Austin – the capital city of Texas, a home for the main campus of the University of Texas, and a number of technology companies – it isn’t nicknamed ‘Silicon Hills’ for nothing. It’s also one of America’s greenest cities, a claim it can stake following some awards it’s won and, as of this week, for the appointment of its first chief sustainability officer.
In our line of business we come across this job title and role more and more as organizations grasp the organizational, cultural and fiscal benefits of a truly sustainable approach – though typically it’s a role assigned within one of the multi-million dollar private organizations in our customer base. So it’s heartening to see an environmental specialist and strategist appointed by a city. To me this typifies Austin – a forward-thinking city that strives to be different and to make a difference.
Austin’s new chief sustainability officer is Lucia Athens, who secured the position from more than 185 applicants. A Seattleite, Ms. Athens has held senior positions on the U.S. Green Building Council and the International Green Building Certification Institute. She’s also studied, lived and worked in Austin, where she worked on several programs, chaired and co-founded the Sustainable Building Coalition of Austin and co-authored the Austin Green Builder Guide’s first edition. Since her Austin days, she’s worked in high-level roles such as sustainable futures strategist for Seattle architects CollinsWoerman.
As a respected environmentalist and author – her book: Building an Emerald City: A Guide to Creating Green Building Policies and Programs was published in October 2009, she’s shared her vision and passion both by the written word and with audiences at conferences around the world.
Personally, I think it’s great that someone who studied a Master’s degree in Architectural Studies and Sustainable Design at the University of Texas, gets back a city they know and love, to apply a subject they are passionate about, in order to make a difference.
Our congratulations to Lucia Athens and to the City of Austin. We’re hoping that Ms. Athens will accept our invitation to answer some questions about her motivations and background in a guest spot on our blog: we’ll keep you posted.