The Office of Sustainability tracks data in ten key areas that strike a balance between 1) prosperity and jobs, 2) conservation and the environment, and 3) community health, equity, and cultural vitality. Data for specific indicators within each focus area is collected regularly to report on both the performance of City of Austin municipal operations, as well as sustainability progress within the broader Austin community. The information below summarizes the key sustainability indicators for each focus area.
The Office of Sustainability is dedicated to providing leadership in response to climate change by working toward three goals:
- Attaining carbon neutrality for City of Austin operations by 2020.
- Achieving net-zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
- Developing effective strategies for resilience in response to climate-related threats.
Key Municipal Operations Indicator for Climate:
- Municipal Carbon Footprint (greenhouse gas inventory for City of Austin operations)
Additional Indicators for Climate:
- Community Carbon Footprint (greenhouse gas inventory for Austin/Travis County)
- Annual number of hot days
- Annual maximum number of consecutive dry days
The City of Austin's vision is to become a leader in reducing energy demand through conservation and efficiency programs, and clean energy generation through renewable sources. Goals that support this vision include:
- Reducing annual energy use at City of Austin buildings by 5% each year through 2020.
- Achieving a utility generation mix of 55% renewables by 2025.
Efforts to reduce Austin's reliance on carbon-based energy sources also support the climate goals listed above.
Key Municipal Operations Indicator for Energy:
- Annual energy use at City of Austin buildings
Additional Indicators for Energy:
- Percent of renewable energy provided to the community
- Avoided megawatts of peak demand via energy efficiency programs (community-wide)
- Megawatts of solar added through Austin Energy residential and commercial rebates
Austin Water Utility is committed to providing reliable and safe water for Austin's growing population, while conserving water resources for future generations. Goals that support this mission include:
- Reducing potable water use in City of Austin buildings to 29 gallons per square foot by 2020.
- Achieving and staying below 125 gallons of water used per person per day.
With more frequent drought conditions anticipated for Central Texas in the future, creating a culture of conservation among all Austinites will protect and manage precious water resources for years to come.
Key Municipal Operations Indicator for Water:
- Annual water use at City of Austin buildings
Additional Indicators for Water:
- Gallons of water used per person per day (community-wide)
- Number of gallons of reclaimed water metered, sold, and used for beneficial purposes
- Public drinking water quality
- Inflows to the Highland Lakes (Natural systems indicator)
The City of Austin is committed to being the Zero Waste leader in the transformation from traditional integrated waste collection to sustainable resource recovery. This effort involves reducing waste generation, diverting the amount of solid waste sent to landfills and incinerators, and recovering useful resources. Key goals include:
- Increasing the amount of waste recycled at City of Austin buildings to 52% by 2020.
- Diverting 90% of waste from landfills by 2040.
Achieving these goals will also reduce the municipal and community-wide carbon footprints.
Key Municipal Operations Indicator for Zero Waste:
- Recycling rate at City of Austin offices
Additional Indicators for Zero Waste:
- Community-wide rate of materials diverted from landfills
- Percentage of Universal Recycling Ordinance-affected properties that offer recycling
- Tons of electronics recycled at Austin Resource Recovery Drop-Off Centers
The Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan prioritizes investments in pedestrian and biking amenities, high-capacity transit, and compact and connected development, which will help ease traffic congestion, reduce air pollution, and maintain Austin's livability and affordability. Targets for enhancing mobility include:
- Ensuring that 95% of all new City of Austin vehicle purchases are alternative fueled or hybrid.
- Maximizing the use of alternative fuels in City of Austin vehicles.
- Achieving a reduction to 21 vehicle miles traveled per person per day by 2020.
Investments toward a compact and connected Austin that is less car dependent, as well as vehicles that are not fossil-fueled, also support the climate goals listed above.
Key Municipal Operations Indicator for Mobility:
- Percentage of alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles purchased annually by the City of Austin
Additional Indicators for Mobility:
- Percentage of alternative fuel use by City of Austin fleet vehicles (for municipal operations)
- Number of vehicle miles traveled per person per day (community-wide)
- Percentage of pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit commuters (community-wide)
- Miles of new urban trails, new and improved bicycle facilities, and new and reconstructed sidewalks (community-wide)
Buildings can produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases; some can also use high amounts of energy and water as part of their day-to-day operations. Green design and construction strategies aim for optimal energy efficiency, water conservation, use of recycled-content and eco-friendly building materials, and healthy indoor air quality.
The City of Austin has set a requirement for new municipal buildings and major renovations (with a construction cost greater than $2 million) to achieve LEED Silver certification.
In addition, the Austin Energy Green Building program provides consulting services to advance green building design and construction for residential, multi-family, and commercial buildings throughout Austin.
Key Municipal Operations Indicator for the Built Environment:
- Compliance with LEED Silver Building goals on City of Austin capital improvement projects
Additional Indicators for the Built Environment:
- Annual number of facilities and square footage rated through Austin Energy's Green Building Program
Healthy ecosystems and forests provide wildlife and plant habitats, improve water and air quality, lower urban temperatures and decrease energy consumption, reduce flood risks and drought impacts, sequester carbon, and protect property values. The City of Austin has plans in place that:
- Provide guidelines for the care and maintenance of Austin's urban forest.
- Offer strategies to remain below the federally-mandated limits for ozone limits.
- Protect water quality through the purchase and management of land in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone.
- Implement initiatives to reduce impacts from flooding, erosion, and pollution.
Key Municipal Operations Indicator for Ecosystems:
- Annual number of trees planted in parks and non-park areas
Additional Indicators for Ecosystems:
- Number of Central Texas "Unhealthy" ozone days
- Acres of parkland, Water Quality Protection Lands, and Balcones Canyonlands Preserve Lands
- Percentage of watersheds receiving a "Good" or "Better" score using the Environmental Integrity Index
- Linear feet of creek erosion solutions implemented annually
The Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan prioritizes a healthy Austin and seeks to create places where people can easily walk, bike, play and find nearby nutritious food options and healthcare. Implementation strategies are underway to:
- Reduce chronic and diet-related diseases and risk factors.
- Provide access to local and healthy food.
- Promote physical activity and tobacco-free living.
A key component of sustainability is taking care of people; a healthy community is critical to Austin's resilience and ability to thrive.
Key Municipal Operations Indicator for Food & Health:
- Number of City of Austin employees engaged in wellness activities
Additional Indicators for Food & Health
- Overall Travis County Health Ranking
- Percentage of population that is food insecure
- Number of farmers markets and farm stands
- Number of community gardens
- Percentage of Austinites under 65 without health insurance
An important part of sustainability is focused on prosperity and jobs. Austin's thriving economy reflects a spirit of creativity, innovation, diversity, and entrepreneurialism. Growing Austin's green economy involves:
- Enhancing the entire supply chain for various materials and reducing waste through sustainable purchasing guidelines.
- Developing clean energy initiatives that reduce the need for fossil fuels.
- Supporting Smart technological breakthroughs and innovations that conserve resources and reduce traffic congestion.
These efforts also support the climate goals listed above.
Key Municipal Operations Indicator for Economy & Creativity:
- Percentage of annual City of Austin procurement dollars spent on 100% recycled content copy paper
Additional Indicators for Economy & Creativity:
- Number of utility patents granted in Travis County
- Venture capital dollars invested in the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area
- Annual number of charges on Austin Energy's Plug-in EVerywhere Network
- Greenhouse gas emissions avoided annually from Austin Energy's Plug-in EVerywhere Network
The Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan identifies the following vision for Austin:
"Austin is a beacon of sustainability, social equity and economic opportunity; where diversity and creativity are celebrated; where community needs and values are recognized; where leadership comes from its citizens and where the necessities of life are affordable and accessible to all."
For this vision to be realized, a spirit of environmental stewardship must be fostered in all Austinites, to protect Austin's quality of life today and preserve it for the generations to come.
Key Municipal Operations Indicator for Equity & Livability:
- Number of students and adults engaged in sustainability education programming through City of Austin outreach initiatives
Additional Indicators for Equity & Livability:
- Median household income in Austin
- Poverty level in Austin
- Number of people who access Permanent Supportive Housing Units annually
- Percentage of residents living within 1/2 mile from a park