city guide: indianapolis.

Zero Waste City Guide: Indianapolis, Indiana

I love Indianapolis. Granted, I grew up there, but really it's a hidden, vibrant Midwestern gem - there's so much to do there, so many cultural activities to check out, wonderful places to eat, hip streets to stroll. In case you're traveling there, moved there recently, or live in the area but are looking for new things to do, I've put together a guide to my favorite zero waste-friendly activities and eateries in the area.

DO

-100 Acres: A fantastic, rotating art gallery featuring larger works built into an outdoor setting. Such a fun place to explore in the warmer months.

Broad Ripple: This small neighborhood boasts quite a few of my favorite spots. Go for a stroll, peek into stores, and stop for a bite to eat. It's right along the Monon Trail path, and it's especially vibrant in the summer.

-Eagle Creek Park: Rent a kayak, go for a sail, take a hike. Escape the city at this gorgeous nature preserve, the largest park inside a city in the United States. It's beautiful in all seasons, but I especially love a long walk in the woods here for beating the heat in the summer and watching the leaves change in the fall.

-Mass Avenue: On Massachusetts Avenue downtown, stop into eating eateries, coffee bars, and locally owned shops. The wide sidewalks and hip businesses make this a great destination when you don't have anything specific to do in mind but want to wander around downtown. You can eat amazing tacos at Bakersfield (ask for them without paper to stay zero waste!), burgers at 317 Burger, or pizza at the hometown favorite Bazbeaux. If you're there in August, catch the Mass Avenue Crit - cyclists race in the evening under the setting sun and spotlights, and it's fun to stand on the sidelines cheering them on.

-Monon & Cultural Trail: Broad, beautiful, well maintained paths for walking, running, and biking. They traverse the whole length of the city and are a local favorite. I love to use them to walk to dinner, go for a run, or on a bike ride to explore somewhere new.

-Swing dancing: On Friday nights, try swing dancing in the Fountain Square neighborhood just south of downtown. You can also grab a bite to eat nearby or go duckpin bowling.

-And, a few more ideas: Watch an indie movie at Keystone Arts Cinema, take a class at the Indianapolis Art Center, stop by a street fair in the summer, or rent a paddle boat or gondola on the canal downtown.

EAT

-Brics: This ice cream shop is owned by family friends of mine, who work to minimize their business’s environmental impact. Tasting spoons, water glasses, ice cream dishes, and utensils are all reusable. They also compost organic matter, such as lemon peels and coffee grinds. If that weren’t enough, their ice cream is delicious (try the blackberry!) and they have a spacious outdoor area - it's just a really lovely, locally owned space. Ride your bike there on the Monon Trail, or walk over after a dinner in Broad Ripple.

-Mama Carolla's: If you love Italian food, visit this cozy, small gem tucked away in an erstwhile house. Their food is top notch, but the ambiance is even better - you can sit in the dark, romantic interior, or outside under patio lights in the warmer months.

-Public Greens: A small gem of a restaurant with a seasonal, veggie-packed menu. They keep a small farm whose harvest they use in their restaurant, compost their food waste, and donate their profits to feeding hungry kids in the area. Go with friends for lunch or dinner, and try a few dishes from their menu of small plates - I especially like their salads and quinoa chili. With reusable silverware, plates, and cups, your meal will be zero waste if you tote along a cloth napkin of your own. Also try its sister restaurants Petit Chou and Napolese, known for French-inspired brunch and incredible wood-fired pizza, respectively (bonus: they both compost too!).

-SoBro Café: This small lunch and dinner eatery features organic, local, and seasonal food, with tasty options for meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike. As long as you bring along your own napkin, your meal will be zero waste. And, you can stop by the nearby Upland Tasting Room to sample local craft beers before or after your meal to make an evening of it.

-The Garden Table: One of my friends jokingly calls this eatery "The Vegetable Patch" - their menu is packed with fresh, seasonal items that are nutritionally packed but gloriously tasty. It might be the cutest little spot in Indianapolis, and their cheery decor always puts me in a good mood - just what a breakfast should do, yes? (Side note: their juices come packaged in individual plastic bottles, so you may want to forego those).

-And, a few other local favorites to visit: Bluebeard (cozy, upscale lunch and dinner), Metazoa (locally brewed craft beer, and they donate a portion of their profits to animal and wildlife organizations!), Milktooth (donuts and other breakfast offerings), and Yats (heavenly cajun food - be sure to bring our own utensils to skip the plastic!).

STAY ZERO WASTE

-Grocery Shop: Good Earth Natural Foods in Broad Ripple offers a great selection of bulk dry goods - snacks, flours, sugars, spices, herbs, teas, and more - and the friendly staff doesn't mind when you bring your own containers to fill. They also sell local, organic produce. You can up your sustainability factor by getting there by bike or on foot using the nearby Monon Trail. In the summer, stock up on fresh local produce at the Broad Ripple Farmers Market or the City Farmers Market downtown (there's also a wintertime market!). And, the beautiful space at Locally Grown Gardens offers local produce year round, as well as small bites (pie, tea, pastries) and dinners.

-Compost: If you're an Indianapolis resident but you don't have the space or time to compost at home, I've heard great things about the Earth Mama compost service, a pickup service that looks convenient and affordable. Residents of nearby Zionsville should consider Curbside Compostables, where you can choose between a weekly and a biweekly pickup plan.

Have you been to Indianapolis? What are your favorite things to do there? I'd love to hear!

Photograph of Locally Grown Gardens, via.