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Sustainable Austin Blog

Text overlay: How sustainable is your city government? Photo background: City hall interior, gold and copper tones.

Have you ever wondered how sustainable City of Austin operations are? Since 2010, our office has been tracking information related to key areas of City service delivery in terms of water and energy use, waste, mobility, green building and wellness. Recently, we released the City’s report card for 2017 that shows how we’re doing.

Tracking and reporting the City’s sustainability performance is similar to the way some large corporate organizations, such as Dell or Target, track the sustainability of their business operations. City performance data is calculated by combining data from the operations of multiple City departments to show the overall performance for each metric.

HOW DID WE PERFORM?

 

2014

2015

2016

2017

Carbon Footprint         
Target Met
Target Met
Target Met
Target Met
Vehicles & Equipment 
Target Met
Target Met
Target Met
Target Met
Green Infrastructure     
Target Met
Target Met
Target Met
Target Met
Workforce Wellness
Target Not Met
Target Met
Target Met
Target Not Met
Green Building
Target Met
Target Not Met
Target Met
Target Met
Zero Waste
Target Not Met
Target Not Met
Target Met
Target Not Met
City Right of Way
Target Met
Target Met
Target Not Met
Target Not Met
Water Use
Target Not Met
Target Met
Target Not Met
Target Met
Energy Use   
Target Met
Target Not Met
Target Not Met
Target Not Met
Sustainable Purchasing
In Progress
Target Not Met
Target Not Met
Target Not Met

 

View the full report card>

 

WHAT’S GOING WELL?

 

Let’s dive into the data. The City’s performance goals have been met or exceeded in five of the ten categories. In particular, one area has improved.

Water Use Performance Target: 2 percent reduction per square foot per year.

Gradually, water conservation measures were taken at our facilities, including installing improved water fixtures (such as toilets, showerheads, and faucets), adding rainwater collection at some facilities, and an in-depth analysis of building and irrigation use at larger park sites. These measures were successful in reducing our water consumption in 2017.

 

WHAT NEEDS WORK?

 

Performance has fallen short of the stated goal in five categories. City staff are working to improve upon these indicators through the following actions:

Zero Waste Performance Target: 5 percent increase in waste diversion per year

Improved data collection as well as a reduction in recycling indicates that the waste diversion rate at City facilities has levelled. To address performance in this area, the City is working on providing mandatory training to facility managers to increase waste diversion. On a positive note, many city employees are volunteering to coordinate compost collection in staff breakrooms, including food waste and discarded paper towels.

Energy Performance Target: 5% energy use reduction per year.

The costs associated with energy use continue to be significant for City facilities, with over $30 million spent on energy each year. However, in 2017, energy costs decreased primarily due to GreenChoice rate adjustments that positively impacted City accounts. Because energy use has increased, the Office of Sustainability is leading a pilot of energy monitoring devices on a few City facilities that could help identify opportunities to adjust building controls and identify improvements that will reduce energy use and lower costs.

Procurement Performance Target: 100% recycled content for all paper.

In 2013, the City Manager set the goal of using 100 percent post-consumer content for all multi-function device paper and other printed items like stationary and business cards. Through a partnership between the Office of Sustainability and the Purchasing Office, the City has made great progress in this area, improving from 16 percent of paper purchases meeting the goal in 2013, to 83 percent in 2015. Educational efforts will continue with departmental buyers, and the two departments will continue to work with the City’s office supplies vendor to reach the 100 percent goal.

Excellent progress has also been made in overall reduction of paper use. The City’s total paper consumption was down for the third year in a row. Between 2016 and 2017, we used 3.4 percent less paper, or 1.2 million fewer sheets, which would cover 208 miles placed end-to-end and save 144 trees.

Workforce Wellness Performance Target: 3 percent increase in online employee health assessments per year.

With expanded outreach and opportunities for employee participation in health assessments, the last three years saw consistent growth in this category. In 2017, the timing of emergency assistance efforts in response to Hurricane Harvey negatively impacted the ability of staff to participate in health assessments. Positive progress is being made related to workforce wellness activity areas.

Participation in staff physical activity programs has broken registration records every year for the past three years, and registration recently hit an all-time high with 2,100 employees registered. In addition, the City’s Farm to Work program was expanded in 2017 to be available to a total of 2,160 employees. This program helps to support local farmers while encouraging staff to eat fresh, healthy produce.

City Right of Way Performance Target: 31.9 miles of new or improved bike facilities and 13.3 miles of new or reconstructed sidewalks in 2017.

Funding for new bike, trail, and sidewalk infrastructure through a 2012 bond was mostly exhausted by the end of 2017. However, with passage of the 2016 Mobility Bond, a long-term funding source for building new and improved bike and trail facilities and sidewalks is available for the foreseeable future. As spending of these bond funds ramps up, the expectation is that this indicator will meet or exceed performance targets in the future.

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

 

Measuring and sharing information about our performance as an organization helps us showcase our achievements and our challenges so we can track progress towards our sustainability goals. Our office will continue to work with City departments to develop action plants and strategies to address the areas that are falling short of our goals.

 

Want to know more about the City’s sustainability progress? Send us your questions!

Did you know? We also track Austin's sustainability performance to show our community's progress towards reaching our goals

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