Tucked away in the parking lot of the JCC on the north side of Indianapolis, two of the city’s handful of charging stations for electric vehicles stands ready to serve. The organization is proud to participate in the Energy Systems Network’s Project Plug-IN, an effort to support more EV ownership and use in Central Indiana, says Mindi Epstein, senior vice president of internal and external relations at the JCC, adding, “We’re even prouder of the fact that we were the first location outside the downtown area of Indianapolis to offer a charging station.”
In the past three years, the JCC has embraced a number of initiatives linked to sustainability issues. As part of its mission to promote health and wellness particularly among children, they banished soft drinks and the most heinous of vending machine snacks, and have replaced them with bottled waters and more healthful options such as fresh fruit.
In another effort to promote a healthier relationship with food, the JCC established a community garden in 2011. “It’s the ultimate in local food,” says Epstein. “We’ve clearly met a need among our membership. We originally planned for 10 plots to rent to members, but the response was so overwhelming, we created 30 plots — and we’ve still had a waiting list for our first two seasons.”
That the JCC member base is sustainably oriented seems clear. This spring, the center held its first-ever Earth Day event, attracting a crowd of more than 1,500 members and Indy residents alike. In addition to on-campus tree planting assisted by Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, the celebration featured exhibitors sharing info on everything from installing rain barrels to raising chickens.
“What sets our Earth Day apart,” says Epstein, “is that we require all vendors to have an interactive exhibit. We learn by doing more effectively than we learn by watching.” Next year’s event is scheduled for April 21.
“The JCC is all about community,” Epstein reflects. “So it stands to reason that our sustainability efforts are community-based. We want to provide a positive example and support our members’ environmental values, and we want to serve the surrounding neighborhoods, too.”