Professionals Summit.

Looking to Spring

With winter just beginning, we will savor this season of winter as we continue to create meaningful change while simultaneously energizing our root system so we can extend our branches even higher next year. With our deep care for our clients, community, team, and world, and the unending support from the community, I can’t wait to see what will come alive in 2015 to build on the energy and developments of 2014!

But, before we jump too far ahead and get to spring, we want to wish you Happy Holidays & a Flourishing New Year from Team Verdis!

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Last week was Climate Week in New York City, and I wish I could have been there. Around 400,000 people marched by my old apartment, bringing the world a message: The public cares about the issue of climate change and wants action from our global leaders.

Nebraskans made some great strides moving the public’s understanding of climate change forward and addressing the issue as well.

Here’s what caught my eye this past week or so:

  • For the first time in five years (since Copenhagen 2009), world leaders came together to discuss climate change at the Climate Summit on September 23rd. One hundred twenty heads of state, hundreds of business leaders, activists, and celebrities were at the United Nations in New York City for the Summit. The U.N. Secretary-General started the meeting with a statement that included:

“… Science says they [emissions] must peak by 2020 and decline sharply thereafter. By the end of this century we must be carbon neutral. … I ask all governments to commit to a meaningful climate agreement in Paris in 2015. … We are not here to talk, we are here to make history.”

The poem Dear Matafele Peinem (linked below) set the stage for the meeting with a standing ovation, and France led the statements by countries by committing $1 billion to the global Green Climate Fund. The intent of the meeting was to move global leaders toward a legally binding global agreement to address climate change at the meeting in Paris in 2015.

 

  • The People’s Climate March in NYC drew three or four times the number of expected participants, a number nearly equivalent to the population of the City of Omaha! Imagine that. I was surprised and happy to see Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations join this march himself, marching with singer Sting, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, activist Bill McKibben (the environment’s rock star) and 400,000 others.
  • On Saturday, September 27, I attended the Harvest the Hope Concert in the middle of a northern Nebraska cornfield. It showed me that Nebraskans do care about their environment, and that our farmers, ranchers and Native Americans are willing to stand up for our land, clean water, and their property rights. The Willie Nelson & Neil Young concert was a fun afternoon for my family, and I was proud to have three generations there to support Bold Nebraska and the thousands of bold Americans working to stop the construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. These individuals appreciate how climate change will affect our children’s lives, and they are doing something about it.
  • Global average temperatures over land and ocean surfaces for August 2014 were the highest on record for the month of August, at 0.75 degrees Celsius (1.35 degrees F°) above the 20th century average.
  • A new report out by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate challenges the idea that addressing climate change will be costly, indicating that climate fixes will cost effectively the same as forecasted investments in needed infrastructure.
  • At a meeting just last week, I was reminded of the great work being done by the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD). Leaping over many other U.S. utilities, OPPD plans to supply 33% of its retail load generation using renewable power (mainly wind power) by 2018.  OPPD is also positioning itself to stop burning coal in Omaha by retiring three units at the North Omaha coal plant in 2016, and retrofitting two other units to use natural gas (a cleaner fuel) by 2023. Way to go OPPD!

Even though all of these actions are wonderful news for our environment, they are not enough.

Without global participation in the effort to limit green house gas emissions, climate change will have dramatic effects on our planet within your children and grandchildren’s lifetime. In the United States, our greatest efforts should be around eliminating coal use, but if still developing countries like China and India are building more coal plants than we retire, progress on this truly global issue will not be possible.

The simplest, cheapest solution is clearly understood by economists: put a price on carbon (greenhouse gas emissions). NPR’s Marketplace did a good job explaining how and why this would work. Yale University professor William Nordhaus explains it in his book The Climate Casino. He says that putting a price on carbon for the top 100 countries by per capita income, plus India and China, would cover 90% of the globe’s emissions. This price could then be enforced through a country’s policy mechanism of choice. Prices drive choices made by corporations and individual consumers alike. More expensive carbon-intensive practices (due to the carbon price) would be replaced by the least expensive, cleaner solutions.

And voilà, climate change is no longer the greatest challenge of our century.

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I started working at Verdis back in October 2014 and, as the new guy, I was (and still am) continuously understanding more and more about all of the great work we do. The nature of our team’s responsibilities requires that, on any given day, I might work on projects related to only three or four of our clients. The same can probably be said about my five colleagues. So it’s easy for each of us to get laser-focused on the specific work we’re doing for particular clients. Thus, we occasionally need to take a step back and celebrate what we, collectively, have helped our clients achieve.

I asked the rest of the team to assist me in highlighting some recent and noteworthy accolades we’ve helped some of our clients accomplish. Here’s what we came up with.

 

Omaha Public Schools

Client since July 2009

As we enter into our fifth year partnering with OPS, we are happy to report the district is receiving the recognition it deserves. On Earth Day 2014, the U.S. Department of Education announced that OPS was one of only nine school districts in the country to receive a Green Ribbon Award. The numbers back up the awards: we have helped OPS save over $4 million through its sustainability efforts. Click here to read more about our work with OPS.

 

The Nebraska Medical Center; University of Nebraska Medical Center

Client since April 2010 and July 2012, respectively

For the past several months we’ve been working with both The Nebraska Medical Center and UNMC to create a new, integrated Sustainability Master Plan. The plan will potentially launch as early as fall 2014 and includes joint goals for energy, water, waste & recycling, parking & transportation, campus planning, and campus engagement. We recently helped the two organizations establish the Office of Sustainability, which included hiring a full-time Sustainability Manager to implement the Sustainability Master Plan and fully integrate sustainability into the operations of the two organizations. Also, we worked with the two organizations to expand and standardize the mixed recycling program. They deployed 675 additional recycling bins and achieved a 40% increase in collected recyclables as a result. Click here to read more about our work with The Nebraska Medical Center and UNMC.

 

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium

Client since January 2012

From lighting retrofits to recycling expansion and a revolving green loan fund to support innovative ideas, we have helped the zoo take major steps to embed sustainable action and decision-making into its culture, and the impact has been huge. The zoo has cut energy use intensity by 7% in just two and a half years, water use is down nearly 19 million gallons per year, and recycling has nearly doubled. Additionally, the zoo is developing a compost action plan to prepare for the additional compostable materials generated from the forthcoming African Grasslands exhibit. Click here to read more about our work with Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.

 

Kearney Public Schools

Client since June 2013

We completed the first phase of our work with KPS in late 2013 when the district approved and rolled out its Sustainability Master Plan. Since then, our work has focused on coordinating the district’s efforts, including developing an energy reduction incentive program that incorporates several operational and behavioral best practices. Most recently, the KPS Board of Education solidified their commitment to green schools by unanimously passing a Sustainability Statement. Click here to read more about our work with Kearney Public Schools.

 

Beatrice State Developmental Center

Client since June 2013

We are partnering with BSDC to help them develop a Sustainability Master Plan. We have assessed their resource streams, and they now have a sustainability vision and preliminary improvement goals. In June 2014 we performed a waste assessment in which we sampled BSDC’s dumpster waste and measured the composition of landfill-bound trash bags. This has helped BSDC to identify opportunities for improved recycling, composting, and waste reduction. The next step in our planning process is to develop strategies that will help BSDC achieve its sustainability goals and vision.

 

University of Nebraska-Omaha

Client since February 2014

The University of Nebraska at Omaha (enrollment 15,000+) recently brought us on board to develop a Sustainability Master Plan. With an emphasis on widespread engagement of students, employees, and community members, we have used numerous methods during our discovery phase to inform the university’s sustainability vision and goals. In the coming months we will be mapping out the steps UNO should take in order to achieve the bold vision it has set. Click here to read more about our work with UNO.

 

That sample of highlights emphasizes to me that, though Verdis is small, we are quite mighty: our clients are making huge, positive impacts. Stay tuned for more accolades to come…


 

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Nebraska’s businesses and economy face a great risk due to climate change, according to a new risk management study that assesses the impacts of climate change on jobs, crop yields, infrastructure, and energy production.

A bi-partisan group including former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Wall Street titan and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and other prominent businesspeople and public officials launched the Risky Business Project that developed this study called “Risky Business.”

Our current economy and society have been organized and built around normal weather patterns with some resilience to occasional extreme weather events. Due to climate change, weather events that are today considered “extreme” will soon be considered “normal.” This increase in extreme weather poses risks to our current economy and societal structures.

Through a risk assessment, the study looks at the likelihood of possible future scenarios and the risks associated with each. If we continue with carbon emissions associated with business-as-usual, the risks for Nebraska by 2050 include 2x-3x more days over 95°F each year than currently and average summer temperatures increasing by 1°-3°F.

Nebraska is likely to see anywhere between 22 and 46 days over 95°F each year and average summer temperatures between 75-78.6°F by mid-century.

Nebraska is likely to see anywhere between 22 and 46 days over 95°F each year and average summer temperatures between 75-78.6°F by mid-century.

This rise in temperature could increase the demand for electricity, primarily from air conditioning, by 2.2 – 6.7%. With increased electricity demand across the region, Nebraskans could see energy expenditures increase by 2.0 – 10.6%. The heat will also reduce labor productivity by as much as 1%, primarily for outdoor workers in such industries as construction, utility maintenance, landscaping, and agriculture.

By mid-century, Nebraska farmers could see crop yields either slightly increasing by 1.5% or dropping as much as 24%. By 2080-2099, crop yields look even worse with a decrease between 10-57%.

From the defense industry, to insurance companies, to healthcare, several of Omaha’s largest industries are studying the impacts of climate change on their organization in order to manage risk. The report indicates we must take action immediately:

“If we act today to move onto a different path, we can still avoid many of the worst impacts of climate change, particularly those related to extreme heat. We are fully capable of managing climate risk, just as we manage risk in many other areas of our economy and national security—but only if we start to change our business and public policy decisions today.” -Risky Business

So what can we do?
The value of a risk analysis is to help prevent or minimize negative surprises and unearth new opportunities. With climate change, there are two necessary approaches to minimizing risk: mitigation and adaptation.

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. What we emit today will impact our climate for at least another 100 years. To mitigate risks associated with future climate change, we must reduce or eliminate emissions today.

Organizations in Omaha have begun to take steps to reduce emissions. OPPD has taken a bold step by outlining its plan to reduce electricity demand while simultaneously increasing renewable energy generation, both of which reduce greenhouse gases.

And we have clients that are taking major steps forward as well. The University of Nebraska at Omaha is working on a Sustainability Master Plan that will outline steps the university can take to reduce emissions and improve its bottom line. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium has already cut energy use per square foot by 7%, while saving over $100,000 each year, and the Omaha Public Schools have cut emissions over 42,000 metric tons and saved $2 million in the last four years. Just to name a few.

Adaptation is also necessary, because the impacts of climate change are already being felt from coast to coast.

Many businesses are developing adaptation plans that include both addressing new challenges as well as discovering opportunities they didn’t know existed. Farmers continue to shift to sustainable agricultural practices and use technology to adapt to changing weather. Irrigation research and technology continues to enable farmers to use less water while maintaining or improving yields, and the Land Institute cultivates perennial crops. Each of these practices saves farmers money while improving resilience to the risks of climate change.

For more systemic change, the report authors say “it is time for all American business leaders and investors to get in the game and rise to the challenge of addressing climate change.” This includes investors incorporating risk assessment into capital expenditures and balance sheets, and the public sector instituting policies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Ultimately, this is a problem of today, not some far off generation. Every decision we make today will either increase the likelihood of negative climate impacts or will help us manage the risk so we can thrive in Nebraska.

How does your organization plan to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts?

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Team Verdis just turned five years old, and if there’s one thing five-year olds love it’s pancakes. Actually, let’s be honest, everyone loves pancakes. They’re fluffy, they taste delicious, and you can make funny shapes with the batter and garnishments. What’s not to love!

We aim to serve you pancakes that are this beautiful and happy.

We aim to serve you pancakes that are this beautiful and happy.

So in honor of our fifth birthday, we’re celebrating by throwing a pancake party. Yup, that’s right, Team Verdis will be flipping cakes for your dining pleasure on Friday, September 12 from 7:30 – 9:30am at Verdis HQ (1516 Cuming St. in the Tip Top Building).

Come on down to say hi, have a bite, and pet the office dog. We’ll have pancakes (including a gluten-free option), all the best garnishments, OJ and coffee. Hope to see you there.

An RSVP would be appreciated if you’re planning to attend. Please do so here.

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