H-E-B giving away 250,000 reusable bags for free on Earth Day


Photo courtesy of H-E-B

Yet another reason why H-E-B is the best grocery chain in the world. H-E-B brand stores all over Texas will be giving away 250,000 reusable bags on April 22 as part of their annual Earth Day tradition to reduce single use plastic among its customer base.

Visitors at any H-E-B, Central Market, Joe V’s Smart Shop, and Mi Tienda in the state have been able to get a free Earth Day-themed bag since 2008, amounting to over three million bags within 15 years.

The annual bag giveaway event will begin in all stores at 10 am while supplies last. Customers who would like to own more of the “Our Texas, Our Future” Earth Day bags can purchase them for just $1.50 each.

Many H-E-B Partners are celebrating Earth Day in their own way by volunteering for clean-up or tree planting events, or by hosting in-store events for customers. Select stores will even host family-friendly "Environmental Education Scavenger Hunts" with EcoRise, a local sustainability organization in Austin. The self-guided tours will allow children to learn how H-E-B protects the environment, and how they and their families can get involved with eco-friendly practices.

Earlier in April, H-E-B rolled out new environmentally-conscious initiatives to boost the company’s commitment to reduce waste while maximizing eco-friendly choices in local communities. Some of the new measures include revamping plastic bag collection bins, introducing a new curbside plastic bag collection system, and switching their plastic cutlery to biodegradable versions at all stores, restaurants, and business locations.

Additionally, students from 600 Texas elementary schools participated in H-E-B’s yearly “School Plastic Bag Recycling Challenge” and collected over four million plastic bags. The winning schools that collected the most plastic bags will receive H-E-B gift cards.

The San Antonio region elementary schools that won H-E-B’s challenge are:

  • Randall Fields Elementary
  • Hopkins Elementary
  • Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary

H-E-B also partnered with Keep Texas Recycling to choose six projects to distribute their 2023 Community Recycling Grants, totalling $157,000. The grants will fund improvements for better access to recycling and developing educational resources for nearly 350,000 Texans in Pharr, Ingleside, Cuero, Texas City, Burleson County, and San Angelo.

More information about H-E-B's sustainability initiatives can be found on their website.

Photo courtesy of Rowing Dock

9 ways to appreciate nature and give back to the city on Earth Day in Austin


Austinites are blessed with a gorgeous Texas spring that really brings out the beauty of nature in the city. Hiking the greenbelt, paddleboarding on the lake, even doing yoga at Zilker Park are all great ways to connect with Mother Nature. Getting to know some fellow Austinites in the process doesn’t hurt, either.

If you’re looking to get active within your local community during this upcoming Earth Day weekend, here are some events happening around town that are perfect for our spring weather.

All month long

Next Level Burger’s milkshake partnership with The Ocean Blue Project
What’s Earth Day without a vegan treat? For every organic ocean blue banana shake sold during April, Next Level Burger will donate $1 to The Ocean Blue Project, which removes plastic from the ocean. The hand-spun organic ocean blue banana shake is made with soy or coconut soft-serve ice cream, bananas, blue spirulina, and topped with vegan whipped cream and vegan gummy fish candy.

Friday, April 21

Rowing Dock’s Earth Day Lake and Land Clean Up
Austin’s women-owned paddlecraft rental company Rowing Dock is hosting the city’s largest clean-up initiative on Friday, April 21. Now in its second year, the annual clean-up event removes thousands of pounds of trash from Lady Bird Lake and nearby trails. Volunteers can participate in any two-hour time slot at 9:30 am, 12 pm, and 2:30 pm and work to win prizes for the most trash collected and the weirdest Austin item found during the day. All volunteers will receive a free t-shirt, refreshments, and food from several Austin vendors. This event is free to the public, and volunteers can register online at rowingdock.com.

Saturday, April 22

Luxe Refill’s Earth Day Celebration
The city’s first zero-waste refill store is highlighting the importance of eliminating single-use plastics with their own celebration from 11 to 6 pm. Festivities include live music, local vendors, free drinks, giveaways, and doorbuster prizes for the first 10 shoppers in line. If you bring your own reusable container, you’ll receive a discount. This event is free to the public. RSVP on Eventbrite.

The Trail Conservancy’s first-ever Earth Day Jubilee
The Earth Day Jubilee is a community event celebrating the ecological impact of Butler Trail that will take place at International Shores from 10 am to 2 pm. Live music will be performed by SaulPaul, Mr. Will, and Jeska Forsyth. Families can participate in creative eco-workshops and interactive activities led by The Trail Conservancy, Austin Parks and Recreation Department, the Mexican American Cultural Center, Austin Bat Refuge, and more. While you’re there, you can also meet and snap photos with baby goats. Food trucks will be provided on-site. This event is free to the public.

Lakeway’s Earth Day Volunteer Clean Up Event
Residents wanting to celebrate Earth Day “The Lake Way” can volunteer to participate in the city’s trash pick-up event along local roadways and parks from 11 am to 1 pm. All necessary tools and safety vests will be provided, as well as a map. Lunch, snacks, and Earth Day surprises will be available. Volunteers can register at lakeway-tx.gov.

St. Elmo Brewing Company’s Earth Day Planting Party
One of Austin’s favorite brewing companies is hosting their inaugural Earth Day planting party on-site from 11 am to 2 pm. The Central Texas Mycological Society will host Mushroom Bingo from 1-2 pm, and guests can also participate in a trash pick-up “hike” around the beer garden. Complimentary beers and hop water will be available for all participants, as well as tools and supplies to get starting on your gardening adventure. This event is free to the public. Registration is available on Eventbrite.

Brave Ceramics’ Pints and Pottery at St. Elmo
While you’re enjoying your hop water or fave St. Elmo’s brew during their planting party, you can take a break to paint some pottery with Brave Ceramics from 12 pm to 1:30 pm. Participants can choose from a four inch ($25) or six inch ($30) Brave-made planter to decorate and take home with them, no extra kiln firing required. Tickets are required for this event and can be purchased on braveceramics.com.

Snooze A.M.’s Earth Day Tree Planting Celebration
Snooze has been planting trees for every employee on Earth Day since 2017, but this year they’re taking a new approach. They’ve partnered with their Guatemalan coffee supplier La Bolsa Coffee Farm to plant over 3,000 trees. Additionally, Snooze will plant a tree on behalf of every MySnooze Bennyfits member that dines at Snooze on Earth Day.

Sunday, April 23

Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s 6th Earth Day Celebration
Families and friends are invited to dance and sing songs in Taíno dedicated to Atabey (also known as Mother Earth, or the goddess of freshwater) under the pecan trees at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center from 2-5 pm. There will be special performances and interactive activities by Skye Howell, Marcia Beckford, the Central Texas Master Naturalist, and more. This event is free to the public. More information can be found on prfdance.org.

Photo courtesy of Whisper Valley

Test drive Teslas around Austin's most sustainable master-planned community on Earth Day

Live Green

In Whisper Valley, Earth Day is more of a 24/7, 365-type celebration. As Austin's greenest and most sustainable community, it's leading the charge in planning, developing, and building residential neighborhoods and business districts that truly make the world a better place to live.

Curious about what that means? April 22 is the perfect time to stop by and see.

Whisper Valley is hosting a green home tour that day from 10 am-5 pm where you can peek inside both model and available homes — all of which are zero-energy capable and achieve a HERS rating of 7-25. That means they are roughly 75-80 percent more energy efficient than standard homes.

To up the fun factor, there will be four Teslas on hand for you to drive around the 2,067-acre Whisper Valley, as well as raffle prizes and a visit from Frank's Taco Truck (from 11 am-1 pm). The first 100 guests will even receive a free tree sapling to take home and plant.

See homes from AHA Dream Homes, GFO Home, Pacesetter Homes, Thurman Homes, and Terrata Homes. In the near future, Chesmar Homes will also be on that list. Prices start in the mid-$300s and go into the $600s.

Not only are these dwellings stunning to look at, but they also boast some incredible innovations designed at helping the planet.

Standard features include geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, Energy Star appliances, pre-wiring for EV charging, and smart home technology like home energy monitoring.

The community itself is set among 700 acres of beautiful parks, scenic trails, rolling hills, meandering streams, and quiet meadows. There's an expansive dog parks\ and several playgrounds, plus a full-featured fitness center and resort-style pool with beach entry.

There are even neighborhood organic gardens where you can help grow the fresh, local produce you'll later enjoy.

Planned for the future are village-type restaurants, retail, office areas, three school campuses, an emergency services center, and a transportation center.

Come see it all for yourself on Saturday, April 22, at 9400 Petrichor Blvd.

Whisper Valley is located just off State Highway 130 and is 20 minutes from downtown Austin, 10 minutes from the Dell and Samsung corporate campuses, and 10 minutes from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Whisper Valley home

Photo courtesy of Whisper Valley

Tour both model and available homes, like this one from Pacesetter Homes.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Austin is the 9th best U.S. city for vegans and vegetarians, new study finds

eat your greens

Austin may be home to some of the best barbecue in the city (even if some disagree) — but the Texas capital also has a growing reputation in vegan and vegetarian fare.

More plant-based restaurants are opening their doors in 2023, expanding an already solid list of vegan eateries throughout the city. And with ACL right around the corner, it's important to know where the closest vegan eats are so you're not left scrambling to find a good meal in the heat.

With that said, Austin still has some room for improvement to keep vegans full and satisfied after ranking No. 9 in WalletHub's "Best Cities for Vegans & Vegetarians" report for 2023.

The study evaluated 100 cities based on grocery affordability; diversity of and accessibility to vegan and vegetarian restaurants, farmer's markets, and community gardens; and other lifestyle factors.

Austin specifically had a high affordability ranking with the fifth-lowest cost of groceries for vegetarians out of all 100 cities in the ranking. Laredo (No. 1), Corpus Christi (No. 2), San Antonio (No. 3), and Louisville, Kentucky (No. 4) were all ahead.

As for the highest percentage of restaurants serving vegetarian options, the two North Texas cities of Irving and Plano tied with three non-Texas cities: Henderson, Nevada, Gilbert, Arizona, and Mesa, Arizona. All these made No. 1.

However, that doesn't mean the shift to embrace vegan and vegetarian cuisine in Austin isn't notable enough. Earlier in 2023, a popular Brazilian steakhouse chain "beefed" up (or down) its menu with more plant-based options in an effort to expand its customer base. And in June, venerated vegan staple and former CultureMap Tastemakers winner Counter Culture reopened as a food trailer in the back patio of Tweedy’s Bar in Central Austin.

Austin was the only Texas city to make it into the top 10. The remaining nine contenders are mostly located in West Coast states typically expected to be seen in a report on plant-based eating: California, Oregon, and Washington. On the opposite coast are two additional cities that made the list: Orlando and Miami, Florida (No. 3 and No. 8, respectively). Phoenix, Arizona (No. 5), is the only non-coastal outlier.

The top 10 most vegetarian- and vegan-friendly cities in the U.S. are:

  • No. 1 – Portland, Oregon
  • No. 2 – Los Angeles, California
  • No. 3 – Orlando, Florida
  • No. 4 – San Diego, California
  • No. 5 – Phoenix, Arizona
  • No. 6 – San Francisco, California
  • No. 7 – Seattle, Washington
  • No. 8 – Miami, Florida
  • No. 9 – Austin, Texas
  • No. 10 – Oakland, California

Eight other Texas cities made it into the top 50: Irving (No. 18), Lubbock (No. 23), Houston (No. 24), Dallas (No. 25), Plano (No. 33), San Antonio (No. 38), Corpus Christi (No. 41), and Laredo (No. 48).

The full report can be found on wallethub.com.

Austin's Zilker Botanical Garden unveils rare succulent collection at upscale Parisian picnic

Succulent Surprises

Here's one of the beautiful experiences of living in this desert-adjacent city full of weirdos: Austinites deeply value being the first to see a prominent succulent collection. Move over, private pickleball clubs — the plant lovers are getting a taste of that sweet exclusivity.

Of course, as much as succulent gardeners covet rare plants, they love to share the excitement; so it is fitting that an inaugural benefit dinner will celebrate the first-ever public viewing of the Zilker Botanical Garden Succulent Collection on November 4. Funds raised will support the garden so more people can come in and look at all its many well-cared-for plants year-round.

The High Desert Dîner en Blanc ("Dinner in White") is set to be an annual event, adapting the Parisian idea of celebrating "good food and good friends" outside. The "elevated picnic" is all about "self-expression, playfulness, and community," according to the announcement. Along with dinner, attendees will enjoy an open bar, games, and tours of the collection.

The new collection arrives courtesy of the late Bob Barth, scientist and co-founder of the Austin Cactus and Succulent Society. The social group assembles volunteers to help maintain the Botanical Garden's greenhouse, and some members will surely be in attendance at the dinner. University of Texas students may also remember Barth as their professor of Zoology (Entomology and Ornithology), and he was also a longtime member of the Travis Audubon Society.

Maintaining a 28-acre garden is not cheap — even with the help of volunteers — and Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy has raised more than $300,000 in the past year. Those funds go toward preserving the Butler Window (a remnant of a historical Austin mansion that has become a popular photo spot), working on the succulent collection, and creating visitor programming.

It also maintains a roster of 26 member organizations including very specialized groups like the First Austin African Violet Society, and groups that are there to appreciate rather than grow the garden, like Plein Air Austin.

Barth's donation also included funds to hire a curator for the succulent collection, so it will continue thriving and evolving through 2025 and hopefully beyond.

The garden requests that dinner guests wear white to stay on-theme, and refrain from wearing heels to protect the ground. Tickets ($125 per person, $225 per couple) are available at zilkergarden.org. Guests must be 21 or older.

Country's largest hot springs pool complex plans for Dallas debut

Wellness wonderland

Austin has plenty of places to swim, but the spa culture is pretty niche. Those willing to take a drive for a luxurious weekend always have the Hill Country and Dallas as options, and soon there will be a new wellness spa-amusement park: WorldSprings, a nine-acre outdoor mineral springs experience, will debut in the latter city in spring 2024.

According to a release, it will be WorldSprings' first location in Texas and the largest experience of its kind in the country.

"With pools inspired by the most famous hot springs from around the world, guests can explore WorldSprings’ 45 outdoor soaking pools including cold-plunge pools, Finnish saunas, and a spa which will include wellness therapies as well as a cafe and bar," says the release.

Specific highlights of the experience will include:

  • The Family Pool, the Dead Sea Float Pool and South Pacific Region mineral pools for all ages
  • The Asiatic, European, and Americas region mineral pools for those 18 years old and up
  • More pools, with temperatures that range from warm to hot and from cool to ice cold
  • The Spa, with a menu of body treatments and massages
  • The Sanctuary, offering sound baths and yoga, breathwork, and guided meditation classes
  • Aqua classes, including Aqua Aerobics, Aqua Sculpt, Aqua Yoga and Aqua Float
  • Performance-enhancing treatments including cryotherapy, hyperbaric chambers, and compression therapy
  • WorldSprings Café, from which guests can order food and drinks poolside with their smartphones and pay with a wristband

WorldSprings Grandscape The ColonyThere'll be adults-only pools and family-friendly pools.Rendering courtesy of WorldSprings

The wellness offerings were created by WorldSprings' in-house functional medicine practitioner, Dr. Sara Gottfried, the release says.

Of course, there are not actual hot springs located beneath Grandscape. Each pool will be "meticulously crafted to mirror the mineral content of legendary springs from around the world," explains WorldSprings.

Memberships and three-hour passes will be available, "priced for all to enjoy as a weekly ritual for well-being," they say, although pricing has not yet been disclosed. A limited number of discounted Founding Memberships will be available starting early next year.

”Our ambition is that WorldSprings will democratize wellness by opening locations throughout the country,” says Rob Kramer, managing partner of WorldSprings' owner Off Road Capital, in the release.

The Dallas-area park follows locations in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and a similar concept in La Verkin, Utah, near Zion National Park.

Anticipated opening date is March 2024.

WorldSprings GrandscapeA spa will offer massages and body treatments.Rendering courtesy of WorldSprings

WorldSprings Grandscape will be at 3240 Plano Pkwy., The Colony, joining the booming 433-acre center that includes not only shopping and dining but an escape room, immersive entertainment venue, amphitheater, and more.

"Bringing WorldSprings to this ideal location is a remarkable milestone,” says Justin Foley, general manager of the upcoming Grandscape location, in the release. “As general manager, I'm honored and excited to be a part of such an amazing community and to unveil an exclusive outdoor mineral springs experience – a first of its kind destination in Texas."