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People looking to travel to a sustainable city probably don’t have Texas spots at the top of their lists. Images of oil, cars, and blasting air conditioners spring up. The Texas power grid, no one need remind us, is barely hanging on.

But Texas blew other states away for lowest carbon footprint per capita, landing Houston at the top of the list compiled by travel blog Park Sleep Fly. Austin followed (No. 3), then San Antonio (No. 4) and Dallas (No. 9). Only Florida appeared twice in the top 10, and none matched Texas with four cities.

Among the 50 most visited in the U.S., those with the lowest carbon footprint are:

1. Houston
2. Los Angeles
3. Austin
4. San Antonio
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Salt Lake City
7. Phoenix
8. Miami
9. Dallas
10. Portland, Oregon

Houston is not exactly a green place, with less-than-ideal utilization of public transportation. It and Dallas tied for third place among least sustainable cities in the same report.

“Public transit isn’t the most popular mode of transportation in Houston, but it does exist,” an online publication called TripSavvy drably admits. The city takes credit for employing “nearly one third” of the nation’s oil and gas extraction workers.

On the renewable side, however, Houston claims more than 100 solar energy companies, and at least half of its corporate research and development centers pursue “energy technology and innovation.” And its huge population spreads the load, leaving only 14.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per resident — the same as Los Angeles. Big cities seem to have an advantage in this rating system.

Austin is just behind Houston at 15 metric tons per capita, neck-and-neck with San Antonio at 15.2. These two cities have smaller populations to distribute their total footprint, but are generally seen as eco-friendly. Austin got a big head start in 1991 with the introduction of the Austin Energy Green Building program — the first of its kind in the whole country — which created an evaluation system for individual building sustainability that’s still in use. Dallas' carbon footprint is the largest of the Texas cities in the ranking, at 16.5 metric tons per capita.

As such a multifaceted issue (especially tied up in economic concerns), sustainability is hard to pin down from city to city. The multiplicity of this list is yet another indicator that Texas as a whole is a much more nuanced place than many people think.

Photo courtesy of Brendan van Son

San Antonio steps to top of list of U.S. cities with lowest carbon footprints

By the Footprint

People looking to travel to a sustainable city probably don’t have Texas spots at the top of their lists. Images of oil, cars, and blasting air conditioners spring up. The Texas power grid, no one need remind us, is barely hanging on.

But Texas blew other states away for lowest carbon footprint per capita, landing Houston at the top of the list compiled by travel blog Park Sleep Fly. Austin followed (No. 3), then San Antonio (No. 4) and Dallas (No. 9). Only Florida appeared twice in the top 10, and none matched Texas with four cities.

Among the 50 most visited in the U.S., those with the lowest carbon footprint are:

1. Houston
2. Los Angeles
3. Austin
4. San Antonio
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Salt Lake City
7. Phoenix
8. Miami
9. Dallas
10. Portland, Oregon

Houston is not exactly a green place, with less-than-ideal utilization of public transportation. It and Dallas tied for third place among least sustainable cities in the same report.

“Public transit isn’t the most popular mode of transportation in Houston, but it does exist,” an online publication called TripSavvy drably admits. The city takes credit for employing “nearly one third” of the nation’s oil and gas extraction workers.

On the renewable side, however, Houston claims more than 100 solar energy companies, and at least half of its corporate research and development centers pursue “energy technology and innovation.” And its huge population spreads the load, leaving only 14.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per resident — the same as Los Angeles. Big cities seem to have an advantage in this rating system.

Austin is just behind Houston at 15 metric tons per capita, neck-and-neck with San Antonio at 15.2. These two cities have smaller populations to distribute their total footprint, but are generally seen as eco-friendly. Austin got a big head start in 1991 with the introduction of the Austin Energy Green Building program — the first of its kind in the whole country — which created an evaluation system for individual building sustainability that’s still in use. Dallas' carbon footprint is the largest of the Texas cities in the ranking, at 16.5 metric tons per capita.

As such a multifaceted issue (especially tied up in economic concerns), sustainability is hard to pin down from city to city. The multiplicity of this list is yet another indicator that Texas as a whole is a much more nuanced place than many people think.

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ERCOT requests Texans conserve power to avoid rolling blackouts

Blackout News

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is asking Texas residents to conserve power in order to avert rolling blackouts.

According to a release, no outages are currently anticipated, but as extreme hot weather continues driving record power demand across Texas, the power grid operator is issuing a Conservation Appeal for Wednesday, July 13 between 2-8 pm, requesting that residents and businesses voluntarily conserve electricity during this time.

Conservation is a reliability tool ERCOT has deployed more than four dozen times since 2008 to successfully manage grid operations. This notification is issued when projected reserves may fall below 2300 MW for 30 minutes or more.

On July 11, ERCOT asked residents and businesses to cut back on energy use between 2-8 pm, when record temperatures were expected.

The dire situation is the result of two factors happening at the same time:

  • a record heat wave with high demand
  • wind power is generating less energy than usual

ERCOT is suggesting that we turn up our thermostat a degree or two, and postpone running major appliances or pool pumps.

A spokesperson said we are not yet in an emergency situation, but they're asking for voluntary energy reduction where possible.

"If rotating outages became necessary, ERCOT would direct transmission and distribution companies to shed load/reduce demand in their areas/regions," the spokesperson said. "Each area has an amount they would need to reduce demand by. It is up to them to manage the rotating outage if it were to occur. At this time, we do not anticipate this happening."

Rendering courtesy of GameTime

Expansive new San Antonio park sets sail with inclusive playground

Move Yer Booty

“New park” might be a stretch for something that’s already been in the works for years, but that’s what San Antonio will be getting soon. City officials aim to have the first phase of Classen-Steubing Ranch Park open to the public as early as the end of summer 2022.

Funds for these primary developments came from the 2017 city bond program, although some development funding came from Marvin and April Chang, who lost their 3-year-old, Mitchell, to drowning in 2018. The Changs' funding spurred many other contributions over time. They are donating the playground equipment and safety ground cover, along with covering installation costs, while the city manages infrastructure around the playground and through the rest of the park.

"Personally, [I think] the park feels peaceful and like untouched Texas," Chang wrote to CultureMap. "This is how the meadows around San Antonio looked 100 years ago. It is natural Texas in its simplest but most beautiful form."

A playground dubbed Mitchell’s Landing is the main attraction, an expansive themed space that honors Mitchell’s love of pirates and invites all kids for “inclusive play” on a pirate ship, a “thick marsh” and “abandoned Spanish Mission." The playground’s website shares that it is designated a National Demonstration Site by PlayCore, a playground equipment company running initiatives to promote “evidence-based best practices” for play as an educational and community-building practice.

The list of 19 toys, activities, and accessibility considerations on the playground span physical and emotional needs, addressing overstimulation as well as seeking to entertain or teach. A merry-go-round structure is built into the safety ground cover to allow wheels to roll safely on, and "zero gravity expression swings" come in a regular swing shape and one with a higher back for better torso support. Another circular swing projects colors onto the ground for added sensory stimulation, and a "sensory cove climber" provides a small safe space for kids feeling overstimulated, without having to leave the playground.

These play structures were mostly developed by GameTime, a playground equipment supplier, including a brand-new slide design with a safety transition bench. The city also gave input on what it could afford and maintain into the future. But the most meaningful designs came from Mitchell's older brother, Evan, who contributed a beach design and a hammock swing.

Outside Mitchell's Landing, the park will also feature an open play field, two pavilions, an education center with a view, three baseball fields, and a concrete path leaving large areas untouched. The paths will connect with trails through the neighboring Stone Oak Park. Although the entire property spans 204 acres, the developed space is contained to 43 acres.

Park renovations have been thanks to collaboration between a dizzying list of local officials, private citizens, existing conditions both natural and man-made, and family ideals.

Photo courtesy of the McNay Art Museum

Arts foundation infuses McNay Art Museum with $750,000 in funding

Smooth Operator

Home to more than 22,000 artworks, the McNay Art Museum announced it is receiving a $750,000 grant over the next two years, to go toward operating funds courtesy of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is another episode in an ongoing relationship between the two arts entities, following a $1.5 million contribution over 18 months in 2020, for pandemic relief. The Art Museum Futures Fund noted that its recipients would, among other qualities, exhibit “an exceptional commitment to local communities.”

"We are honored and humbled by the Mellon Foundation's renewed support of our work," said McNay director and CEO Richard Aste, as quoted in a press release. "Thanks to this major funding, the McNay will continue to bring beauty, hope, inspiration, and reflection to South Texans and beyond through one of the finest, most inclusive art experiences anywhere." The museum announced June 2 that Aste would leave his post of six years to relocate to Los Angeles in January 2023.

Although the museum did not release a detailed spending plan, it pledged in the release to use the operating funds to “further advance its mission of engaging a diverse community in the discovery and enjoyment of the visual arts.” Some of the museum’s assets toward this goal are the distinct “Southwestern Art” and “Contemporary Latino Prints” collections, affordable or free events, and free admission every Thursday and first Sundays, sponsored by H-E-B and the Dickson-Allen Foundation, respectively.

The release also drew attention to the Landscape Master Plan, which covers 25 acres that are always free for public use. The plan aims to continue filling the space with new sculptures and sustainable landscaping, while increasing accessibility for all visitors.

For more information about visiting the McNay Art Museum, including FAQs, exhibits, and some digitally-reproduced collection items, visit mcnayart.org.

Photo by Getty Images

San Antonio cruises to the middle on ranking of bike-friendly cities

Bicycling News

A new survey on bikeability ranks San Antonio No. 30 in a list of the top 50 cities in the U.S.

San Antonio has a bikeability score of 45. It has 0.2 percent of workers who commute by bicycle compared to the average city's 0.5 percent, with 0.7 bike shops per 100,000 people and 0.8 percent bike trails per 100,000 people.

The study was released by Clever, a real estate data company, and analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. National Centers for Environmental Information, Walk Score, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Vision Zero Network, Google Trends, and Yelp.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the West is best when it comes to bike-friendly cities — one-third of the 15 most bike-friendly cities on the list are on the West Coast. California is the best state for bicyclists, with 27 percent of the top 15 cities located in The Golden State.

Portland, Oregon is the No. 1 most bike-friendly city, despite its reputation for rain, with a bikeability score of 83 out of 100. It has the most bicycle shops per capita (3.5 per 100,000 residents) of any city on the list.

Additionally, workers in Portland are four times more likely to commute via bicycle than workers in the average city: 2 percent of workers in Portland commute to work by bicycle, compared to 0.5 percent in the average metro studied.

The top 10:

  1. Portland
  2. San Francisco
  3. San Jose
  4. Minneapolis
  5. Sacramento
  6. Denver
  7. Washington, D.C.
  8. Boston
  9. Salt Lake City
  10. Seattle

New York just almost made the top 10, coming in at No. 11.

Elsewhere in Texas
Scoring 49 out of 100, Dallas scored dead last at No. 50, making it the least bike-friendly city in the U.S. With 80 percent fewer bike commuters than the average city, and only 0.1 percent of Dallas workers commute by bicycle compared to the average city's 0.5 percent, the survey also found that Dallas has fewer bike-friendly amenities, with 75 percent fewer bike shops (0.3 per 100,000 people) and 16 percent fewer bike trails (1.4 per 100,000 people) than the average city.

Even Houston beat Dallas, coming in at No. 29. Houston has a bikeability score of 49. It has 0.3 percent of workers who commute by bicycle, a little below the average city's 0.5 percent, with 0.4 bike shops per 100,000 people and 0.3 percent bike trails per 100,000 people.

Austin's bikeability score was 54, tying with the national average, and placing Austin at No. 16 nationally and tops in Texas. Austin surpasses the average city's commuters (0.5 percent) with 0.7 percent workers commuting, and the city has above-average bike-friendly amenities, with a few more bike shops (1.1 per 100,000 people) than the average city (1.0 per 100,000 people).

Cities that rank highly not only have bicycle resources such as bike share stations and bike rental shops, they also promote transit safety: Nearly every city in the top 15 has made a city-wide commitment to bicycle safety and transit safety in general.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that cities across the U.S. saw a surge in cycling traffic after the pandemic began, prompting a bicycle shortage, as many Americans found cycling to be a reprieve from at-home isolation or a socially distant solution to their commutes.

Cycling is seen as a good way to get a low-impact workout while also reducing your transportation costs, and the 15 most bike-friendly cities have also fostered interest in cycling and bike-related activities.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

San Antonio Missions hit home run with new owners, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio's minor league baseball team scores new owners, including Texas sports legends. San Antonio's minor league baseball team is back to being locally owned — by some big names.

2. H-E-B unveils new line of merchandise for super fans, available exclusively at this store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise, in celebration of its 117th anniversary and in honor of its first store.

3. San Antonio market continues to see prices going up and sales going down. San Antonio home sales dropped 19 percent from October 2021.

4. San Antonio Rodeo wrangles even more musical acts for star-studded 2023. Turnpike Troubadours joined the already impressive lineup for the 2023 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.

5. San Antonio children's theater adapts timeless children's book for the holidays. Magik Theatre celebrates The Velveteen Rabbit as a Christmas story, with inclusive special performances.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

---

The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

New self-guided tour showcases iconic Fort Worth Stockyards' many Hollywood ties

Tinseltown in Cowtown

A new self-guided tour showcasing the Fort Worth Stockyards’ many star-studded appearances in cinema throughout the years recently debuted in time for the 16th annual Lone Star Film Festival, which took place earlier this month in the Stockyards for the first time.

Called Stars of the Stockyards, the eight-stop, go-at-your-own pace walking tour guides folks to famous film sites where celebrities have stepped foot in front of Hollywood cameras. Visitors to the Stockyards can access the PDF tour map on their smart phones via QR codes (no app required) posted throughout the district, namely at hotels and tour kiosks.

"The Stockyards is a historic and celebrated destination for many reasons, but one that may be lesser known is its popularity as a filming location for some of our favorite movies and TV series," said Ethan Cartwright, VP of marketing for Stockyards Heritage Development Co.

The tour and corresponding QR codes are a permanent addition to the district, he said.

Stops on the map include the iconic White Elephant Saloon, a hotbed for Hollywood performances including several by legendary actor and martial artist Chuck Norris in the longtime TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger when the watering hole was portrayed as the fictional CD Bar. The White Elephant was also graced by country music superstar Tim McGraw and Academy Award-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton for their appearances in Paramount Plus’ hit series 1883.

Also in 1883 and featured on the tour is Hookers Grill, hidden in the less flashy West side of Exchange Ave. The burger shack transformed into a gambling den in the show called The Texas House of Liquor & Sport. It’s the only building in the Stockyards that preserved the façade constructed by 1883’s production team. During operating hours, customers can order at the outdoor burger window and dine at patio tables within the two-story structure.

Cowtown Coliseum is marked on the map for its appearances in the 1983 film Tough Enough, where actor Dennis Quaid played an amateur boxer. It’s also the home of the final rodeo scene in the 1992 movie Pure Country starring country music legend George Strait.

Billy Bob’s Texas, the Stockyards Hotel, and even unassuming historic cattle pens also make the list on the tour, along with notations for the Texas Trail of Fame, which features more than 240 bronze markers honoring contributors for preserving and perpetuating the Western way of life.

Veteran actors Sam Elliot and Robert Duvall, both stars in the megahit TV series Yellowstone, are among the most recent Texas Trail of Fame inductees.

For more information and to get started on the tour, go here.