Health & Environment / Culture & Lifelong Learning 

Health and Environment Outcome: Enjoying a sustainable environment and a healthy life, physically and mentally  
The departments that fall under SD23 Health and Environment Outcome focus on ensuring that every community member is presented opportunities to live a full, healthy life, recognizing that a healthy environment is essential. The strategies related to this outcome address disparities within our community, by building on successful programs so that all can access healthy food, recreational opportunities, and quality health care when needed. By building stronger community connections and protecting people and the environment from the long-term effects of a changing climate and growing population, we can become a healthier, more resilient community.
Culture and Lifelong Learning Outcome: Being enriched by Austin's unique civic, cultural, ethnic, and learning opportunities
Culture and traditions make up the fabric of who we are and how we interact with each other, while lifelong learning enhances our understanding of the world around us, provides us with opportunities, and improves our quality of life. Austin is a dynamic community rooted in rich cultural heritage, diverse creative expression, and inclusive civic exchange. The strategies related to this outcome focus on preserving a comprehensive and accurate history of Austin, supporting our creative ecosystem, and enhancing lifelong learning opportunities, so that we can maintain Austin as a vibrant place to live, work, learn, and thrive.
The Top Ten Indicator Council priority for Culture and Lifelong Learning include:
Vibrancy and sustainability of creative industry ecosystem
The Top Ten Indicator Council priorities for Health and Environment are:
Accessibility to quality health care services, both physical and mental health care

Austin made positive strides meeting health and environmental goals while continuing to provide enriched cultural and learning opportunities despite new challenges 2020 presented.

Faced with an unprecedented pandemic, Austin Public Health (APH), in partnership with Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM), responded from multiple angles, including establishing a data analytics team and digital dashboards providing key data indicators to the public. Austin Public Health also established an online platform for COVID-19 public assessment and drive-through testing appointments, a telephone hotline for the restaurant community, and lodging facilities for vulnerable communities. Austin Public Health also worked to address health disparities and provide accessible quality health care services to vulnerable communities. Through intentional efforts and outreach, 92.5% of newly diagnosed HIV patients were linked to HIV-related medical care. In addition, 4,243 individuals were served through Behavioral Health Social Services Contract agreements.

Austin Animal Center continued its mission to provide a safety net for lost or homeless animals through technological initiatives, increased public interest, and grants, while successfully modifying its operation in response to COVID-19.

The Library increased the number of cardholders and virtual library users this year, along with boosting its community resources — from online video programming and a job portal to curbside service and a book mobile.

Austin Resource Recovery launched several programs and initiatives to provide better service to its residents and the City, including a mobile app, service changes, and recycling requirements.

The Parks and Recreation Department succeeded both on the ground and online this year with improvements to its parks and recreation facilities, and expansion of online educational tools. Highlights include expanding accessibility, supporting the City’s Zero Waste plan, and collecting data to help with preservation.

The Office of Sustainability worked closely with the community to update the City’s Climate Plan, including moving up its net-zero goal by 10 years, while leading efforts in emergency food access during COVID-19, and cultivating conversation and community involvement on climate and sustainability. The community-driven process created 17 new goals and 75 strategies with an emphasis on racial equity.
Browse each department's accomplishments:

Dog with Austin Animal Center worker

Austin Animal Center

  • FY2020 Approved Budget: $15.6 million 
  • Full-time Employees: 114 


  • Adapted operations to comply with public health orders and ensure that social distancing protocols were followed during the pandemic. Utilized telemedicine to limit face-to-face interaction during the pandemic, mitigating the need for individuals to come to the shelter when concerns arise.
  • Doubled the number of foster program members to ensure animals are kept out of the shelter.
  • Collaborated with the Austin Fire Department and Parks and Recreation Department to provide microchip scanners to all fire stations and recreation centers to help reunite lost pets with their owners.
  • Procured and installed laptops in all trucks used by Animal Services Officers to help with response time, report generation, and overall efficiency.

PPE distribution event

Austin Public Health

  •  FY2020 Approved Budget: $146.8 million 
  • Full-time Employees: 534


  • Established a data analytics team and the development of three public facing dashboards to provide key COVID-19 data indicators to the public. 
  • Delivered an automated solution — Austin Health Force — for COVID-19 public assessment and drive-through testing appointments. Staff has begun development of vaccine management and distribution.
  •  Launched a telephone hotline — Helping Austin’s Restaurants Today (HART)  — to provide the restaurant community with on-demand information regarding COVID-19 orders and best practices.  
  • Designed and operated five Protective Lodging facilities for vulnerable communities during the coronavirus outbreak. Serving over 530 individuals, ProLodge guests are provided with emergency shelter, meals, onsite behavioral health services, and medical services. 
  • Developed an emergency food assistance program, which included setting up a help line, coordinating massive amounts of food with Central Texas Food Bank, and delivering food to individuals in immediate need.


  • APH Communicable Disease Unit awarded “Leader” status in the 2020 LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Index for Sexual Health Clinic
  • Awarded the Excellence in the Field Award, given by the American Public Works Association Texas Chapter, recognizing the City’s multi-departmental efforts in support of the Homeless Encampment Clean Up Pilot Program which tested a standardized process for cleaning encampments, especially on Watershed Protection lands (This particular award also recognized all these departments: Austin Police, Parks and Recreation, Austin Resource Recovery, Public Works, Watershed Protection, Communications and Technology Management’s Office of Design and Delivery, and Downtown Austin Community Court.)

Inside of Austin Public Library

Austin Public Library 

  • FY2020 Approved Budget: $54.7 million 
  • Full-time Employees: 443.5 


  •  Provided 81,215 library cards to Austin ISD students and 11,568 cards to Del Valle ISD students to give youth free access to library resources and materials, regardless of residency.    
  • Opened 11 APL locations to curbside service, giving customers access to all collections within three months after the pandemic began. 
  • Increased virtual library usage by 200%, with a 13.5% increase in total cardholders.
  • Provided robust online services during the pandemic through the Virtual Library, including the launch of APL+ in April 2020 and the Job Portal. APL+ features video content such as book talks, children’s programming, cooking, crafting, and more. The online job portal features information on finding a job, resume writing, interview tips, and appointments with an APL job coach. 
  • Provided outreach in the community through the APL MobileLibrary. The book mobile provides free books at community events across Austin while raising awareness of library services, COVID-19, 2020 Census, Elections, and services for people experiencing homelessness.


Austin Central Library

Recycling collection

Austin Resource Recovery 

  • FY2020 Approved Budget: $105.5 million 
  • Full-time Employees: 482 


  • Launched the Violet Bag Program providing regular trash collection services which collected 154,000 pounds of trash, and the Violet KeepSafe Storage providing free storage services to Austinites experiencing homelessness.
  •  Launched Austin Recycles mobile application, providing residents easy access to personalized curbside collection calendars, service reminders, timely service updates and more. 
  • Executed a successful service day change for over 9,400 residential customers that maximized driving efficiencies, reduced excessively long workdays for ARR collections staff and provided better customer service.  
  •  Implemented a recycling requirement increase of almost 400 percent for multifamily communities as an enhancement to the Universal Recycling Ordinance.
  •  Provided collections staff with the proper personal protective equipment during the pandemic and established safety measures to ensure weekly solid waste collection without a lapse in service.
Violet KeepSafe Storage
Violet KeepSafe Storage


  • Awarded the Excellence in the Field Award, given by the American Public Works Association Texas Chapter, recognizing the City’s multi-departmental efforts in support of the Homeless Encampment Clean Up Pilot Program which tested a standardized process for cleaning encampments, especially on Watershed Protection lands (This particular award also recognized all these departments: Austin Police, Parks and Recreation, Austin Public Health, Public Works, Watershed Protection, Communications and Technology Management’s Office of Design and Delivery, and Downtown Austin Community Court.)

Kids biking

Office of Sustainability

  • FY2020 Approved Budget: $1.93 million  
  • Full-time Employees: 11


  • Led citywide emergency food access during COVID-19, including coordination of 75 partner organizations and launch of Eating Apart Together (EAT) to provide over half a million meals to people experiencing homelessness.
  • Updated the City’s Climate Plan through a unique equity-focused, community-driven process that created 17 new goals, 75 strategies and moved up our community-wide net-zero goal from 2050 to 2040.
  • Launched the inaugural Community Climate Ambassadors Program, which recruited 12 individuals to host community conversations with historically underrepresented groups about climate change, racial equity and sustainability. 
  • Championed and coordinated leasing City-owned land to Urban Roots, a nonprofit urban farm that cultivates youth leadership skills and nourishes the community through food and farming.
  • Conducted a heat mapping project with the University of Texas and community organizers to understand where people are most at risk for heat waves in Austin’s Eastern Crescent.
Eating Apart Together (EAT) volunteering
EAT volunteers
Community Climate Ambassadors group
Community Climate Ambassadors group

Zilker Park

Parks and Recreation

  • FY2020 Approved Budget: $106.6 million
  • Full-time Employees: 734.75 


  • Expanded adaptive and inclusive recreational services across the department, including facility and equipment improvements, and increase program opportunities to create a more accessible environment for individuals with disabilities.
  • Created and presented Oakwood Cemetery Chapel’s All Together Here: A Community Symposium for Discovery and Remembrance to discuss burials discovered during restoration.
  • Installed paired landfill and recycling receptacles within parks, facilities and recently completed capital improvement park projects as a first phase in support of the City’s Zero Waste goal.
  • Created the Parkland Dedication story map as an educational tool about parkland dedication and to showcase the parks all around Austin that have benefited from this important City ordinance.  
  • Documented existing conditions of almost $800 million in park assets. The data collection allows for a comprehensive asset management system and the preservation of Austin’s parks and recreation amenities and facilities for future generations.