10 years and going strong

Apr 6, 2021 - 5:34 pm


Reflecting on 2020 while celebrating 10 years of sustainability leadership in Austin

Our team is often asked, “What does ‘sustainability' really mean?” To us, it means protecting and improving Austin’s quality of life now and for future generations. The ways we work towards this are numerous. Specifically, our office leads efforts to strengthen our local food system, achieve net-zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions, and identify ways to make Austin resilient in the face of climate threats. We also work across multiple City departments, helping to connect the dots in sustainability efforts happening across our organization and more broadly in the community.

When Chief Sustainability Officer Lucia Athens, a pioneer in green building and sustainability, was hired to lead the office 10 years ago, she was tasked with establishing priorities for the newly-formed Office and setting a course for its future. Today, she leads a staff of 12 full-time employees focused on developing initiatives to lower our emissions and reach community members to help them make sustainability a priority in their daily lives. Here are our top 10 highlights from the past 10 years:


  1. Achieved 100% renewable energy for all City operations starting in 2011, resulting in a 72% reduction in annual carbon emissions reduction.

  2. Led the creation and implementation of the City’s Community Climate Plan including a 2020 Equity-focused update and the first Community Climate Ambassadors Program.

  3. Developed a Climate Resilience Action Plan to increase the resilience of City assets and operations in the face of extreme heat, flooding, drought and wildfires.

  4. Selected as one of 25 US Cities to be awarded a $2.5M support and technical assistance package to participate in Bloomberg’s American Cities Climate Challenge.

  5. Created the Austin Green Business Leaders program, a voluntary scoring system to recognize local businesses for sustainability and provide a peer group of 279 businesses.

  6. Launched the Bright Green Future Grants program to fund K-12 teacher- and student-led sustainability projects, which has funded 397 projects since 2012.

  7. Collected data to inform policy decisions, published in the State of the Food System Report (2015 and 2018 update) and the Food Environment Analysis (2017).

  8. Piloted the Good Food Purchasing Program to adopt healthy, sustainable, and humane foods with Austin ISD, the University of Texas, and the Austin Convention Center.

  9. Helped launch the Fresh for Less program, which brings fresh food to neighborhoods with lower access to healthy food through mobile markets and corner stores.

  10. Built a building performance dashboard that gives City facility managers better visibility to their energy and water usage, helping departments save money and resources.


View more of our office's accomplishments here>