Proud Partner Highlight: RPS
RPS is our featured Proud Partner this autumn! RPS joined Proud Partners in July 2020 and reached out to us on the Share Your Story page about their efforts. I spoke with RPS’ Senior Project Manager—Sustainability Team Leader Natalie Weiershausen to learn what motivates RPS to Take Care of Texas.
Q: Tell us a little about your company and its history.
A: The Infrastructure Division of RPS is a Texas-based civil engineering firm with an emphasis on public works and infrastructure projects. For 35 years, our expertise has included public utilities, traffic and intelligent transportation systems, municipal services, road and bridge, land development, stormwater, environmental, TxDOT, airport, toll road, construction management, and transit projects. Our headquarters are in Houston and we have branch offices in Austin, Dallas, Plano, and San Antonio. Our sustainability efforts extend through all of the RPS offices through North America, and each office looks for opportunities to make appropriate sustainable choices in their offices and with their projects.
Q: How did you find the Proud Partner program? What made you want to sign up?
A: With an interest in sustainability both personally and professionally, I have followed information put out by Take Care of Texas for years. RPS held a contest 2 years back for anyone who took the “Pledge.” I saw in one of the recent newsletters a spotlight on a Proud Partner and thought RPS would be a perfect fit!
Q: The goals of the Take Care of Texas program are to encourage Texans to conserve water, conserve energy, keep air clean, and keep water clean. How does your company support these goals?
A: We care about our people, our clients, and the community as a whole. We recognize that for the people we care about to thrive, they need access to clean water, clean air, and sustainable energy. We have the opportunity to make this happen through our business and personal efforts, so we make a concerted effort to do so. One of our established key company “behaviors” is that we solve problems that matter. The environment is a pretty key issue; without a good one, we all suffer.
Conserve water: In the office, we promote water conservation practices through education. Last year when we moved to a new location in Houston, RPS chose a building that is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited (i.e. water conserving appliances). Our sustainability committee also provides education on water conserving practices at home (some directly from Take Care of Texas!). Some topics have included rainwater harvesting, rain gardens, benefits of native planting, and using less water inside the household. Professionally, as civil engineers, we work with clients to design the most efficient project. This often includes engineered ways to use less water, because that turns into a cost savings for them in the end. We know the strains that lack of water (and overabundance!) can put on our infrastructure systems, so are always looking for a way to find a balance.
Conserve energy: In many of our Texas offices and open spaces, we have light sensors and LED lighting and encourage powering down all equipment at night. And in normal times, we heavily encouraged carpooling to our numerous meetings and field visits. COVID has affected that a bit, but has also made the option of working virtually a viable option in the future. We anticipate that after the pandemic, many of our employees will continue to work successfully in a virtual workplace.
Clean air: Last year, one of our sustainability events was a plant swap; essentially a white elephant exchange but with indoor office plants. It created some healthy employee competition, and our space was much greener and cleaner in the end. And in conjunction with our effort to have fewer cars on the road, we are contributing to less air pollution. Also, as we are working more and more with nature-based infrastructure solutions, the effect on air quality cannot be denied. We work with some clients on offshore wind energy implementation.
Clean water: A large portion of our business is focused on stormwater in both quantity and quality. Our environmental team works to identify, conserve, and mitigate for wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas. We design drainage systems that use either nature- or technology-based solutions to meet and exceed local criteria in removing pollutants. Our company has also participated in multiple trash clean ups around the state that keep trash out of our waterbodies. In 2017 we adopted a highway through TxDOT.
Q: What benefits does your company receive from the measures above?
A: Many of these initiatives save the company money. Recruits and clients often find our passion for sustainability attractive to work with. It also makes many employees “feel good” about working here. We make it fun with contests and games to keep people engaged in sustainable practices.
Q: What words of encouragement do you have for other companies and organizations who want to Take Care of Texas, too?
A: Don’t be afraid to start small. Implementing practices that achieve the goal of Taking Care of Texas can take time. With the right initiatives and strong leaders to keep the ball rolling, all the work will add up in the end.