“Working sustainable is a proud example we can set for other businesses,” said Jane Lewis Montague, Principal Engineer and Owner of Lewis Engineering, a public and private sector consulting civil engineering firm. “It’s also a way of life that begins in the heart for me.”
Employing sustainable practices has been a way of life for Lewis Engineering since its inception in 1974 by Jane’s father, George Lewis. Located in downtown Ventura at 1143 E. Main Street, Lewis Engineering celebrates its 40th year in business and its new status as a City of Ventura Green Certified Business.
“I started working with my father when I was in high school,” said Montague. “He was a very earth-friendly and earth-conscious man. There was never a piece of paper or even a paperclip that would ever get wasted. If something could be reused, it was reused; it was as simple as that.”
Growing up in a home where the environment was revered, Montague learned to live and work according to a strong environmental code.
“Being green should be considered ordinary,” said Montague. “When I read about the opportunity to become a certified green business in one of the city newsletters, I jumped on it.”
Pioneering roads and utilities and creating sustainable building sites by interfacing with the architects, the builders and the geotechnical engineers are all a part of Lewis Engineering’s daily routines.
The company, which has worked with such cities such as Ventura, Oxnard, Ojai and Camarillo, as well as many commercial, agricultural and private property projects, approaches their work with the mindset, “if nature can do it, we can never do it better than nature.” Thus, they take cues for their projects from the natural environment.
One of their recent residential projects located in Ventura County’s Sulphur Mountain, included working with the architectural and building team to make the sustainable homesite, which was built with all green materials, blend seamlessly into the mountain environment.
“Whatever we can do to mimic nature, from creating a dry creek bed, or reusing site products such as rock and other elements to create a water or rain infiltration basin for example, we do,” said Montague. “We also take into consideration what other civilizations have done in terms of building structures to last. In ancient times, and through millennium, there wasn’t a sense of disposability, so why should there be now?”
Montague embraces incorporating a client’s sustainable ideas into company projects whenever it makes sense. “While it’s often times about saving money, “ said Montague, “by using sustainable practices and making good product choices in order to design structures that last as well as ones that will need the least maintenance and look the best, is usually a win-win situation.”
When it comes to Lewis Engineering’s green in-house practices, staffers choose to save energy by using the natural light that pours in from the floor to ceiling office windows.
All the appliances in the office, from computer monitors to the copier and the office refrigerator, are all Energy Star. When not in use, anything powered electronically is turned off daily, with the exception of the refrigerator.
The office outdoor landscape is naturally designed to conserve. As an older building, and without an irrigation system in place, only native plants, which thrive on natural rain sources, are grown. On Montague’s private office patio, only succulents and cacti, which require little water, grace the outdoor space.
In the office bathrooms, low-flow toilets and faucets have been installed. Strategically placed signage conservation stickers remind workers and visitors to conserve water and turn off the lights.
To print plans and designs, paper has been a well-used in-house product. However, the company has found ways to conserve, printing double-sided whenever possible and only using 100% recyclable paper.
“Using email has been a large part of our savings when it comes to the large format printing we have to do,” said Montague. “Due to advancements in technology, we’re now able to communicate with clients, colleagues and reviewing agencies more efficiently by emailing our large format plans.”
Used paper is repurposed into scratch pads and placed by every desk and used copy paper is also placed by the copier for in-house printing. Trade journals and magazines are recycled and given to local schools for creative arts projects. The company has even figured a way to recycle the long tubes (that house project plans) and their caps for reuse by returning them to sender.
Blue recycle bins are placed at everyone’s desk, and even the office furniture is recycled from within.
“There’s no furniture in this office that is new. Everything has been carried through the 40 years of the company’s existence,” said Montague. “My large wooden desk, was once my father’s. The drafting tables, which are not really used anymore for their original purpose because we have computers, have now become standing workstations. So, when we find we need something new, we repurpose it from what we already have.”
With projects from Santa Barbara to Ojai and Los Angeles, the company works to conserve on gas and save on greenhouse gas emissions by coordinating carpools and/or group trips.
“I also try and keep green by saying ‘no’ to single use utensils,” said Montague. Some items that Montague ‘never leaves home without’ include her green , multi-use fork/knife/spoon and reusable cup. “If everyone carried reusable items they could take out of their briefcase or purse, they’d be helping cut down on plastics and trash going into the landfill.”
Another wise green tip Montague offers, “Patronize local businesses and only buy products that are environmentally responsible and that are packaged responsibly. As a consumer, we have to recognize that our choices have influence. We need to think green and by doing so, we send a green message.”
Lewis-Engineering.com, 1143 E. Main Street, Ventura, CA 93001, Phone: (805) 648-1353
–Maryann Ridini Spencer for SustainableVentura.TV