Smarter Cities (NRDC) has released its ranking of the most sustainable cities. Austin is sixth!
Of course, like most city rankings, this one is based on an arbitrary weighting of an arbitrary list of factors. For example, they include "standard of living" as a category. What does this have to do with sustainability?. Unless the goal is to jack up the ranking of wealthy California cities.
They omit a variable for land-use patterns. If you're worried about open space -- and I'm sure NRDC is -- this omission is inexplicable. I'm more sanguine about suburban development than many, but even I am surprised by this omission.
But mostly the problem is how they weight the factors. If climate change is the most pressing problem facing us today, then shouldn't energy consumption get the most weight? I think it should. And Austin fares very poorly on energy consumption. It's 100+ degrees here in the summer. My air conditioner runs virtually non-stop, and will until late September. Adding a relative handful of low-energy buildings to the existing housing stock won't budge our average energy consumption.
Ditto with transportation. TTI just yesterday released a report identifying Austin as one of the most congested cities its size. I don't know what NRDC means by "sustainable" (I think the word has essentially lost all meaning through overuse), but does NRDC really believe that spending an inordinate amount of time in traffic, burning extra fuel, is a sustainable transportation pattern?
I could go on. Water. Yes, we've got pretty stringent water controls. But then we live in an area that is frequently parched. Each Austin resident puts a greater strain on local water resources than each resident of, say, Cleveland.
This will piss a lot of Austinites off, but probably the greenest Austinite is the one who moves to a city with a milder climate, more water, and less congestion.