The Mashup

(Psssst. Think for a minute about what you love best about this city that we all share. Now hold onto that thought for a paragraph.)

Welcome to the Current’s annual Best of San Antonio issue! It’s a fantastic issue, crammed full of superior SA, thanks to all of you who took time to vote. Chances are, even with 100 Readers’ Picks and circa 50 Critics’ Picks, we missed your favorite whatever — bartender, park, tattoo parlor, mechanic — but maybe you’ll find some useful recommendations from your fellow citizens and us, your humble newspaper staff: a young filmmaker to keep an eye on, a happy hour to frequent, a great place to throw your 5-year-old’s birthday party.

Or maybe not, in which case please take a moment to email me a suggested category for next year’s Best of San Antonio issue. If we use your idea, we’ll send you a surprise freebie in the mail. In the meantime, enjoy the 2007 winners responsibly (best margarita: Chacho & Chalucci’s) and don’t forget to devote time to politics, because the road to hell is paved with short attention spans.

Example: The official Fiesta Earth Day event was celebrated at Woodlawn Park last Saturday, kicking off a week of willful irresponsibility. I’m sure some folks view it as serendipitous — what better time to talk about conspicuous consumption and throwaway culture than when we’re knee-deep in roadies and glow necklaces? — but how many San Antonians will remember to make eliminating the insidious plastic bag a priority next week?

I spent part of last weekend at a certain inner-city park that is a three-time winner in this Best of SA issue; above you’ll see the souvenir I brought home. This picture could just as well have been taken along the River Walk, where ducklings often have to paddle between styrofoam cups, beer bottles, and Coke cans in the shadow of Club Giraud.

It doesn’t have to be this way. At the end of March, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted to ban petroleum-based plastic bags at local grocery stores with more than $2 million in annual sales. In six months, shoppers will have to take home their goods in paper or reusable sacks, eliminating an estimated 180 million pieces of nonbiodegradable trash from the system. CNN reported that a decade-long initiative to promote plastic-bag recycling had achieved only a 1-percent success rate. The SF lawmaker who pushed the measure told CNN that it could save 450,000 gallons of oil a year (suggesting that environmental activists will find increasing political common ground with the energy-independence movement).

SF is the first American city to take a stand against a piece of trash so ubiquitous and so kite-like it could replace the turkey as our national bird. But several European governments have already done so, as have smaller communities from India to Canada (no reports yet of societies collapsing as a result). Portland and Austin are flirting with the idea. And while some of us will miss the whimsical art created when branches and plastic bags meet (and the handy doggie-doo sacks, sigh), the only folks kicking and screaming should be the plastic-products industry. Plastic bags didn’t become a part of our everyday life until the ’80s according to, so it’s only since the Ronald Reagan Morning in America era (hmmm …) that we’ve learned to run through as many as 1 trillion of the ugly things a year. Of course, some 4,100 jobs rely on the petrochemical-rich Gulf Coast’s plastic-bag industry, according to the Houston Chronicle, so expect the screaming to be loud.

California isn’t going as far as its famous city on the bay, but it is requiring all large grocers to offer reusable bags by July 1 — a great idea that originated at small eco-friendly stores and strangely enough has become an upscale branding opportunity  at Whole Foods and Central Market. Late last year, H-E-B began selling canvas bags for just under $4 apiece at seven local stores according to the Express-News, but its vanquished local rival Albertson’s is offering them for 99 cents in San Luis Obispo — three more bags for the same price. Let’s not settle for half-measures on this one. Next time you’re at H-E-B, ask them to stock affordable reusable bags. And as soon as Fiesta’s over, call your City Council reps (or favorite candidates), and ask them to follow San Francisco’s lead.