Member Spotlight: University of Nebraska Federal Credit Union

Published April 30, 2021

This is part of a series of interviews with NRC members. The purpose is to provide insights into materials management programs and best practices of member municipalities, businesses, and service providers.

The University of Nebraska Federal Credit Union located on P Street in Lincoln provides personal financial services, serving University of Nebraska students, faculty, staff, volunteers, alumni and their families. We spoke with Dena Noe, Vice President of Member Experience at the Federal Credit Union, to find out more about the operation and how they have implemented recycling efforts into their business plan. 

In 2019 the credit union took the initiative to look at reducing waste and finding ways to recycle more. Noe shares that an incentive committee member suggested tackling recycling and that’s how the following initiatives have begun. Since then, they have removed refrigerators from the lobbies with free bottled water and installed a bottle filler onto drinking fountains with a disposable cup dispenser for members who need a drink. They have switched from Styrofoam cups and plastic silverware to biodegradable products; they no longer use helium balloons, but instead use an alternative inflatable, reusable balloon for in-branch promotions. They also promote e-statements, use electronic forms instead of paper forms for daily processing and have added additional recycling bins to all staff areas to encourage recycling. The City of Lincoln’s Solid Waste Management Division has recognized them as a Recycling Leader (silver level) for recycling 40-59% of the commercial waste they generate. 

These initiatives haven’t happened without challenges; the two biggest challenges they have faced are 1) educating their staff about recycling, and 2) compliance and regulations that they follow as a financial institution and the necessity to provide documents at loan closings. As they open lobbies to customers again, they will have to face this challenge more directly. Nevertheless, their staff worked together to make the necessary changes regarding their recycling programs.

Noe explains that as they move forward through 2021, they hope to address other sustainability issues as well. They would like to address the amount of paper they need to provide to members at account openings and for loan documents. They will continue to include articles about recycling in their member newsletter and encourage members to sign up for e-statements. Despite staffing issues that limit time to focus on recycling, the Federal Credit Union desires to continue engaging their staff in conversation, recognizing that everyone can contribute good ideas to improve the business, make things more efficient and likely reduce the dependence on paper. They have learned that if you start with a small change that can be accomplished quickly, something that doesn’t involve budget concerns or vendor relationships, then you’ll have more people on board and can work together to make a bigger difference. 

When we asked Noe about the overall system of materials management, she talks about how sad she is to see people returning to use plastic bags at the grocery store. She hopes that stores will start to welcome reusable bags again. In addition, she wishes that we could continue the decrease in traffic we saw during the pandemic. In light of that, she mentions that the credit union will continue to support and be a bike friendly business to show their commitment towards other modes of transportation. 

In terms of how COVID-19 affected their operations, Noe shares that they have had to do all of their loans electronically, which has really reduced the amount of paper they are shredding and filing. She believes that they will continue to strive to have their members sign their paperwork electronically and therefore reduce the need for paper. She’s hoping that people will continue to be comfortable with electronic signatures so they can continue with this practice moving forward.

To end our conversation, Noe shares “NRC has been a great resource for us and completing our application to be a recycling business really helped us understand the changes we needed to make. We appreciate all the work the NRC does for the state and for our city. You really are making a difference.”