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 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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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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We are extremely excited to announce that on May 12, at the Greater Omaha Business Excellence Awards, we will receive the Greater Omaha Chamber’s 2015 Small Business of the Year Award. It’s a huge honor to be recognized with such an award; we are truly thrilled!

In the spirit of giving thanks and giving back, we’re offering small businesses a deep discount on our work. For a limited time, your small business (this includes you, nonprofits) can get our multiple-award-winning team of experts involved in quickly advancing your sustainability efforts.

Through our Small Business Sale, we’re offering the following scope of work. We will:

  • Facilitate a kickoff meeting with your project leads
  • Collect and analyze 12 months of data and other information
  • Conduct our proprietary Sustainability Engagement Index survey of your organization
  • Develop baseline performance metrics and recommended measurable goals in the areas of energy, water, waste/recycling, emissions, and employee sustainability engagement
  • Conduct two interviews with key personnel
  • Facilitate a two-hour workshop with select employees; includes pre-workshop reading assignment
  • Deliver key findings, goals, and sustainability recommendations (the deliverable)

It’s a streamlined scope of work that is comparable to what we’ve been doing for much larger clients like the University of Nebraska at Omaha, UNMC & Nebraska Medicine, and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. The end-result is a succinct and straightforward document that will provide your organization with a clear action plan for capitalizing on all the opportunities that sustainability presents.

All this for $3,000 – 5,000! Yes, you read that right. A similar scope of work would normally cost $8,000 – 10,000, but for a limited time, we’ve cut the cost and would love nothing more than to help several Omaha small businesses advance their sustainability efforts.

It’s pretty amazing that the business community recognizes the value that we bring, and we hope to graciously accept the award and turn right around and give a little back to the small business community.

Interested? If so, give me a shout at craig@verdisgroup.com or (402) 681-9458.

Onward and upward!

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At Verdis we are all driven to reduce our impact on the environment; at work and at home. Everyday, we work with clients to develop and implement changes to reduce energy use, reduce waste, recycle more, and simply reduce our collective impact on the natural environment. Beyond working with our clients, all of us individually pursue our passion to make the environment healthier in other ways. Craig chairs the group Mode Shift Omaha working to broaden active transportation options in Omaha, and Daniel serves on the Metro Transit Authority Board. I’ve been working on my personal impact on the environment, and have been building my dream home in the most sustainable manner we could.

House

What were we able to accomplish from a sustainability perspective on our new home?

 

My husband and I are quite proud of our HERS 32 Rating.  A Home Energy Rating System (HERS) rating is a score that compares a home’s energy use to a modeled house that is the same as your house, but built to 2004 International Energy Conservation Code. For a HERS rating, the lower the better. A home that scores zero is a Net Zero home, meaning it produces as much energy as it uses, typically through solar or wind power. Our HERS score of 32 means that our house is 68% more efficient than the HERS reference/modeled home. The U.S. Department of Energy determined that a typical resale home scores 130 on the HERS Index, so we are 98% more efficient than a typical resale home! My understanding is that only a handful of homes in Nebraska receive a HERS score this low on an annual basis, and once we add solar – net zero here we come!

 

Here are the highlights of changes we made from a typical home, which make our home more energy efficient and lessen our environmental impact:

Mechanical Systems

  • Open loop geothermal heat pump uses the 52 degree ground water temperature to heat and cool the home. We don’t need an air conditioner! And we expect our heating & cooling bills to be only $39 a month on average. The cost of this system is significantly supplemented by the Federal Tax credit.
  • Hybrid heat pump water heater uses the energy in our basement’s air to heat our hot water (along with electricity). This water heater is twice as efficient as a regular hot water heater (expecting to cost only $9 a month for hot water heating).
  • A variable frequency drive (VFD) on the well pump allows the pump to use only the energy needed to pump the amount of water needed at the time, instead of only having two options of “on full speed” or “off.”
  • A desuperheater transfers excess heat from the geothermal system to the water heater to preheat the water.
  • An Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) acts as the home’s lungs bringing fresh air into the house, while recovering some of the energy in the stale air before its removed from the house 

Construction Methods

  • rigid foam2×6 framing of the walls to allow for two extra inches of insulation (57% more), compared to traditional 2×4 construction
  • One inch rigid foam insulation used continuously on the exterior (instead of plywood) provides additional insulation and air sealing (see image at right)
  • Borate only treated blown in cellulose insulation in wall cavities, mainly used for health reasons, but also because cellulose is a great insulator and made from recycled paper. We used Green Fiber insulation made in Norfolk, NE
  • Energy efficient windows by Gerkin made in Sioux City, NE
  • Some Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood during construction, bonus from Millard Lumber – thanks!
  • Caulking the top and the sill plate before insulation to seal air gaps
  • Capillary breaks under and around foundation (plastic under the basement floor and waterproofing spray between the foundation walls and footings) minimizes the water that can enter the basement through the concrete
  • Passive radon mitigation system that allows radon under the home to exit through closed pipe that goes out the roof
  • Rough in for future solar, hopefully installed before the tax credit expirescarpet tile

Lighting, Interior Finish, and Other Sustainable Choices

  • LED lighting, we found screw in bulbs in traditional fixtures were the most economical, especially when bulbs were purchased in Council Bluffs.
  • A detached garage (attached garages often bring unhealthy air into the home)
  • East and south windows to warm the house in the winter, and larger eaves to keep the sun out in the summer
  • Energy Star appliances
  • No and low VOC paints/stains
  • Low flow water faucets, toilets and showers
  • Recycled carpet tile samples in our office / guest room (see image at right)
  • Products made close to home to minimize transportation emissions. For example, pre-finished wood floors are often finished in Asia with significant emissions from that transport; ours is wood floor from the United States and manufactured in the United States.

Implementation Evaluationsblow door smallestestest

  • Blower door tests evaluated air sealing. We did this before paint, trim and floors were installed, to see if the house was sealed well at a point – it was!
  • Personal inspection of the items that were different from what our builder usually used, like the blown in cellulose insulation

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So with all of these great energy saving strategies – What can I tell YOU about saving energy at your home?

  1. If you have incandescent lights in your home, go to Home Depot in Council Bluffs ledsTODAY and buy LED light bulbs to replace all the lights in your home. REPLACE them TONIGHT.

If you have a large home, this could add up to a couple hundred dollars investment, but the investment will pay for itself in electricity savings over the course of a year or less if you are replacing incandescent bulbs. The payback if you are replacing compact florescent lights (curly cue ones) is not as good. This Home Depot has the best prices I’ve seen for LEDs; a 60w-equivalent bulb is usually $5-7 each. On sale for $3 a week or two ago… After the first year, you’re saving lots of money in electricity each year! Here is a handy calculator to see this savings.

  1. If you are building or want to do a more significant project in your home, air sealing and insulation are the most cost effective ways to save energy. I would suggest getting your home’s HERS rating calculated. Then I would talk to the rater that does this calculation to see what you could do to improve your specific home in a cost effective way. I used American Energy Advisors (AEA) here in Omaha for this, and was very happy with the work they did for us and the advice they provided throughout the building process.
  1. If you are installing new insulation, take the day off and oversee the installers. The installers my builder used had never installed blown in dry cellulose and were given insulationno instruction on how to do so. When the ‘finished’ insulation was reviewed by the manufacturer representative to ensure it met manufacturer specifications (at my special request), it was short about 25% of the needed material. I’ve heard of other installers in town just skipping entire wall cavities. My advice here is to get lots of references before you choose a company, spend 20 minutes learning what you need to on the internet about how things should be installed, and then be there while the job is happening to actively review the installer’s work.

At the end of the building process, when AEA brought their infrared gun to check wall temperatures on a very cold December day, I was happy with the temperatures on the walls at this point. We’ll see a few years down the road, whether the insulation settles or not, a check we can do with an infrared gun that reads wall temperatures.

  1. If you want to build a green home, make sure you find a builder in the area with some experience with this, and just as importantly, a builder that is interested and willing to learn. Based on my research and conversations with others in the green community, there doesn’t seem to be a go-to green builder in Omaha.

We asked Landmark Performance Homes to build for us, and the owner Steve Faller was great throughout the entire project. Whenever we had a green practice in mind that Landmark had never done before, we talked through it. Steve gave us his insight based upon years of building experience and together we chose the best path forward. This was critical to keep our costs under control and to ensure that best practices in green building were incorporated whenever possible. I found Building Science and Green Building Advisor to be the most helpful websites when sorting out detailed questions on what to do.

  1. If you are buying a new home, check out the HERS scores before you buy. Here is the Residential Energy Services Network’s (RESNET) database of all HERS scores. Also, keep an eye out in realtor descriptions for HERS scores; local builders are working to get HERS scores included as part of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system where all realtors share listing information. If you are buying a home with a lower HERS score, this will save you money every month and should tip the scales when selecting between homes.

 

In the end, we love our dream home, and we are proud to have built a home that will stand for hundreds of years, making a small ongoing impact on our environment.

And if you wake up to this view everyday, how can you not want to protect our environment.

sunrise 11 inch

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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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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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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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Back in January, my amazing wife, Emily, and I were asked to be honorary co-chairs of the Inclusive Communities Humanitarian Dinner; a request that completely blew me away. When you see the list of past honorary chairs, it’s pretty clear we don’t belong on the list. Nevertheless, when we learned our co-chairs were Michael and Laura Alley of Alley Poyner Machietto Architecture, two of the greatest people we’ve ever met, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to work with them and support the organization.

It’s an entirely new experience for us. I’ve helped raise a little money here and there, but this is a much bigger and more intimidating deal. The goals are to raise $280,000 and get 1,000 attendees at the event. Those are huge numbers, and even though this is the second longest running philanthropic dinner in Omaha, hitting those goals is by no means a layup.

Fortunately, there is a great support system in place to get us there. The staff at Inclusive Communities is a-ma-zing. Beth Riley and Maceal Norvell have stayed on top of things from day one. We also put together a Solicitation Committee that is tasked with hitting our goals. They’ve worked tirelessly since February, and I’ve been extremely impressed with their energy and passion for Inclusive Communities.

Inclusive Communities is celebrating their 75th anniversary this year, and Omaha is a much better place because of their work. I’ll save you from “the speech,” but suffice it to say they are working day in and day out to build a community that respects and values diversity and equality. Their mission: Inclusive Communities is a human relations organization confronting prejudice, bigotry and discrimination through educational programs that raise awareness, foster leadership and encourage advocacy for a just and inclusive society. Take some time to visit their website and learn more about the really important work they’re doing.

In an attempt to give our planning team a one-stop shop for tracking our two goals, we thought it might be helpful to use the Verdis Dashboard. While the categories aren’t a perfect match (Dollars Saved = Dollars Raised and Volunteers = Attendees) it serves as a nice, easy-to-understand means by which to gauge how we’re doing. (Shameless plug: the Dashboard is a great tool for organizations to communicate their progress towards achieving sustainability goals. See: our work with Omaha Public Schools). Here’s how we’re doing so far. Not bad, eh?

Finally, and let’s be really clear about this, you should consider attending. Cory Booker, the charismatic, social-media savvy Mayor of Newark, New Jersey and a rising political star, is doing the keynote address. He was in Omaha a few years ago for the Young Professional Summit, and from what I’ve heard, he killed it. Most people I’ve talked with said it was one of the more moving addresses they’ve ever heard. So be there; you will support a great organization and be inspired. It’s a win-win and you won’t regret attending.

Onward and upward.

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