AUSTIN (KXAN) - Green building is a growing trend in sustainability, and the City of Austin is on the cutting-edge.
John Schlemmer moved his family into the Mueller Development several years ago to reduce their environmental footprint.
"We've got a 6-kilowatt solar panel system on the roof which provides about 50% of our electricity that we use throughout the year," Schlemmer said.
This community in northeast Austin has the highest per-capita ownership of electric vehicles, and one of the highest concentrations of residential solar panels, in the country.
John has both.
"We can basically drive our car with the power of the sun," Schlemmer said.
Some residents in this community even install rainwater collection systems to reduce water use.
"Green building is a holistic concept that brings together energy efficiency, water conservation, healthy and resource-efficient building materials, as well as a lot of site features that are environmentally-friendly," Lucia Athens, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Austin , said.
Green building in central Texas has not just been limited to residences. The City of Austin is also leading the charge on making some larger, public facilities more sustainable. An example of this effort can be seen on the recently-rennovated grounds of the Zach Topfer Theater in central Austin.
"All of these plants are native and drought-tolerant species," Athens said, touring the facility's green space.
The City planted 46 trees on the theater's property, along with a rain garden to reduce water pollution.
"This is something you can actually do at your home, on a smaller scale obviously, but it's a very simple system that uses native plants and the microorganisms in the soil to purify the water," Athens said.
The rain garden collects surface water from the entire property and deposits it in a large spread of soil and native plants. This process filters pollutants from the water naturally before piping the water underground into Lady Bird Lake.
Although there are up-front costs for sustainable upgrades, City incentives will reimburse up to 50% of them, depending on the project.
"It's for the future of our kids," Schlemmer said.
Green building has saved Austin Energy customers more than $100 million on utility bills since it began 20 years ago.
The plan aims to reduce local anthropogenic climate change by working to make all city vehicles and buildings carbon-neutral by the year 2020.
It also aims to reduce the total energy use in Austin and to increase the amount of energy from renewable sources, as opposed to fossil fuels.
The plan earned the 2013 Climate Leadership Award from the Environmental Protection Agency.
If you would like to sign up to have your home powered by renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels, check out Austin Energy's 'Green Choice' program .
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