See a leak, report a leak: Support water conservation

Water is an important resource, and each drop counts. And the med center takes water conservation seriously. One easy but significant way to help is to report water leaks as soon as possible.

Here are the steps for how to report a leak and why it’s important for the organization and the environment. To learn more about water conservation, explore this guide, “LiveGreen: The Importance of Water Conservation.”

How to report a water leak at the med center:

  • For emergencies, call 402-559-4050, and the help desk will create a work order and call facilities immediately.
  • To report non-emergent leaks, go to the UNMC facilities work order submission page.
  • Submit the work order for maintenance requests. This includes repairs, electrical needs, installation requests and are all directed to a building’s zone based on information collected in the maintenance ticket. This means that if the location is incorrectly noted or not filled out, the request will not route correctly. Provide essential details such as contact information, the location of the leak and a brief description of the issue.

Why reporting leaks matters:

  • Water is finite and important. Reporting leaks helps ensure that every drop is used efficiently and minimizes waste.
  • The med center is committed to sustainability and reducing its environmental footprint. Reporting leaks supports the med center’s net zero water sustainability goal and demonstrates a commitment to responsible resource management.
  • Neglected leaks can escalate into more extensive issues, causing structural damage and mold growth. Early reporting mitigates these risks, ensuring the health and safety of patients, colleagues and visitors.
  • Reporting a leak sets an example for others, inspiring colleagues to take responsibility for maintaining the med center’s buildings and grounds and contributing to a more sustainable future.

Take action today

Reporting water leaks is a small action that can yield big results. By following the easy steps outlined above, everyone can play a vital role in the med center’s water conservation efforts.

Visit the UNMC facilities work order submission page to report water leaks. Working together, med center colleagues can reduce waste, save money and protect the environment.

LiveGreen: Budget-friendly tips for winter energy conservation

Whether someone is a homeowner or a renter, winter weather can feel like a threat to their home and family.

As temperatures drop, there are several home winterization techniques people can employ to ensure they don’t spend a fortune on energy while also improving their family’s comfort and safety.

Check out this short video from OPPD to prepare homes for cold weather.

Winterization, or preventative measures to prepare for the harsh impact of the winter months, can significantly improve a home’s performance and the health of occupants. Benefits include improved indoor air quality, less temperature related illness and reduced hypertension.

The financial stress associated with the heating season also can take a toll on mental health. There are several local assistance programs to explore when home weatherization work is needed, including Habitat for Humanity’s Home Improvement Program, OPPD’s Energy Assistance Program and federal programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The most thorough approach to addressing energy loss in winter, and throughout the year, is to conduct a home energy audit. If that’s not an option, there are other low-cost options available.

One of the most effective winterization strategies is to make repairs on areas in the home where heat loss commonly occurs. Drafty windows and doors, for example, can be inexpensively and easily addressed by caulking cracks and holes, installing weatherstripping or door sweeps and applying heat shrink plastic film to windows. Adding insulation can act as a winter coat for a home, reducing the chance of heat loss in areas where heat can radiate to the outside, such as exterior walls, attic access doors and rim joists.

Opening the blinds to let in sunlight and closing them at night is an easy and practical measure that can be adopted at the office and at home. Lowering the thermostat during the night and during the day when nobody is home also can save money and energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, households can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by turning their thermostats back 7 degrees to 10 degrees from normal settings for eight hours a day.

Another option is investing in a smart thermostat, which analyzes a home’s energy usage patterns and automatically adjust settings for energy efficiency while keeping homes comfortable. OPPD offers a bill credit for every year someone uses a qualified device.

For those considering a more comprehensive home energy upgrade, check out the Rewiring America’s savings calculator to get an estimate on energy savings, upfront discounts and available tax credits.


LiveGreen Ambassadors participate in campus clean-up

On Dec. 7, med center students, staff and faculty participated in a campus clean-up event, or a “flash trash mob,” outside the Durham Research Center.

Together, the participants filled one waste bag with litter that was sent to the landfill. Items that could be recycled were picked up and separated appropriately.

The 2020 National Litter Study found that there are almost 50 billion pieces of litter, or about 152 pieces per resident, along U.S. roadways and waterways. The study found that more than 207 million pieces of litter are personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks.

Litter affects environmental, community and individual health, as well as quality of life, economic development, water safety, environmental justice and the urban habitat. Preventing litter from spreading further on and off campus makes the community healthier and safer and protects the natural environment.

Many clean-up participants noted how enjoyable and fulfilling it was to spend time outside, doing something meaningful to benefit their environment, campus and community. Participants also provided helpful feedback, such as identifying spaces on campus that could benefit from new waste infrastructure.

The event was made possible through support from the UNMC Office of Sustainability’s new community partner, the Blue Bucket Project. The Blue Bucket Project is a nonprofit with a mission to engage Omaha community members to make the city litter-free.

The organization leads “flash trash mobs” by completing one-hour litter clean-up projects throughout Omaha and providing all the supplies needed. It also offers free litter pick-up starter kits to households to clean up their neighborhoods.

Cindy Tefft, who represented the Blue Bucket Project for the event, said: “Part of the Blue Bucket Project’s mission is to provide equipment, resources and opportunities to groups, families or individuals who would like to help keep our community cleaner, safer, more attractive and litter-free. It is very rewarding seeing the difference we are all making for a more sustainable environment.”

Visit the Blue Bucket Project’s website to order a starter kit, organize an event or learn more about the organization.

Anyone interested in participating in future clean-up events can contact Jerrod Bley at the UNMC Office of Sustainability.

Med center holds events to celebrate sustainability

In October, the med center held several events for Campus Sustainability Month, engaging with students and the wider community.

Tree planting – On Oct. 24, the UNMC Office of Sustainability partnered with UNMC grounds to host a tree planting event. Two Autumn Blaze Maple trees were added to the campus canopy. Members of the office of sustainability spoke about the benefits of expanding campus green space, including promoting physical activity, relieving stress and reducing noise and air pollution. Attendees put pins on a campus map to show where they thought they could benefit from active commuting investments. Attendees also suggested names for the trees. Visit the med center’s new trees, Alexis and Leif Erickson, in the green space near the Home Instead Center for Successful Aging, upper lot 16.

Health and home performance – On Oct. 24, the UNMC Office of Sustainability partnered with several community organizations to host an event to educate the community about the connection between health and home efficiency. It was the first event held at the new Community Wellness Collaborative. As temperatures drop, weatherization techniques can help ensure that homes are comfortable and energy efficient. Weatherization provides such benefits as improved indoor air quality, less temperature related-illness and reduced hypertension. Shanda Ross, Nebraska Medicine’s director of engagement, outreach and belonging said, “We are proud to collaborate with the office of sustainability to provide resources to our community to help them better understand how sustainability and health go hand in hand, as well as provide them with support for home maintenance or energy assistance.” Speakers and community partners were:

University of Nebraska Sustainability Summit – On Nov. 15, the University of Nebraska at Omaha was the site for the second annual NU System Sustainability Summit. The summit brought together university sustainability leaders and key parties to exchange knowledge and shape the future of sustainability at the University of Nebraska. Attendees participated in breakout sessions on a variety of topics, including the creation of Omaha’s Climate Action Plan and the role of technology in sustainable agriculture. The keynote address was delivered by Craig Moody, managing partner of Omaha-based environmental consulting company Verdis Group.


Sustainability Month offers events, opportunities to take action

October is Campus Sustainability Month, an annual celebration of sustainability in higher education. Campuses worldwide educate and take action during October through webinars, events, challenges and more. The med center is celebrating through some great events and educational opportunities.

Tree planting event – On Oct. 24, the UNMC Office of Sustainability and grounds office is hosting a tree planting event on campus. The event will be held from noon to 1 p.m. in the green space near the Home Instead Center for Successful Aging (upper lot 16). Organizers will be planting an Autumn Blaze Mapletree and offer people a chance to learn more about the importance of trees on campus. Stickers will be offered to everyone who helps plant the tree. Submissions are open to offer ideas to name the tree. Attendees can submit name ideas at the event, and a winner will be chosen later this month.

Health and home performance – On Oct. 24 from 5-8 p.m. at the new Community Wellness Collaborative, located at 2120 N. 29th St., Suite 200, in Omaha, the Office of Sustainability will partner with community organizations to share knowledge and discuss the connection between health and home performance. Weatherization work can provide many health benefits, such as improved indoor air quality, less heat and cold related illness and reduced hypertension, which results in fewer hospital and medical visits. This event is open to the community and will have a variety of educational sessions. This event will have the following speakers and sessions:

  • Health care and sustainability – Jerrod Bley, UNMC Office of Sustainability
  • Lead poisoning prevention program – Anita Whitney, Douglas County Health Department
  • Home repair program – Sara Zivny, Habitat for Humanity
  • Natural gas safety and conservation – Julie Thacker and Ernie Bless, MUD
  • Residential energy efficiency and energy efficiency assistance program – Eric Bensalah and Eddie Clark, OPPD

EcoChallenge – Throughout October, participants can compete alongside peers to be the most sustainable, as well as learn what others at the med center are doing to better the environment. There are a variety of actions people can take to focus on health, education, transportation and more. Click here to get started.

Sustainability Summit – Continue celebrating sustainability into November with the Nebraska University System Sustainability Summit. On Wednesday, Nov. 15, from 1-4 p.m. at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, attendees can find out what is happening on all four campuses, learn from experts and help shape the future of sustainability at the University of Nebraska. To attend the event, register here 

Also take action this October by:

Med center cuts down on waste at campus BBQ

For the past three years, the UNMC Office of Sustainability has strived to make the annual BBQ event zero waste, which means at least 90% of waste by weight is diverted from the landfill.

While the event didn’t reach the 90% goal, the Office of Sustainability was able to save almost 200 pounds from going to the landfill, while also engaging, educating and raising awareness among the med center community about sustainability efforts on campus that directly contribute to the med center’s net zero waste and engagement goals.

On Aug. 23, the campus held the #WeAreUNMC BBQ, where students, staff and faculty could mingle, learn about various groups and enjoy a meal together.

To make this event more sustainable, the Office of Sustainability set up waste stations that included compost, recycling and Hefty Orange bags, along with traditional landfill waste. With the help of volunteers, attendees were instructed on how to correctly sort their waste at the stations.

After the event, the aggregated waste from each station was weighed and recorded. In all, 74% of all waste material was diverted from the landfill, a substantial increase from the 65% diverted in 2022.

The breakdown of waste streams was:

  • Compost: 93 pounds
  • Recycling: 41.7 pounds
  • Cardboard: 32.7 pounds
  • Hefty Renew Bag: 14.1 pounds
  • Landfill: 63.1 pounds

Julie Sommer, research facilities planner and a LiveGreen ambassador who volunteered at the BBQ, said: “I look forward to the UNMC Welcome BBQ every year. Volunteering to help sort waste is a great way to meet people and educate about sustainability on campus. The effort to make this a zero waste event is appreciated by many students and staff.”

Another volunteer, Emily Wiley, office associate for the medical laboratory science program, also had a great experience: “As someone who actively recycles, uses orange bags and composts at home, it was great to assist at this event and help to educate those who were in attendance. I hope that everyone learned something new or was inspired by what they saw to do more in their own home.”

Anyone interested in getting involved in sustainable events can sign up to be a LiveGreen Ambassador, send ideas for events that could go zero waste or sign up to volunteer for this event next year. With questions, email Jerrod Bley.

Med center offers benefits for ‘active commuting’

The results of the 2022 sustainability engagement survey indicated 40% of med center employee commute trips are made in a way other than driving alone in a car. This means employees are taking the bus, biking, walking, carpooling or working from home — and it’s considered “active commuting.”

Active commuting has several benefits, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing costs to the individual and improving individual and community health

In 2012, only 12% of trips were made to campus in ways other than driving alone by car, and the goal was set to increase this to 20%. Since then, the med center has worked to support active commuters, primarily through the TravelSmart program, and the 20% goal was met in 2018.

The new goal was set at 35% by 2030, and that was achieved far ahead of schedule in 2022 with the 40% result.

This success is primarily due to more employees working from home, alongside small increases in biking, walking and other forms of sustainable transportation. The 35% goal will remain in place for now to account for changes in remote work policies implemented after the survey results were collected.

Data from the next survey, scheduled for 2024, will be used to continuously evaluate this goal. To learn more, check out the sustainability dashboard

Anyone interested in getting involved can sign up for the TravelSmart program. When registering, choose from several modes of transportation and access benefits, including a free Omaha Metro bus pass, one-year Heartland B-cycle pass, reduced parking ratesemergency ride home program, access to secure bike parking, lockers and showers and more.

Important update: Another year of free Heartland B-Cycle memberships is available.

The Heartland B-Cycle program will offer a limited number of free one-year memberships to the med center community. This bike sharing system allows members to easily unlock, ride and return bikes at a network of more than 70 docking stations around the city.

Checking out a bike to travel across campus for meetings saves time and prevents the need to re-park a car. Bicycling also is a great way to reduce someone’s carbon footprint, support cycling infrastructure in Omaha and exercise, all at once. Heartland Bike Share even has electric-assist bicycles, which help with hills.

Click here to find detailed instructions for how to sign up for TravelSmart to get a promo code and activate a Heartland B-cycle membership.

President Carter releases NU System sustainability measures

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter has released a new set of sustainability measures for the NU System, drawn from input and ideas from an 80-member team of faculty, staff and students from across the campuses.

The system-wide set of targets – a supplement to existing sustainability plans on the campuses – includes goals for increasing engagement and collaboration in sustainability efforts, using resources responsibly and continuing to integrate sustainability practices in facilities and procurement work where appropriate.

The goals were developed from more than 100 ideas generated by the President’s Sustainability Council, a group convened last year by Carter to help elevate and unite sustainability efforts across the system. Creation of system-wide sustainability measures is part of Carter’s Five-Year Strategy.

“Our goal is to be the best possible stewards of the resources entrusted to us – both natural and fiscal. I am very pleased to share these sustainability measures that reflect the common-sense values of our university and state,” Carter said.

“Our students, faculty, staff and community members have brought great energy and engagement to this effort, and I am thankful for their leadership. We will continue to work together with all Nebraskans to become even more effective and efficient in our use of our precious resources.”

The full sustainability document is available here. Goals include:

  • Fund and hire student interns across the NU System to support sustainability outreach and engagement efforts.
  • Host an annual Sustainability Summit, rotated among the campuses. The inaugural summit was held this fall at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Innovation Campus.
  • Establish a systemwide award to recognize excellence in sustainability. Details and application information on the inaugural award will be released this fall.
  • Encourage re-use initiatives that reduce waste and support students, like “career closets” and programs that allow students to easily donate or recycle items when moving out of the residence halls rather than throw them away.
  • Set systemwide targets for reducing energy use, water use and waste, and publicize annual progress toward the targets.
  • Incorporate sustainability best practices into facilities planning; for example, prioritizing energy efficiency in university buildings to save costs.
  • Promote more local purchases by adding a designation for “local” and/or “sustainable” products in the university’s procurement catalog.
  • Develop strategies with vendors to reduce packaging waste.

Members of the university community are invited to share systemwide sustainability ideas by emailing the University of Nebraska System at this link.

Med center can bike into fall with free B-Cycle pass

Lauren Klingemann


Lauren Klingemann loves using Heartland Bike Share and wants other students and staff to experience the same joy she does riding the bikes around campus.

The second-year student and M1 wellness chair has been at UNMC since August 2022. She enjoys Heartland B-Cycle because she has easy access to a bike and can ride across campus or to different places around Omaha during the week.

“I really enjoy biking on different trails throughout Omaha,” she said. “But transporting my personal bike is often a hassle.”

The med center partners with Heartland Bike Share to offer free, annual passes to students, faculty and staff. At the beginning of the 2023 fall semester, Parking Services, the UNMC Office of Sustainability and the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory joined together to distribute more than 200 passes.

A limited number still are remaining, so sign up today to get a free pass. Click here to find detailed instructions for how to sign up for TravelSmart to get a promo code and activate a Heartland B-cycle membership.

By getting a pass, users have access to Heartland B-Cycle’s 400 electric-assist bikes and 80-plus stations, including several stations around the UNMC campus:

  • 40th and Leavenworth streets
  • 39th and Jackson streets
  • 42nd Street and Dewey Avenue
  • 45th and Emile streets
  • 44th and Farnam streets
  • 40th and Farnam streets

“Because B-cycles are widely available throughout Omaha,” Klingemann said, “having access to a free pass allows me to make the spontaneous decision to go on a bike ride basically anywhere I am at throughout the city.”

These interconnected stations throughout the city have been useful to Klingemann and even have helped her encourage her dad, a pharmacist on campus, to get a pass and ride B-Cycles all over Omaha. Omaha’s system of trails and bike infrastructure gives students, staff, faculty and colleagues another means of travel that is convenient, safe and more sustainable.

 Klingemann also wants to emphasize that biking is just a great time in and of itself.  

“My biggest advice would be to download the app and set up your free annual pass before you leave to ride the first time. I also strongly encourage you to go with friends. It makes biking even more enjoyable, and with the free pass, it gives you an opportunity to be active and have fun with your classmates or co-workers.”

Map of B-Cycle locations on the med center campus

Med center heals local landscapes with NET Prairie Grant

In 2020, the medical center was awarded more than $40,000 to convert grass into native prairie through the Nebraska Environmental Trust’s Prairie Grant Program. This program empowers organizations to conserve and restore natural environments in Nebraska. The med center used this grant to transform 1.65 acres on the Omaha campus into native prairie and to educate the community on the importance of native planting.

Before the project, 1.65 acres of land were simply unused grass. While requiring a large amount of water, energy and maintenance, grass also does not support ecosystems and drains nutrients from the soil. Native plants, in contrast, require almost no maintenance while providing several environmental benefits, including:

  • Air quality: Prairie plantings sequester carbon while cooling and cleaning the air. 
  • Soil management: Deep-rooted, native prairie perennials prevent erosion, create a habitat for healthy soil microorganisms and make it difficult for weeds to thrive over time. 
  • Water quality: Mature stands of prairie plantings improve water quality by filtering pollutants and reduce runoff by capturing up to nine inches of rainfall per hour, which – on campus — is especially important in the inclined areas and near Lot 16L.
  • Improving ecosystems: Local animals and insects have increased access to pollen, food and other resources.

Studies suggest that visiting green spaces can reduce psychological stress compared to urban spaces. And finally, the flowers that bloom in these prairies throughout the growing season provide bright spots of color and joy.

Members of the med center community who are interested in supporting these efforts can check out native plants near Lots 16L, 64, and 54S on campus. Additionally, educational signage near Lots 64 and 16L provides more information about the impacts of native plants. To become more involved with sustainability on campus, consider becoming a LiveGreen Ambassador

UNMC certified as a ‘tree campus’ for 10 years

    The med center has been certified as a “Tree Campus Higher Education” for 10 years. Offered through the Arbor Day Foundation, Tree Campus certification is given to higher education institutions that dedicate time, strategy, education and financing to maintain a diverse, thoughtful tree landscape and culture on campus.

    For the certification, the med center must create a tree campus advisory committee, maintain a campus tree-care plan, hold an Arbor Day celebration and conduct service-learning projects annually. The med center celebrated Arbor Day this year by planting a scarlet oak outside the UNMC College of Public Health.

    The Tree Campus certification shows the med center’s active efforts towards improving the environment and landscaping on campus. Proper landscaping and tree maintenance contribute to several environmental and health benefits, including:

    • Acting as a carbon sink and cleaning the air
    • Adding biodiversity and attracting various pollinators
    • Cooling the streets and city by breaking up urban heat islands
    • Preventing soil erosion and water pollution

    Adding trees to landscaping also can support positive health outcomes by reducing stress, supporting the immune system, creating cleaner air to breathe and more. Trees provide shade and cooler temperatures, which can protect both people and building infrastructure during extreme heat.

    To enjoy these benefits, consider walking through campus and green spaces on campus before taking a test or attending an important meeting to lower stress and regain focus

    Interested in learning more? Join the next tree planting event or sign up to be a LiveGreen Ambassador to participate in sustainability efforts year-round. With questions, contact UNMC sustainability manager Jerrod Bley.