Austin’s 4-STAR Rating

Four out of five stars. That is where Austin stands as a sustainable city. Austin received this score under the new STAR communities ranking system, the nation's first voluntary, self-reporting framework for evaluating, quantifying and improving the livability and sustainability of U.S. communities. 
The score puts Austin near the top of STAR's list of the country's most sustainable communities, tied with three others- Tacoma, Washington; Broward County, Florida and Evanston, Illinois. Only the city of Northampton, Massachusetts, has received a score higher than Austin's. 
But more important than the score is the fact that the rankings are being put together at all. 
Since 2008, Austin has been actively involved in creating the STAR rating system, starting with the mayor's involvement in STAR's steering committee, which helped to develop the rating system's structure. Austin's Office of Sustainability then continued the city's involvement by offering itself up as a Beta Community, helping to determine the specific sustainable actions and outcomes by which future communities should be judged. 
Finally, after all of this planning, Austin was ready to receive its rating. The city provided detailed documentation from more than 160 individuals from city departments and community partner organizations. After submitting all of this information to STAR, the information was evaluated by a third party, and Austin was awarded four out of five stars for overall sustainability. 
All of the information that led to Austin's score is available online, in a comprehensive report that has been broken down into seven categories- built environment, climate and energy, economy and jobs, education and arts and community, equity and empowerment, health and safety, and natural systems. 
Austin received its lowest score in the equity and empowerment category, which ranks communities based on their ability to provide access to public spaces and goods equally across all income levels and ethnicities. The category also measures overall civic engagement, on which Austin scored poorly. 
Austin's highest score came in the natural systems category, which ranks communities based on their level of green infrastructure, outdoor air quality, and natural resource protection.

Now that Austin has received its score, it is one of less than a dozen cities to have gone through the process of receiving a STAR ranking. STAR is only looking to grow in the coming years, getting more and more cities to take sustainability seriously.

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