Climate Change in Austin

We’ve all been hearing a lot about climate change, but you’re probably wondering what does it mean for Austin and is there anything we can do about it? Lucia Athens from the City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability joined us in the studio with tips for how everyone can help protect Austin’s quality of life from the impacts caused by climate change. Climate change is threatening many things that we love about Austin, and we’re seeing it in the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing. Over the next decade, we can expect to see more than 30 days per year with temperatures over 100 (historically, that number has been about 12 days per year). Bastrop wildfires destroyed 1,500 homes and 32,000 acres of forest in 2011. We came out of the worst drought on record last year. The Highland Lakes were down to about 30% of their capacity; that’s the source of our drinking water. In the last 3 years, we’ve experienced 3 major flooding incidents. Unfortunately, these types of extreme weather events are likely to happen more and more frequently, unless we act now. Everyone should think about taking action in three key areas: the way they use energy, the way they get around town, and the way they think about trash.

Tips for saving energy

  • Using less energy, or switching to renewable energy that isn’t carbon-based helps in the fight against climate change.
  • Adjust the setting on your thermostat – keep it a little warmer in the summer, and a little cooler in the winter.
  • When it’s time to replace appliances or electronics, choose Energy Star-rated items that use less energy.
  • Both of these actions save energy and will also lower your energy bill.
  • If you want to invest in energy improvements for your home, replace bulbs with LEDs or sign up for GreenChoice from Austin Energy. GreenChoice comes from 100% renewable wind energy.
  • Cutting energy use by 10% will reduce your carbon footprint by one ton of greenhouse gases per year.

Tips for reducing waste

  • Throwing away less stuff also helps in the fight against climate change.
  • The City has set the goal of keeping 90% of waste out of landfills – and the methane that’s produced from landfills contributes to climate change.
  • That means recycling, composting, and reusing the items that we’ve been treating as garbage.
  • Use less disposable items:
    • Instead of buying bottled water, use a reusable one.
    • Forego plastic utensils and paper napkins.
    • Sign up for electronic bills instead of paper.
  • Set up a home composting system and get a rebate from Austin Resource Recovery.
  • Or get ready for curbside organics collection – all residential customers will have this service by 2020.
  • There’s really very little that counts as “trash.” 90% of what we throw out could be recycled, composted, or reused.
  • And switching to the smallest size trash cart could save you as much as $300 per year.

Tips for driving your car less

  • One of the best ways that everyone can help is to drive less – we all win when there are fewer cars on the road.
  • Riding the bus, or biking, or walking may not be an option for everywhere you go, but many people could make fewer car trips.
  • If it’s a trip a mile away or less, why not walk?
  • If you have to drive, park once and use a bike from BCycle bikeshare to get to all the places you need to go downtown.
  • Think about opportunities to carpool – to work, to school, to restaurants, movies, and parties.
  • If you’re in the market for a new car, think about getting a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle.
  • There are charging stations all around town now, and these reduced emissions or zero emissions cars really make a difference in fighting climate change.
  • Austin Energy also offers rebates for home charging stations and electric bike purchases.

The most important thing is for people to understand that Austin’s quality of life, both today and for years to come, depends on each of us doing our part. The Office of Sustainability has lots of tips and resources to help people take action and learn about climate change. The Office of Sustainability can also connect people with city programs, incentives and rebates that are available. Everyone has it in their power to make a real difference. Visit austintexas.gov/climate to learn more.

 

 

Sponsored by the City of Austin’s Office of Sustainability. Opinions expressed by guests on this program are solely those of the guest(s) and are not endorsed by this television station.

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