Blankets for Kids

By Melanie Stewart

As you know, lab coats cannot be thrown away. To protect our patient’s safety, the person that wore it, and the Med Center, they need to have names/branding removed. You may recall that LiveGreen collects these coats, removes those items and donates them to local schools. They provide protection for the student in science, art, or cooking classes, and the school doesn’t have to buy single use plastic ones.

This was easy as we switched brands, as old coats had names on pockets and a patch with the brand. But as new-brand coats are being sent in, it’s increasingly difficult to remove the necessary items and leave the coat in a usable condition. Some coats are sent to research labs on campus, as they are more likely to need extra coats, and often don’t have names embroidered on.

The rest have the name and patch cut out, and are sent to Maurine Bryan. Maurine is the 88 year-young mother of Julie Garfield Oltman, business manager in Strategic Communications. Maurine has been sewing for most of her life, starting in 4-H. She’s now known as the “resident tailor” at Elmwood Tower; taking in clothes, fixing buttons and zippers, and even performing “surgery” on grandkid’s stuffed toys or dolls.

Maurine cuts squares from the lab coats and then sews the blankets with pieces of fabric left from other projects. She started making lap blankets (examples shown in picture above) for seniors in her community, who were often cold, and these were the perfect size to cover them without interfering with a wheelchair. She repurposed the lab coat pockets on these blankets as a place for someone to keep a tissue or a remote control, and uses the buttons to keep the layers together.

Now most of her blankets now go to kids in need through Completely Kids.  As you may imagine, non-profits see a lot of different people, and there’s always a need—and that was before the pandemic.  Kids get a pocket to hide a toy or tissue, and extra pockets are donated to another seamstress who makes bags that hang on walkers, providing extra pocket on the outside.

Maurine is modest so she hasn’t counted, but Julie (who is also the delivery driver) knows she’s made more than 50.  A wonderful way to upcycle these lab coats and help people in need.


Construction and Demolition Waste

By Blake Van Jacobs

When buildings are renovated a lot of waste is generated and it’s pretty common for that waste to go straight to the landfill. It is an incredibly wasteful process with little done to recycle or reuse the materials—from a time perspective it’s easier to demo everything and get it out of the building and out of the way as fast as possible.

While the new Munroe Meyer Institute (MMI) is being remodeled to meet their needs, Facilities tested out a new process with the contractor to divert the waste from the landfill to reuse or recycle the materials. The building materials to be diverted consist of concrete, wood, scrap metal, cardboard, and mixed metal/plastic recycling from the renovation and new product packing.

As you can imagine these materials are heavy, take up a lot of landfill space, and diverting these materials will help the Med Center make progress towards the Net Zero Waste goal.  Net zero waste is defined as “diverting 90 percent of all discarded materials from landfill, incinerators, and the environment.” While a bold goal, campus leaders believe that there are going to be market changes like this that allow UNMC to achieve this goal.

Contractors working on smaller projects share bins on campus and that material is being diverted and tracked as well.  We routinely recycle more than 10 tons of material a month, while generally only sending 2-3 tons to the landfill.

Back to the new MMI building.  The previous occupant left in a hurry and left a lot of stuff in the buildings, mostly office furniture, but other accessories too—everything from trash cans to breakroom refrigerators.  We needed to get it out of the building so work could take place, but there were a lot of items and they were in good shape.  Luckily Project Manager John Poulicek found a vendor who could come remove it from the building and find a new home for it.  How much did they take? A whopping 141 tons/282,000 pounds!

Since then, contractors have been recycling the building materials mentioned above.  The renovation is almost complete and they have diverted a total of 13 million pounds/6,500 tons of waste from the landfill while sending only 1.7 million pounds of waste to the landfill. The project currently has an 86.5% diversion rate, which is a huge success—and will lead to more successes in the future.

(Not) Printing has a huge impact on campus

By Melanie Stewart

As we told you before the holidays the Med Center has reduced copier paper use!

How much? In the last three years we have saved a minimum of:

  • 62,861,447 sheets of paper
  • $379,000 in purchased paper costs
    • Doesn’t count labor to deliver, stock, load, transport, or shred, which would be additional savings
  • 7,543 trees
  • 362,083 lbs of CO2e (164 Metric Tons) which harms human health and is a major contributor to climate change.

As people slowly return to the office and we begin to think about the future of working, how can we stop using so much paper to keep these trends going?

Reduce Printing Needs By:

  1. Displaying meeting agendas and other visuals on a screen; don’t print handouts. Take notes digitally.
  2. Use Word’s “Track Changes” feature to edit documents, rather than writing on a printed copy.
  3. If applicable to your area, laminate common instructions for patient review, only print necessary documents.
  4. Encourage patients to sign up for One Chart, allowing patient materials and bills to be sent electronically.
  5. Use OneNote, OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams, and other Office365 tools to share information and avoid printing and faxing.
    1. Use resources on theITS website for help.
    1. Lock PDFs and other documents (or save as PDF) before sharing to prevent version issues.

There are times when printing is necessary.  Before hitting that button:

  • Work with UNMC Printing Services if you are printing large quantities; it will save you time, effort and money. Printing Services offers same day, quality copies without the multiple costs associated with producing copies on an office copier.
  • Be aware of duplicates; don’t print when information is already available electronically.
  • Eliminate blank sheets from documents before printing.
  • Set the default on your computer and/or printer to print duplex and black and white (saves additional dollars).

Keep up the good work, and stick to those non-printing habits—don’t fall back in to printing habits if you come back to campus.  Still learning? So are we! Here are some resources to help you reducing printing in your area.

Paper not purchased is factored into the Med Center’s Zero Waste goal. By printing less and reducing paper use, we’re able

LED Lighting Changes Yield Impressive Results

By Melanie Stewart

Two years ago we told you that the metal halide bulbs that were on 24/7 in the lot 50 parking garage were converted to LEDs saving the Med Center $48,000 a year in electricity charges.

We’re amped to tell you that the money saved was paired with and OPPD rebate program to purchase more LED fixtures/bulbs and continue to savings.

Don’t forget, lightbulbs are often sold by wattage, and we’ve learned to associate that with light.  More watts does mean a brighter bulb, but it’s actually a measurement of the amount of energy you are using.  A 75W bulb uses 75 watts of electricity, but puts off about 1,100 lumens of light.  LEDs emit the same number of lumens using substantially less watts.  The light comes from small diodes so they are easily dimmable, can be warm or cool, change colors, and emit less heat thereby reducing cooling costs.  That control allows for daylight harvesting and motion-sensing so lights are only on, and as bright, when they need to be.

Since that time lights/fixtures have been replaced in:

Administration Building                                                Annex 14/Brown Building

Durham Research Center                                               Bennett Hall

Durham Research Center II                                            College of Nursing

Hixson Lied Operating Rooms                                       Eppley Science Center

Maurer Center for Public Health                                     4230/AX 10

Core Lab/Blood Bank                                                    AX 23/Grounds

Student Life Center                                                       Lied Transplant Center

Part of AX 22/Mail Center                                             Old Red Cross Building

All Med Center street lights                                           Bellevue Operation Rooms and outdoor lighting

Parking lot 44

In total, so far, the Med Center has replaced 16,237 fixtures which will save 2,556,831kWh each year.  {That calculation takes use into consideration—office space usage compared to operating rooms, exterior lights changing with the seasons etc.}  If that seems like a lot of energy, you are right!  An average U.S. home used 10,649kWh each year, so this would be enough to power more than 240 homes for a year.  The Med Center will avoid $231,630 each year just in electricity costs but there are also additional dollars saved in cooling.  The heat put off by the lights had to be compensated with extra cooling that now doesn’t need to be used as well—saving even more.  This is especially noticeable with the boom lights in the ORs.

We hope you got a charge out of this update and once more buildings/spaces are complete we’ll be back to enlighten you again.

Plastic is Everywhere

By Melanie Stewart

Plastics can be found in any room of your home.  We often think of plastic as water bottles, packaging, or bags, but common household items that contain microplastics that travel through the air and via water ways and are detrimental to the environment.   Microplastics have been found in the deepest parts of the ocean, the top of Mount Everest, and everywhere in between—the average American consumes between 39,000 and 52,000 pieces of plastic a year from our food and beverages.

Click through this interactive home to see where plastic can be found as well as alternatives.

To reduce your plastic use, check out your kitchen. When you go shopping, use reusable produce bags instead of the bags provided and bring your own reusable bags to carry out your groceries. Buy food that does not come in plastic packaging and buy in bulk, whenever possible.  Opt for reusable plates, cups, and utensils—it saves you money, you’ll eat less plastic, and your dining experience will be better.  Store your food in reusable metal, glass, or silicone containers, or cover with a beeswax wrap instead of plastic cling.

There’s a surprising amount of plastic in your bathroom—shampoo/conditioner and body wash bottles, make-up and hair products, OTC medication, toothbrushes and toothpaste…the list goes on.  Some items are hard to replace, but there are swaps that can reduce plastic use.  Bamboo toothbrushes and toothpaste tabs, bar shampoos and soaps, plastic free menstrual products, and there are companies that are reducing plastic packaging and/or moving to compostable options.

Clothing items that aren’t 100% cotton/linen/wool, etc. also contain plastic…commonly polyester.  Alas your fleece top and favorite lounge wear are probably more plastic than anything else, and washing those items puts plastics that are too small to be captured by treatment plant filters right into our waterways.  Wash your clothes in homemade laundry detergent (LiveGreen tested recipe here), or with detergent that comes in a box or a biodegradable container.

Plastic is found in fabrics and textiles in our bedrooms and living spaces too.  Most rugs, curtains, and carpets are made from synthetic materials which have their own health risks because of the chemicals used in them. Look for items that are sustainably sourced and are made of wood, cotton, bamboo, or wool, with Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) free finishes.  Or consider antique and vintage items as they are less likely to contain plastic.

New Elevators in Clarkson Tower

By Blake Van Jacobs

Did you know that the Clarkson Tower elevators are some of the busiest elevators in the state?  It may seem surprising, but have you ever rode one of those elevators by yourself? Those elevators were also old, in need of replacement, and that has now been completed for all cars.

The technology used to run elevators has changed dramatically, so the new equipment is more efficient and generally requires less energy to operate.

The biggest energy savings comes from (a lack of) cooling. The old elevators were run by a type of generator which was inefficient and produced a lot of heat.  Subsequently, the rooms where the generators were housed got hot and then required us to use a lot of energy to cool the rooms—which made the elevators even more inefficient. The new equipment will cut out the generators that ran the elevators and will no longer need rooms to be constantly cooled for proper operation. This is where the greatest savings on emissions and costs come from for the new elevator system.

The cars themselves already had LED lighting installed, keeping the inside of the car cooler, reducing maintenance costs, and saving energy.

In total, these changes, primarily made for safety, will save the Med Center over $2,300 each year.  That number may not change the world, but it add up over time.  Changes like this across campus will help us reach our Net Zero Building Emissions goal by 2030 and more importantly, help reduce pollution in our area that leads to climate change and harms human health.  Speaking of health, when appropriate, take the stairs—it’s increases your physical activity, burns calories, if you are only going a floor or 2 it’s usually quicker, saves additional energy/emissions, and allows the elevators to move patients/visitors more quickly, giving them a better experience.

To continue to track UNMC’s progress on the sustainability metrics, check out our dashboard! You can see progress on all of our goals there, including emissions, and learn about current and upcoming projects that impact our goals.

Reducing Holiday Season Waste

By Melanie Stewart

Every year holiday consumption causes waste to increase by 25% (1 million tons/week more to landfills) between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  This year the holidays will look different, with less traveling and in-person get-togethers.  It will be a challenge, but worth it your safety and health.

Consider some new holiday traditions that focus on the things that really matter, including your sanity. Kids can get involved, you can save time and money, reduce waste too.

  • If you exchange gifts, consider buying experiences that can be used post-vaccine, get something that can be used to spend time together, or make donations instead of buying stuff. If you do buy gifts, look for locally made items and in packages that can be reused or that contain recycled content and are recyclable.
  • Consolidate your online gift and/or food shopping to save curbside pickups and reduce shipping and packing materials.
  • Wrap gifts in reused materials. If every American household wrapped 3 gifts in reused materials (brown paper, maps, Sunday comics, cloth bags, cereal boxes) enough paper would be saved to cover 45,000 football fields!  For everything else, use recycled content paper and reusable gift-bags, boxes, and bows.
  • Recycle old lights to help local groups and replace them with new, efficient, LED lights, which use 70% less
  • Don’t use single use plates, cups, or utensils. If you already have them, check to see if they are recyclable.
  • Consider sending E-cards; saving trees, your time, and money. Recycle or reuse any cards you receive for decoration, future gift tags, or craft projects.
  • If batteries are needed, buy rechargeable—they’ll save you money and trips to the store in the long run. Recycle single use batteries.
  • Check your thermostat: more cooking means the temp can be lowered. Every 2 degrees lower saves $100 a year, saves the equivalent carbon emissions as driving a car 3,000 miles, and people get to be comfortable in their (reused) ugly Christmas sweaters.
  • Reduce junk mail by contacting Catalog Choice to remove your name from marketers’ databases.
  • Instead of a cut tree, buy a live tree to decorate that can be planted in your yard once the holiday season is over. Dig the hole now, before the ground freezes.

If you buy a cut tree, leave it in your yard for birds during the winter and then compost, or take it to the city’s recycling sites

LiveGreen hosting webinar on stress and anxiety

By Melanie Stewart

We all have stress and anxiety, it’s part of being human.  Then 2020 happened.  Nothing like a worldwide pandemic to change your life and dial up the anxiety levels—working/taking classes from home, social distancing, health issues, not seeing friends/family in person, and it all happened in an election year.  Holidays can be stressful anytime, and we’ve never experienced them in a pandemic.

LiveGreen recently starting hearing more people talk about eco-anxiety.  Eco-anxiety generally describes chronic/severe anxiety related to humans’ relationship with the environment.  In 2017, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) described eco-anxiety as “chronic fear of environmental doom.” 

We have talked about the physical health effects and continuing impacts of climate change and the APA noted that it takes a toll on mental health too:  “Climate change-induced severe weather and other natural disasters have the most immediate effects on mental health in the form of the trauma and shock due to personal injuries, loss of a loved one, damage to or loss of personal property or even the loss of livelihood.”  These changes and the fear that they will happen, understandably, wears on people.

There’s lots of talk about taking care of your physical health, but everyone needs to take care of their mental health too.  As such, LiveGreen’s December webinar will feature UNMC’s Dr. Steven Wengel and he will discuss practical tips for managing stress and anxiety now, and as we head into the holidays.

Dr. Wengel is originally from Omaha and attended UNL and UNMC. He completed his psychiatry residency and geriatric psychiatry fellowship training at Creighton University and UNMC. He has been practicing geriatric psychiatry since 1991, and is an active and enthusiastic teacher of students and residents. Dr. Wengel has also served UNMC in several administrative roles, including clerkship director and department chair. In 2018 he became UNMC and UNO’s first Assistant Vice Chancellor for Campus Wellness, and in this role he is developing strategies to reduce stress and burnout in students, staff, faculty, and healthcare professionals. His vision is to improve the physical, psychological, and social wellbeing of all who work and learn in the health care world, the academic environment, and the community at large.

Please join us via zoom on Wednesday, December 2nd from 10-10:30am for this webinar, which is open to the public.  If you can’t attend, a recording will be posted on the LiveGreen website.

Please click the link to join the webinar.  If asked for a passcode 517371

ORBT Launches

By Melanie Stewart

Omaha’s Bus Rapid Transit (ORBT) will officially launch Wednesday, November 18th! We have written previous blogs on ORBT, as this is a big step forward for Omaha.  ORBT is different than other bus routes, here’s the details:

  • ORBT stations have canopies, audio/visual real-time arrival announcements, pre-paid boarding, level boarding, and interior bike racks.
  • Buses are bigger, more spacious inside, and have 3 doors to speed up stops.
  • Most of the day, a new bus will arrive every 10 minutes.
  • For the first four months, ORBT will be free for everyone, all the time.
  • On-board/free Wi-Fi.
  • Many ORBT stops have Heartland B-cycle stations to speed up your commute after you get off the bus.
  • ORBT will replace Route 2
    • Start (downtown) and End (Westroads) are the same.
    • Daily round trips will increase from 65 to 100.
    • Frequently used stops are the same, but less frequently used stops have been adjusted. However, 94% of riders will have their stop changed by 3 blocks or less.
  • Other routes are being adjusted to make better connections with ORBT, including more 92 Express trips to Village Pointe, see MyRideOMA to double-check your route

Drivers are being asked to share the road.  You will notice the big, orange buses and the bus-only lanes downtown.  Traffic cannot enter those lanes unless they are making a right turn.  Watch this short video for details.  “Transit Signal Priority” has been installed at intersections west of 30th St., allowing buses to extend green lights and keep them moving.  ORBT will also have a que jump at 84th street; the bus will receive a green light first while the rest of traffic waits, allowing them safely merge into, and get ahead of, traffic.  Watch this short video to see how it works.

While we’re excited about ORBT’s launch, your safety and controlling COVID transmissions are of the utmost importance.  If you are traveling to/from campus and can do so in a more socially distanced manner (walking, biking, carpooling with someone you live with, or driving alone) please do so.  If you need the bus to get to work/receive care, please wear a mask, don’t touch your face, social distance as much as possible, wash your hands as soon as you arrive on campus, and know that Metro is working to keep buses clean.


America Recycles Day

By Melanie Stewart

This Sunday, November 15th, is America Recycles Day, the only nationally recognized day dedicated to promoting the act of recycling, and buying recycled products!

Of all the “Days,” American Recycles Day is the easiest to celebrate because it takes no preparation.  If you’re finished using a product and it is recyclable, then put it in the correct recycling bin—that’s all there is to it!  Not sure what to recycle on campus? Watch this short video to find out, or visit our recycling page for information.  Check out the Wasteline site for recycling information in and around Omaha.

We have already told you how important it is to recycle. You know about the huge impact it can have on our planet, natural resources, and economy.   Make sure you recycle right; wish-cycling and/or sorting items incorrectly actually creates more problems and increases waste.  Here are some resources from Keep Omaha Beautiful to help you correctly recycle everything possible.

  • Recycle Right: Learn what can and cannot be recycled curbside—it’s more than you think!
  • Searchable Recycling Charts: Have a specific item to recycle? Find out how, here and here.
  • Recycling and Reuse Resources: Divert waste even if it can’t be recycled curbside.

When you go to purchase a product, anything from a pack of paper to packaged food, take a look at the label.  If it contains the 3-arrow triangle (often referred to as the recycle symbol) it is recyclable.  If that triangle is inside in a circle, that product is made from recycled content.  The package should also tell you that it’s made from recycled content, the percentage of that item that was made from recycled materials, and whether or not the materials are “post-consumer content.”

Post-consumer means the material came from the end-user and that material would have otherwise ended up in the landfill, as it had no other value.  These are items like pop cans, paper, or plastic that has been used.  Pre-consumer/industrial content is still recycled material, but that material was produced during the production of another product.  Examples include wood chips, sawdust, and glass or metal shavings. 

By purchasing products that have the highest percentage possible of recycled content, you complete the loop and make sure your recycling effort has value. This is an easy step and takes no extra effort at all!


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