Thursday, January 9, 2014

Green or Green-Washed? Mapping Sustainability Rankings in Austin, Texas

Grady Sampley and Elizabeth Funk, Environmental Studies Interdisciplinary Program

The City of Austin has a reputation for being a green city, from its comprehensive Climate Protection Plan to its emerging green based economy. However, could these jeans that Austin has put on be too green-washed? Austin regularly ranks among the ‘greenest’ cities in the United States in mainstream top sustainability rankings lists, such as Corporate Knight, Mother Nature Network, and others. While these lists influence the general public’s perceptions of the cities listed, the lack of clear criteria on what a green city actually is may mislead or distort public perceptions. This project utilized GIS technology to create an atlas of visual representations illustrating the indicators used to measure Austin’s sustainability and to, thereafter, critically analyze the validity of these rankings and indicators. Indicators include - yet are not limited to - LEED buildings per capita, green spaces, and traffic congestion, in addition to socioeconomic data and environmental justice issues, in order to create a more all-encompassing picture of Austin. This project provided a clearer understanding of Austin’s environmental standings and what the city’s government and citizens must change in order to be a true
sustainable city, in all senses of the word

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