For a community striving toward sustainability, Broad Ripple already has a lot going for it. Most residents live close enough to walk or bike to shopping, dining, and recreation. Public transportation is readily available. Locally owned shops outnumber national chains. Fresh-from-the-farm food is in abundance throughout the summer. Folks don’t have to start up the car to get to a lively night scene. And amid all this are plenty of opportunities for communing with nature, whether in wooded parks or on peaceful riverbanks…
For a community striving toward sustainability, Broad Ripple already has a lot going for it. Most residents live close enough to walk or bike to shopping, dining, and recreation. Public transportation is readily available. Locally owned shops outnumber national chains. Fresh-from-the-farm food is in abundance throughout the summer. Folks don’t have to start up the car to get to a lively night scene. And amid all this are plenty of opportunities for communing with nature, whether in wooded parks or on peaceful riverbanks.
It’s a good start, indeed. But for a growing element of environmental advocates, it’s not enough: Both longtime residents and grassroots startups are coaxing Broad Ripple onto a faster track toward eco-simpatico living.
The village has its issues: Residents are quick to complain about traffic congestion on Broad Ripple Avenue and the amount of waste generated by the party-’til-dawn crowd that spills from neighborhood bars and clubs throughout the week. And diehard activists express frustration that the move toward green is glacially slow.
Wary of greenwash
Conrad Cortellini despairs that many of the community’s efforts are less substantive and more greenwash. “They keep building, putting up bars, talking people into buying and consuming,” observes the architect who started the Indy chapter of Slow Food in 2000 and co-founded the 501 (c) (3) Green Broad Ripple in 2007. “We need to drastically reduce the amount of energy we use. We need to consume less—there’s no getting around it.”
Cortellini has stepped away from his involvement with Green Broad Ripple, and he and his wife, Patti, are soon to launch a newsletter for a national organization, the Alliance for Democracy.
Neal Bennett, another founder of Green Broad Ripple, agrees about the greenwashing. “This proliferation of questionable information and advertising is definitely a concern,” he says. “Some discouraging things are the lack of emphasis on green building and green infrastructure.” He blames economic concerns with slowing down enthusiasm for change, too.
Glass recycling initiative
But under Bennett’s presidency, Green Broad Ripple continues with efforts such as the glass-recycling initiative among village restaurants. The project started in 2008 with nine restaurants and bars in a one-square-block area. Each week approximately 10 tons of glass is diverted to a company in nearby Muncie that produces food containers. Bennett says that because of the additional material, the Indiana business has increased its production and hired six more employees.
As the project enters phase two, Bennett notes, “People have seen it and become interested in how they can be a part. It has doubled in size and is one of the largest in the country now.” The
ultimate goal, Bennett says, is to have all Broad Ripple restaurants and bars producing zero waste.
A working garden
Green Broad Ripple is also gaining ground with its urban garden. Morgan Johnson, another founding member, reports that the garden at 61st between Guilford and Winthrop, is now producing enough herbs and vegetables to sell to local restaurants, including Union Jack and Napolese.
But what’s grown as abundantly as the tomatoes and basil is neighborly connection: one resident providing the land; another allowing the group to collect rainwater from his property; one watching out for mischief-makers, and many pulling weeds and harvesting. Even Butler University students are involved, performing water tests from the rainbarrels. Johnson says that one of the best outcomes of the effort is “meeting new friends and random passersby. It always seems to gather interest from people walking by.”
Green Broad Ripple intends to continue to grow its activities involving residents and businesses. In fact, the members have a good working relationship with another neighborhood group, the Broad Ripple Village Association (BRVA). “A few of our people serve in both organizations,” says Bennett, “so we have some common ground there. We have separate but in some cases overlapping goals and when they overlap, my hope is to be partners in achieving those goals.”
The volunteer-based neighborhood association’s primary focus for 41 years has been to promote the village as a desirable destination to live and shop.And sustainability issues are increasingly
part of that mission. BRVA and Green Broad Ripple parlayed a grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management into 14 artist-designed recycling bins located throughout the community.
A new vision
At a recent meeting, BRVA introduced Envision Broad Ripple, the village’s master plan, which is to develop a clear picture of what the village will look like. The auditorium, bracketed with colorful design boards, was filled with residents eager to get a glimpse of that vision.
Board member Thomas Healy introduced the plan. The owner of Apple Press and publisher of bimonthly Branches pointed to components such as creating new pedestrian paths, setting universal building codes, encouraging dense urban growth, utilizing alleyways to promote new traffic patterns, planning for eventual mass transit, and regulating a variety of design elements throughout the village. Attendees completed a survey form to indicate the importance of rain gardens, native landscaping, LEED-certified buildings, green roofs, and more.
BRVA is proprietor of the summer farmers market, located at the Broad Ripple high school parking lot on Saturday mornings. Conrad Cortellini points to the market as one of the best examples of a successful green effort, although he wishes for support for a village food coop. But for many, the farmers market has been a gateway to greater appreciation of local food. Area resident Kathy Hofmeister says, “The Broad Ripple Farmers Market was my first real exposure to shopping locally.”
Local businesses are doing their part. You can’t miss the large solar panels on top of the Broad Ripple Brewpub. Owner John Hill is proud of his solarpowered brewery, which serves up beer so local that it measures its carbon footprint in inches rather than miles.
Other neighborhood mainstays include Dinwiddie’s, where Bernie Dinwiddie divines and sells her one-ofa-kind fashion creations from collected fabrics and deconstructed clothing. And Good Earth Natural Food Company, purveyor of organic produce and Earth shoes for more than four decades. When longtime owner Bob Landman passed away, the outpouring of neighborhood support enabled the employees to purchase the store and continue Landman’s legacy.
Brenda Rising-Moore, owner of Union Jack Pub and active member of Green Broad Ripple, says, “The Village itself presents a sustainable lifestyle, where people work and play close to home. When your services, banking, dining, and shopping needs can be found around the corner, everyone wins.”
Even the new kid on the block, BRICS (Broad Ripple Ice Cream Station), which has quickly become a gathering place along side the Monon Trail, has taken up the green gauntlet. Owners Nonie and David Vonnegut-Gabovitch are committed to greening their business as much as possible, from the native landscaping to the dual-flush toilets in the restrooms. Even the tasting spoons are made of reusable metal.
Neal Bennett contemplates whether these advances in Broad Ripple, from tiny spoons to solar panels, from recycling to zero waste, are enough. “The only way to start changing the world toward sustainability is to begin in your own neighborhood. I love Broad Ripple and I want to leave it better than how I found it.”