Austin promotes environmental initiatives across the city

Becoming eco-friendly has been a major initiative for many cities, and Austin has shown that a communal effort between government officials and local residents can help a metro develop environmentally conscious behaviors. When you select from the the MLS listings in Austin, you will have the chance to enjoy the benefits of several environmental programs throughout the area.

The "Dark Sky" program
Austin Energy has set an ambitious goal for 2015 - to install flat light fixtures that shine light down rather than up across the city. The "Dark Sky" goal could lead this energy supplier to retrofit 35,000 streetlights. Local officials anticipate they will use light emitting diode (LED) bulbs as part of the initiative, as these units are energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

The program could pay substantial dividends to the Austin community. Within 10 to 15 years, the city could receive a three-year payback due to the energy savings provided from the retrofits.

Additionally, smart-grid technology makes it possible for Austin Energy to improve operational efficiency. An automated system provides two-way communication between streetlights, an option available from the photocell-powered systems used by the energy supplier's employees.

With this eco-conscious alternative, local workers make it possible for residents to avoid extended street light outages. If a unit malfunctions, dispatch crews can quickly complete repairs. Additionally, automated devices may help the city save $340,000 each year in electricity costs, and reduce carbon dioxide emission by nearly 200 tons.

Neighborhood Habitat Challenge
The City Neighborhood Habitat Challenge gives Austin neighborhoods the chance to compete against one another to see which can certify the most wildlife habitats in their communities. This competition began in 2008 as part of a larger initiative to certify the city as a community wildlife habitat. Although the city received this certification in 2009, the challenge has become an annual event that recognizes some of the top eco-friendly neighborhoods in the area.

Austin Wildlife Park Ranger said the city has roughly 2,000 certified habitats, and stands out from many cities for its involvement in the local initiative.

"For most of the major metropolitan areas, Austin is light years ahead of everyone else," she said."We want people to think about wildlife when they're landscaping, because [many] just think about aesthetics...You can have pretty things that are native, and then everyone wins."

The city's Parks and Recreation Department's Wildlife Austin hosts the 2012 competition from April 15 to November 15. Four neighborhoods have already signed up for the challenge, and officials expect more will join this summer.