“Keep Austin Weird”. Their slogan says it all. Where can you find cowboy hats and boots mixed among a bohemian hipster crowd…Austin. It’s not like the rest of Texas. Rid yourself of all preconceived notions about Texans. No, people don’t ride through towns on horses (usually) and there aren’t tumbleweeds blowing through the streets (well maybe out west). What you don’t know about Austin, Texas is that it’s a very eco-friendly city. Exploring Austin is easy, and lucky for you I have some of the eco-friendly must do’s while you’re in the capitol of Texas.
To start off your day, I suggest stopping by the Bouldin Creek Café on 1st street. It’s one of my favorite places to grab a coffee with a friend and catch up. Bouldin Creek Café is known for its wholesome vegetarian food and it maintains an artsy laid-back vibe in an area that is commercially growing. I specifically come for the locally roasted, organic, fair traded coffee– more specifically “the cortado”. “The cortado” is a magical concoction of espresso with a small amount of milk… and boy, will it get your day started. If being super charged by high concentrations of espresso is not your thing, there are many more options of coffee to try as well as tasty vegan eats to choose from. Another great breakfast spot is Kerbey Lane Café. Good food at an affordable price, Kerbey Lane Café partners with local ranchers and farmers to provide fresh ingredients and to help the local economy. Open 24/7 (except for its original location on Kerbey Lane), Kerbey Lane Café is a good place to go for some late night cravings.
Austin is located in the “hill country” of Texas and is surrounded by many trails that are great for hikes. One of my favorite places to get away and reconnect with nature is the Green Belt. Considered an “urban oasis”, the Green Belt has about 7.2 miles of trails for biking, hiking, rock climbing, running, and swimming. Prior to the non-stop rain Texas experienced a few months ago, the rivers that the trails followed were bone dry, you could walk across the rocky beds. Now, after the apocalyptic rain we experienced for a month straight, the river is full to the brim and it feels wonderful to hop in for a swim after a long, hot hike.
At one of the popular entrances to the trail is a small taco shop that is heaven on earth. Taco Deli serves a variety of delicious tacos. One of my personal favorites is the Cowboy Taco which is a beef taco with grilled corn, caramelized onions, and roasted peppers, topped with guacamole and queso fresco. Wipe the drool from your mouth, yes it’s that good!
Texas in the summer time can be unbearable. Imagine walking into an oven preheated to 400 degrees. To escape the heat, I like to go to Barton Springs. Like the Green Belt, Barton Springs is an “urban oasis”. A refreshing and relaxing watering hole where Austinites and tourists gather to cool off. It’s a natural spring that was dammed off and is a federally protected habitat for the Barton Springs Salamander (Although I have yet to see these elusive salamanders). To give you some warning, the water is VERY cold. I do not do well with cold water and it usually takes me a good ten minutes to ease myself into the icy waters. It is refreshing and a must do when in Austin, but just be prepared for the initial shock. The fee to get in is minimal, $3 for residents and $4 for non-residents. There is a grassy sloping hill near the pool that is a prime location for sunbathing. It’s also an optimal site for viewing free art aka all the tattoos that people expose while sunbathing.
Taking a break from swimming, I like to go up the street to Juiceland. I’m not big into juicing, but I make an exception at Juiceland. It’s the original location and is hidden on a hillside along Barton Springs Rd. If you’re looking to get juiced up this is the place to go. Juiceland buys local and organic ingredients to make these delicious concoctions– everything from light and refreshing smoothies to your hard core cleanse juices. The company also works hard to make sure its waste is compostable and that compostable products are used.
If you’re looking to go shopping here are some eco-friendly options that I like to splurge on:
Located on south 1st street is Teysha. Their shoes are absolutely gorgeous. The boots are fair-traded, hand made by artisans who’s “purpose is to connect people through art, community, and culture, and cultivate a more vibrant world.” Indeed these boots are a works of art. Their colorful woven patterns can be custom made and are the perfect accessory for any festival attendee. A portion of their proceeds go to the Global Village Initiative.
Across town on Manor Rd. is Raven and Lily. An eco-friendly jewelry, clothing and accessories store where they are dedicated to empowering women through design. They accomplish this by employing impoverished and at risk women, in several different countries and the US, with fair trade wages. One of their lines of jewelry I especially like, is made by Ethiopian artisans. They use melted bullet casings to create beautifully dainty necklaces and rings.
Now we arrive to one of my favorite streets in Austin, Congress Avenue. This whole stretch of road, running south from the capital building, is full of cute artsy shops and restaurants. On South Congress (SoCo) you can find an assortment of shops and restaurants that are picture perfect.
Some of the shops on South Congress I like to pop into are Parts and Labor which supports local Texan artisans with selling handmade products. You can find all of your cute Texas tchotchkes here from “Death + Texas” tanks to hand made soaps.
Another store that is a must on SoCo is TOMS. Located in an old converted house, the Tom’s store is a cozy place to grab one of their fair trade coffees. Of course you have all of your TOMS gear from shoes to sunglasses. When I popped in last time, they were about to show Ferris Bueller’s Day off on their front porch. Comfy pillows and throws were all over. It’s an inviting place to come and chill after a long day.
To top your day off, I would go check out Hopdoddy Burger Bar, which is located across from TOMS on South Congress. Hopdoddy partners with local farmers and ranchers providing fresh, all natural ingredients. 95% of their waste is composted or recycled by Organics by Gosh and Wandering River Recycling. They serve some really tasty burgers (I personally like their Turkey burger), but the downside is, the wait to get in is usually long. I would suggest eating at the bar or taking it to go.
Finally, a must do for any person coming to visit, is to go see the bats exodus from South Congress Bridge. Yes, bats. Millions and millions of Mexican free tailed bats live underneath the South Congress Bridge and exodus roughly around dusk from March to November. People line up along the bridge and underneath to watch the bats shoot out from underneath the bridge to start feasting on insects. It is both an awe inspiring, horrifying sight. But why is this is important you ask? Well the bats are vital to the environment for many reasons. They keep the pest population under control, they contribute to pollination and seed dispersal. Because of human activity, bat populations are being threatened. This need to protect the bat habitats is the main focus of the Statesman Bat Observation Center.
There are so many more eco-friendly sustainable activities to do in Austin. The list could go on and on. Hopefully whenever you plan your visit, you will add some of these stops to your itinerary. I mean… a day full of tacos, smoothies, hiking, swimming, eco-friendly shopping, and bat-watching?? What’s not to love?
Photos by: Shane Henderson
Anna Terry attended Texas A&M University where she received her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Communication. She is based out of Austin, TX and is a Marketing Assistant for Ecohabitude. Anna writes for Ecohabitude’s blog and hopes to inspire others to live a socially conscious lifestyle with easy, fun, stylish tips to incorporate into their everyday life.
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