If you have a per-conceived mind picture of Indianapolis, it may conjure up more visions of fast cars and crowded stadiums than green meetings, community gardens and electric cars. But this forward thinking city is quickly becoming a leading contender as one of the nation’s most sustainable communities.
Making A Splash
A prime example of the city’s growing commitment to sustainability happened in July, when Indiana University’s Natatorium hosted the 2016 U.S. Olympic Diving Trials. While the event drew more than 10,000 spectators over eight days, the facility itself achieved impressive results with a 93% waste diversion rate or “zero waste” status. The bulk of their post-consumer waste was composted and/or recycled, leaving only 7% headed for the landfill. According to Jessica G. Davis, Director of the University’s Office of Sustainability, Indiana has often lagged behind the coastal states on these sorts of efforts. “We wanted to skip that lag phase, bring it to Indiana, and achieve it as soon as we could. The timing of the Natatorium renovation completion and hosting the Olympic dive trials seemed like a phenomenal platform to debut an initiative of this scale,” she says. “While I won’t be so bold as to say we set the standard for the entire city, I am confident that we are a powerful influencer and are utilizing our knowledge and expertise to provide examples of best sustainable practices.”
Spreading The Word
From big events, to the smallest neighborhoods, being green has become more than street corner gospel in Indy. The move to support community gardens, teaching residents techniques for home composting and sharing knowledge about something as simple as washing your car (do you think to patronize a car wash that recycles its water?) all fall under the city’s Office of Sustainability. Since 2014, the SustainIndy grant program has awarded $95,000 in small grants for neighborhood-level sustainability initiatives. That just begins to set the stage for what you can experience all around the city.
Getting Around Town
Indy has been selected as a bicycle-friendly city each year since 2009 by the League of American Bicyclists. The city boasts more than 70 miles of trails, including the renowned Indianapolis Cultural Trail and 90 miles of bike lanes that support clean, green multimodal transportation. Convention attendees can easily navigate Indy on two wheels, using the Indiana Pacers Bikeshare program. Implemented in 2014, the program offers 250 bikes to rent for short trips from 25 stations around downtown.
If you’d rather drive than ride, the car sharing service, Blue Indy, launched just last year and features North America’s largest all-electric fleet. At peak operation, the company will have some 500 cars to rent for short trips at 200 rental stations around the city. And now, even Indy’s most famous autos are getting into the green game. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is home to the largest solar farm at any sporting facility in the world. Its 39,312 solar modules over 68 acres generate 9.0 megawatts of power, which is equal to offsetting 10,288 tons of carbon annually or powering 1,000 homes. This helps offset the carbon emissions intrinsic to auto racing and the world-famous Indy 500.
More Than Green Meetings
At the Indiana Convention Center & Lucas Oil Stadium, a program of sustainable practices are making meetings there greener. But the center’s commitment to the greater community had even renovations and expansions at the facility playing into the sustainability picture. During the demolition of the RCA Dome, large portions of the roof were donated to Indy Parks to be used for shelters and canopies, while local charities benefitted from the donation of facility furniture, kitchen equipment, televisions and more.
See Also: 5 Off-Site Venues That Bring Indy 500 Magic To Meetings Year-Round
Indy has been recognized as a Tree City by the Arbor Day Foundation for more than 25 years. Since 2006, the City and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful have planted more than 50,000 trees that result in cleaner air and more beautiful environs for every resident and visitor. Mayor Hogsett committed to the National Wildlife Federation's Mayors' Monarch Pledge and launched the City of Indianapolis Pollinator Partnership in July. This Partnership is made up of three city agencies and seven community organizations committed to expanding and protecting native plant habitat (green spaces) around the city. The National Wildlife Federation has recognized Indianapolis as one of the top 10 cities for wildlife. In fact, Indy is one of just 50 STAR-certified communities, recognized for becoming more resilient, equitable and sustainable.
While the Diving Trials were a great example of the many green initiatives happening around Indy, they simply portend what’s to come for a city that’s solidly focused on a brighter, more eco-friendly future.
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