Omaha, Nebraska

(402) 681 - 9458 | info (at) 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.


This big, ugly recession that refuses to go away is absolutely demolishing public school budgets, which is certainly no surprise. State funding for education is diminishing, many federal grant dollars have come and gone, and other sources of revenue aren’t exactly growing. The result: cuts across the board for many schools and school districts. As we heard in this story from NPR recently (yes, I listen to a lot of NPR), Texas schools are cutting teachers, teachers’ aides, sports, security, transportation, etc, etc. The list goes on and is not unique to our friends in Texas.

When the situation is this dire, justifying sustainability initiatives is difficult, and many schools are turning away from conservation and efficiency initiatives due to a lack of resources (both time and money). But the right strategy is to do the exact opposite. The longer schools disregard and ignore their use of energy and other resources, the more often they will find themselves fighting the budget battle…and losing.

Taking Advantage of the Opportunity
Fortunately not every school district is ignoring the sustainability opportunity. Our work with the Omaha Public Schools is a perfect example of how a commitment to energy efficiency can save jobs, programs and other essential components of the education system. OPS is saving over $500,000 per year in energy costs. Yes, you read that right. It’s not small potatoes. That’s a lot of books…or teachers…or meals.

What sets OPS apart? The answer boils down to leadership. I vividly recall an important and insightful comment an OPS board member made two years ago: “We build 100-year buildings”. What a perfect perspective for a school district. While many companies are fighting to keep the doors open from one quarter to the next, we know with near perfect certainty that our schools will be here in ten, twenty, fifty and likely one-hundred years. When your horizon is that long, small investments, and in some cases large investments are well worth it even during tight budget times. They often pay for themselves in less than a few years, and in some cases, immediately recoup minimal upfront costs.

Omaha’s schools are not alone in their efforts. In August of this year, the New York Times reported on many of the energy efficiency and conservation measures schools are taking to decrease their energy use. Activities run the gamut and include simple things like post-it note reminders and checklists, and not-so-simple energy audits and boiler replacements.

Not every strategy listed in the Times article is a good one, unfortunately. Namely, the “energy cop” from Mount Sinai is a temporary solution that doesn’t result in long-lasting, sustainable behavior change. Fortunately, the cop noted as much when he admitted, “as soon as you take me away, people will start their bad habits again”. Right on, officer. Right on. Not a sustainable solution. Acknowledging and recognizing good behavior is a far better long-term solution than leaving nasty notes when people don’t comply.

Static + Dynamic Strategies
Our focus with OPS has been twofold: 1) identifying and implementing one-time gains in efficiency (static strategies such as lighting retrofits), and 2) engaging people in a meaningful and rewarding way so that sustainability becomes part of the organizational culture (dynamic strategies such as point-of-use prompts or a Green Challenge Series).  The latter is, quite honestly, more difficult work. It’s infinitely more challenging to change a person’s behavior than it is to change a light bulb.

Point-of-Use Prompts help Remind Folks to Conserve

Where Schools Should Start
One of the most important things every single school district can easily and inexpensively do is to benchmark each school’s energy use with ENERGY STAR. In most cases it’s so easy that a class can easily pull the information together and establish the benchmark within a few days. In the end, each school has a number that indicates how energy efficient your building is compared to schools from around the country.

Ratings range from 1 to 100 (the higher the better). If you’re scoring low, there might be some low-hanging fruit that can save big dollars in a hurry. If you’re scoring high, congrats…top-performing ENERGY STAR labeled schools cost 40 cents/SF less to operate than an average school. Either way, once the benchmark is in place, it’s easy to maintain and is an absolutely invaluable mechanism to track progress.

Sustainability and Education
It was John F. Kennedy who said, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.” It’s a quote I ponder often. Educational leaders are under pressure to produce results, and it’s important for them to remember that sustainability is both an end and a means to an end in the educational system.

 

Leave a Comment »

It’s the holiday season, which never fails to spike my environmentalist guilt complex, and now that I have a young daughter I’m particularly aware of all the good and bad that the season brings. There is the ever-present tension between decreasing needless consumption and a stagnating economy, which is a big, broad issue that I’m not particularly interested in tackling…yet.

There is no getting around the fact that the gift-giving traditions of the holiday season result in an increase in waste. And I’m not talking about the useless gifts that never get used and end up in the landfill (Is this underwater cell phone system really for me? really!? thanks…honey). I’m talking about the peripheral stuff. This story on Marketplace this morning highlighted the fact that we see a 25% increase in waste over the holidays, which equates to a million tons per week. More specifically, it means:

  • 125,000 tons of plastic packaging
  • 744 million holiday cards
  • 8,000 tons of wrapping paper*

So what’s a person to do in this time of thoughtful gift-giving? The answer is not to stop giving, but rather, give experiences rather than things. It’s not only better on the environment, it’s better for you. As GOOD reported in their Winter 2011 issue, experiential purchasers report being more satisfied with their lives, less anxious, less depressed, and in better mental and physical health.

When it comes down to it, isn’t the annual membership to your local forest and the dozens of hours you spend there putting you in a better place than the new television you’ve been eyeing? Experiences form who we are. They become engrained into our being and, at least until dementia sets in, they’re with us forever. Give your family, friends and co-workers an experiential gift this season; the planet and those lucky recipients will thank you.

Happy holidays, everyone.

 

*Omahans: Please note that the Marketplace article indicated that wrapping paper is not recyclable. However, Omaha’s city-wide program does accept wrapping paper.

Leave a Comment »

 

Two guys walk into a coffee shop and ask, “You want to start a sustainability business?” One replies, “Only if it can change the world.” The other says, “I concur.” Many months and several planning meetings later, Verdis Group was born in July, 2009.

We started Verdis Group because we saw a great opportunity to help organizations flourish by being kinder to the planet and by being better for people. We also saw a need to help others cut through the greenwashing of companies trying to make a quick buck without any substance behind their sustainability claims.

Our vision is a truly green world.

true.green. (n):
A state where people and the planet flourish in harmony

So, what’s a Verdis anyway? You’ll find a Verdis has many definitions, depending on our day at the office (one of our favorite pastimes is to create words and define them on our whiteboard). But one way to answer this question is by taking a look at our name. Like so many things at Verdis, we look at the root of the project to find appropriate solutions. When it came to creating a name for us, we looked at the root word of things.

Verde (n):
Green (Spanish)
Veritas (n):
Truth (Latin)

And so with these two words we get to who we are—Verdis.

Veritas + Verde = Verdis (n): True. Green.

Here we are today. Verdis was born out of the passion of two guys in Omaha who wanted to change the world to be true.green. And now, we do, every day. And we love it.

So that’s just a glimpse of us in a nutshell. Follow us on this blog to learn more about who we are, what we do, and how much fun we have. Who knows, you may even find some newly coined words once and a while.

Comment(1)

Although the recent snowfall in Omaha has somewhat “curbed” cycling by Verdisians, our fleet of 1970s vintage Schwinn 10-speeds are enjoying the respite.

Since our office is in north downtown, and we often have meetings within two miles, late last summer we decided to work with the Community Bike Project Omaha to procure a couple of nice velos for the Verdis cause. I went over to the CBPO shop at 33rd and California where Matt Martin, director of the CBPO helped me select two Schwinn 10-speeds in good shape for short trips around the downtown/midtown Omaha area. Matt and the CBPO team got the bikes ready to ride and even supplied a few extra 27-inch inner tubes for the less-common wheels on the bikes.

We ended up with a baby blue “Continental” and a bright-yellow “Super Sport.” The Continental is appreciably taller, and perhaps only ridable by fearless leader Craig. The Super Sport features a step-through frame and is a little more versatile. The bikes have seen about a dozen trips this fall. It is great to have the option of riding a bike to meetings when we don’t have our own bikes at work. In this case, yellow and blue are helping Verdis be a little more green.

Verdis keeps a couple of bikes at the office to ride to nearby meetings.

Leave a Comment »

I’m a huge fan of UNMC’s Science Cafe, and it’s not just because we’re working with UNMC or dig hanging out at the Slowdown. Science Cafes present a great venue for some legitimate and thought-provoking discussion that is 100% based on science. While past topics have piqued our interest, tonight’s topic was what we really love to dream about: “What Climate Science is Telling Us”.

And lo and behold, our good friend, Dr. Andrew Jameton was the featured lecturer. Among many other endeavors, Dr. Jameton is one of the founding members and current board president at City Sprouts, the oldest community garden in Omaha and an organization we’ve supported in the past.

Although Andy led with a disclaimer that he isn’t a scientist (he’s a philosopher), he did  a great job explaining the science of climate change with a variety of charts and graphs. Educating the public on climate science is not easy, but Dr. Jameton’s unassuming and non-combative approach proved the perfect touch for the warm crowd that had gathered. He only vaguely touched on the moral and ethical elements of the anthropological causes though. I left feeling like there was a deeper conversation that was warranted, but it’s a conversation that’s best in a group of a few rather than a few dozen.

All in all, the lecture was both informative and thought-provoking, and I’m really tempted to sign up for the course Dr. Jameton co-teaches: Climate Change, Sustainability and Public Health. And I could help but daydream just a bit about the cheers of the holiday season…the similarities between the good Dr. Jameton and jolly ol’ St. Nick are nothing short of striking.

Leave a Comment »