Biz Spotlights

6 minutes reading time (1191 words)

Green Business Spotlight: PBS Engineering and Environmental Inc.

We were so excited to have the opportunity to sit down with Raychel O'Hare and Elise Kittrell to discuss their role in PBS Engineering and Environmental Inc. (PBS) and how their green team has been making big sustainability wins and powerful impacts in the Clark County community. Read on to learn more!

Can you describe the overall sustainability messaging of PBS Engineering and Environmental Inc.?

"We are committed to regularly assessing our company's environmental impact and implementing measures to reduce our footprint. With offices in Washington and Oregon, each facing unique sustainability challenges, we promote collaboration and cross-office initiatives. Moreover, we engage with our clients to advocate for sustainability in their projects and contracts. Our sustainable efforts are integrated into projects, ranging from fish passage design, wetland restoration, and hazardous material removal.

PBS' sustainability program is loosely based on the principles of the Triple Bottom Line. These include measures of environmental, economic, and social indicators—planet, profit, and people. Our program was developed with these concepts in mind, and we continually explore new ideas to achieve our goals. By intertwining these aspects, we establish a framework to evaluate our operations, activities, and reporting. This guides us in making positive strides as a company, ensuring that sustainability is a priority in every endeavor."

What strides have you made in the past year to achieving your sustainability goals?

"Our major achievement in the past year was becoming a certified Clark County Green Business! Additionally, we've collaborated with our office administrator and Vancouver green team to assess our office practices and offer sustainable alternatives for our staff. These include refillable pen cartridges, locally sourced bulk coffee, reusable dishes, energy-efficient appliances, and bulk dispensers for snacks.

PBS has green teams in every office who meet individually and as a group every month to set and evaluate annual objectives. Some notable accomplishments include organizing quarterly recycling events for challenging items like clamshells and block foam, compiling a resource page of sustainable practices for employees, and coordinating park cleanups with our team. We've also instituted a 'freecycle' board to promote a circular economy within our office." 

What measures do you take to minimize waste generation within your business? Do you encourage composting for your employees and customers? If so, how?

"We always have a bin out for e-waste, batteries, and compost, fostering responsible disposal practices among our staff. We also encourage staff to bring their food scraps from home to be composted. We have several items in our office to help our staff reduce waste including reusable dishes, a filtered water dispenser with hot, cold, and bubbly water, and we encourage our staff to use reusable water bottles. We also have motion detected lights and water sensor faucets, LED lights, and encourage our custodial staff to empty out containers instead of replacing bags.

And for Earth Day, we are currently working on developing more sustainable options for marketing materials such as bookmarks that can be planted and reusable utensil kits."

How do you engage employees in sustainable initiatives? What steps have you taken to promote a culture of sustainability among your staff? 

"We host Friday Learning sessions, inviting staff to join us for lunch and delve into sustainability topics such as composting, canning, gardening, earth-friendly landscaping, renewable energy, and local nonprofit organizations focused on sustainability. These sessions are also recorded and made available for those unable to attend.

Last year, we conducted a survey to gauge PBS employees' interest in sustainability initiatives. As a result, we began publishing quarterly newsletters highlighting the efforts of our green teams and sharing sustainable practices for home and office implementation. We also publish weekly sustainability tips, covering a wide range of topics including the benefits of buying local, nature conservation, international recognition days such as World Wildlife Day, and how to reduce environmental impacts in our daily activities. Additionally, we continuously encourage our employees to utilize their volunteer hours for community service.

Working closely with our People and Culture (human resources) department, we've implemented company-wide initiatives such as bike month events, remote work encouragement, and support for public transportation. Additionally, we arrange volunteer opportunities for our staff and provide each employee with four hours of volunteer time annually, encouraging participation in green team events or those organized by other local businesses, such as SOLVE.

We also have a community investment fund which is dedicated to providing pro bono work hours to local organizations. Currently, this fund supports projects such as enhancing the education program at 78th Street Heritage Farm. Some current and past recipients include Hudson Bay High School, veteran groups, and The Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest. We actually found our current project at a past Morning Blend event, and we're always looking for more ways to plug into the community!"

Please tell us any other ways your company supports our community.

"Throughout the year, PBS organizes various donation drives aimed at supporting our community. Historically, these initiatives have included school supply drives and blood drives. We also adopted Fisher Basin Park near our office and hold seasonal cleanup events for our staff. Additionally, we offer donation matching of up to $500 annually per employee to non-profit organizations.

We prioritize employee wellness through several campaigns, which have included the Bike More Challenge in May, the Walking Challenge in June, and initiatives focused on reducing our environmental footprint by promoting the use of public transportation. During the holiday season, each office typically selects a local nonprofit organization to support through holiday giving efforts. This involves raising awareness about the chosen nonprofit and encouraging donations within our network. Additionally, we consistently encourage our employees to engage in mentoring opportunities within their communities throughout the year."

What are your company's future sustainability goals for 2024 and beyond? How do you plan to hold your company accountable for achieving them?

"In 2024, we will be working on creating storyboards that help our employees and clients see how sustainability is incorporated in everything we do. We're also hoping to implement a tracking system to put numbers to the work we do, such as acres of wetlands restored, number of fish passages created, or volume of contaminated soil removed. We also want to continue engaging our employees in our sustainable initiatives and hope to add holiday light recycling to our green-focused events this year. We're always trying to promote the usage of volunteer hours by spreading information about and hosting more events throughout the year.

We hold ourselves accountable for achieving these goals through our annual sustainability report that we post on our website. We also have monthly green team meetings as a company, and as individual offices, to be able to collaborate with each other on our goals and initiatives."

Is there anything else you would like to talk about that you feel we haven't covered here?

"PBS is always interested in partnering with other community groups and Green Businesses!"

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