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Greening Broad Ripple village

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As it turns out, the 10 bars and restaurants situated around the 900 block of Broad Ripple Avenue - the block dotted with Brother's, Corner Wine Bar, Union Jack's and Boogie Burger - have more in common than you'd expect.

They call it Moby Dick because it looks like a big white whale. Actually, it's the 18-cubic-yard collection container that was donated by Strategic Materials, a glass manufacturing company that profits from the recycling of glass. Together, the 10 businesses sharing Moby Dick recycle a whopping ton of glass per month.

For Brenda Rising-Moore, the owner of Union Jack's Pub and who spearheaded the recycling project, the story behind Moby Dick is an epic that began 12 years ago when she first tried to implement a recycling program for her bar.

"Once the beer companies stopped picking up their bottles for reuse, it became our responsibility to do away with them," she says.

Rising-Moore's first recycling program soon stopped after she discovered the glass was simply being diverted from the incinerator to the landfills where it was being used as roadbed instead of being made into cullet for new glass.

Eleven years after the first disappointment, Rising-Moore tried again - this time, alongside energetic, like-minded members of the Green Broad Ripple Restaurant Group, a Green Broad Ripple Inc. committee that has been working on this project for a full year.

Though they were given a Coca Cola Company/National Recycling Coalition Recycling Bin Grant that helped with the costs of the expensive blue bins that fit behind the bar, the group ran into complications in getting the large bin placed in the privately-owned parking lot.

"The parking issue has been an unexpected complication," Rising-Moore notes, "and it's really the only thing holding us back from extending the program to all the businesses in the Village."

Since the system has been in place, Rising-Moore has opened up the free service to residents in the Broad Ripple community, who have responded enthusiastically to the initiative. She reports that the residents contribute truckloads of glass.

"There was a weekend last year when we hadn't coordinated pick up for the glass and I was forced to tell all the business owners to throw their glass away for the week. And they responded as though I were asking them to throw litters of kittens into the compactors.

"Once you get started, it's very difficult to get people to move backwards. I'm very pleased with the response."

Recently, Rising-Moore's efforts have garnered national attention. She reports getting phone calls from people around the U.S. asking her for advice in getting recycling programs for businesses in their own towns. "It's made me realize that we're actually doing something that isn't being done anywhere else," she says.

The glass recycling initiative, however, is really just the first phase of Green Broad Ripple's multiphase plan to make the Broad Ripple Village completely sustainable, safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, and denser with local businesses.

Phase II of the project seeks to extend the recycling program to include co-mingled plastic, metal and corrugated cardboard. Phase III refers to the plan to take compostable restaurant waste and use it to fertilize the urban gardens, which return the grown produce to the restaurants. Incorporated into both of these phases will be the Green Alleys project, which seeks to reengineer Broad Ripple Avenue to be friendlier to pedestrians, cyclists and the disabled. Zoning rules will also be challenged in this part of the plan in hopes to loosen up the rules so as to allow carriage houses and cottages to exist in the alleys behind the businesses.

"We're working towards density, which is very important in a sustainable community," Rising-Moore says.

Neal Bennett, an environmental scientist on the Green Broad Ripple board, helped design the plans for Green Gardens and Green Alleys.

"Each aspect of the project is integral to the whole. Ideally, the Green Alleys project will give us a more discrete network of paths that will allow us to deliver the harvested food from the garden or greenhouse to the restaurants via bicycle. Not only will the plan help us decrease our carbon footprint, it will also help solve the flood water problem that's becoming an increasing concern for the area," Bennett says.

For now, protecting the glass from contamination will be the Village's biggest challenge - a problem that Rising-Moore would like to emphasize to the community. If the slightest piece of a mirror or a ceramic bowl gets the bin, the whole load could be rejected for cullet. If the load were to pass inspection with the prohibited material, it would leave the glass manufacturing company with bad bottles.

"Our ultimate goal is to make the village totally sustainable. But we're doing this while knowing that nothing on Earth is truly sustainable - even human beings. We all fall apart eventually. But we still need to strive to walk as gently on the Earth as we can. And this little village is pretty hard on the Earth, considering how many bottles we go through by virtue of being in business. And so, our group is trying to change that - in the commercial end, and the residential end."

(WEB VERSION: Story continues on to include the following sidebar)

(PRINT SIDEBAR): Greening your neighborhood

Broad Ripple isn't the only Indianapolis community with green initiatives and activists. Across town, local groups are coming up with creative and effective was to combat waste, reduce consumption, and create sustainability.

Massachusetts Avenue Merchants Association has created a tote bag program in an effort to help curb the use of plastic bags in the Indianapolis community and make the cultural district a more environmentally aware area. The totes are available at most retail outlets along the avenue, with a portion of the proceeds used to pay for public recycling receptacles along Massachusetts Avenue. www.DiscoverMassAve.com.

Irvington Green Initiative, a program of the Irvington Development Organization: Churches and other places of worship are a key component of the Irvington grass-roots organization, working to raise awareness and inspire action among residents of the Eastside community as part of an overall strategy to give residents, businesses, schools and churches an entry point for lightening their ecological footprint. www.irvingtondevelopment.org/getinvolved.

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful is always hard at work making the city a better place for us all to live. To find out how you can volunteer to be a part of KIB campaigns in your area, or launch a new partnership, go to www.kibi.org.

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