Lions and tigers and sustainability?

Just another day at the Indianapolis Zoo.

Since its opening in 1964, the zoo has committed itself to green practices and encouraged others to adopt a “greener” way of life.

Zoo Conservation Public Relations Specialist Melanie Laurendine says it’s vital for the organization to be a leader in conservation.

“Our community looks to us to set a good example for sustaining a healthy environment in Indianapolis and far beyond. Our President and CEO, Mike Crowther, often quotes Baba Dioum, ‘In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.'”

Melanie Laurendine I The Indianapolis Zoo

One of the ways the zoo maintains its commitment to the environment is through its use of green energy. Since 2008, the entire park has been powered by renewable energy thanks to the Indianapolis Power & Light Company’s (IPL) Green Power Option, which helps support the development of renewable energy sources such as wind farms and biomass/landfill gas facilities. Residential and commercial customers who take part in the program can choose what percentage of their electricity comes from these environmentally friendly sources, in increments of 25, 50 or 100 percent.

Green Roof on Top of The Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center

The green roof on top of the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center catches about 70 percent of an average day’s rainfall, with the remaining runoff going into 10,000-gallon storage tanks for irrigation. Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Zoo.

One of Laurendine’s favorite green energy projects is the biodiesel initiative. Started in 2015, this initiative converts used oil from its cafes into fuel for its vehicles. All told, the project can generate up to 32 gallons of fuel every two days, with the potential to produce as much as 500 gallons of biodiesel every year.

Sample of Biofuel Used at the Indianapolis Zoo

Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Zoo.

“Not only is this initiative reusing material that would otherwise go to waste, biodiesel also produces fewer emissions than traditional petroleum-based fuel, helping the zoo continue to reduce its carbon footprint,” Laurendine says.

In addition to its green energy initiatives, the Indianapolis Zoo maintains robust recycling and compost programs. The zoo recycles paper, aluminum, corrugated cardboard, newspaper and mulch, as well as landscaping and tree trimmings as food for some of the animals. Employees and guests also have access to recycling containers for all kinds of items, including:

  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Cans
  • Wood
  • Metal
  • Electronics
  • Batteries
  • Cellphones
  • Pallets
  • Paint
  • Solvents
  • Lightbulbs
  • Plants
  • Cooking oil

There’s also a Zoo Doo program in which herbivore manure is taken to a special facility in Indianapolis where it’s composted and turned into fertilizer. The zoo doesn’t make any money by composting, but the process saves funds and keeps organic waste out of the landfill.

Apart from its usual recycling program, the zoo also hosts Power Recycling Weekends. Held twice a year, these events allow local residents to drop off their old electronics, phone books, paper products, household items and more in the parking lot.

Power Recycling Weekend at The Indianapolis Zoo

Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Zoo.

Last spring, the event kept nearly 93 tons of reusable and recyclable materials out of area landfills.

“It’s great to see everyone involved in aspects of our green initiatives,” Laurendine said. “Whether it’s something as simple as our visitors recycling their map on the way out, joining us at a recycling event or learning more about how to use 100 percent green power for their homes.”

Budget Dumpster is your community-focused source for a dumpster rental in Indianapolis. This article is part of a series spotlighting organizations that are making a difference in the communities we serve. If you know of another great organization, let us know in the comments!