​​​​​​​​​​A key component of the Indianapolis Zoo's conservation mission is to promote sustainability. The Zoo tackles this mission on multiple fronts, including initiating and maintaining green practices at the Zoo and encouraging others to adopt a "greener" way of life. Check out some of the programs and exhibit features at the Zoo that help set a good example for sustaining a healthy environment in Indianapolis and far beyond.​

Bicentennial Pavilion​'s Brand New Benefits

An innovative transformation is happening at the Zoo. We have just opened our new Bicentennial Pavilion, which is an all-seasons destination for family experiences and wild encounters.​

While guests have the chance to meet magnificent macaws, enjoy unique animal programming and take part in community events, the pavilion itself celebrates sustainability. The 40,000 square foot structure will creatively manage rainwater and utilize beautiful landscaping with a purpose.

While creating a space for guests to stay out of the elements regardless of the season, the pavilion's roof also serves as a way to collect rainwater. Each overlapping roof — created at different levels to mimic a forest canopy — has an opening in the center where water drops onto metal panels, creating a "rain chain" that the water slowly follows before dripping onto the plants below. This helps water more gently reach the plants and avoids erosion.

Similar to a forest, guests will see various species of large-leafed ground cover and flowering materials throughout the space. By choosing plants native to the area, the species will not only grow better, they are adapted to local soil and contribute to its health too.

The structure is created with weathering steel which will naturally oxidize to a rust color, therefore chemical coatings and paint can be eliminated. Plus, the patina dripping off the steel adds iron back into the soil!

Excess water not soaked into the soil flows along bioswells into the storm water system, infiltration chamber and then returns to the natural aquifer below ground. [close]

100 Percent Green Power​

Since 2008, the Indianapolis Zoo has been a 100 percent green user of electricity through Indianapolis Power & Light Company's Green Power option. Green power is an option provided to the Zoo by IPL that helps support the development of renewable energy sources, like wind facilities and biomass/landfill gas facilities, which eventually help reduce our reliance on fossil-fueled power.

Energy Patriot

In 2011, Indiana Senator Richard Lugar named the Zoo a "Lugar Energy Patriot," to recognize ongoing fiscally responsible energy conservation efforts. Since then the Zoo has continued to plan, research and take concrete action steps to be conscious of saving both energy and money. For example, the Zoo's team realigned the St. Vincent Dolphin Pavilion water management system which resulted in a water savings of 4.5 million gallons annually.

Indianapolis Prize Conservation Partner

IPL also works alongside the Zoo in putting on the Indianapolis Prize Gala — a celebration of the world's leading animal conservationists — to purchase carbon offsets in an amount sufficient to balance those associated with the event. The carbon offsets are verified by an accredited third party and are from projects including renewable energy facilities (wind farms), and methane or landfill gas capture. These projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions by displacing fossil-fueled power from traditional coal-fired generating facilities.​ [close]

Biodiesel Initiative​

In partnership with Cummins Inc, the Zoo began implementing a biodiesel initiative in 2015 to continue its conservation mission. Since then, the Zoo has started to convert used oil from the cafes to help fuel several vehicles used throughout grounds.

With the ability to create nearly 32 gallons of fuel every two days, the project has the potential to produce more than 500 gallons of biodiesel each year! 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.​ [close]

What's Old is New at the Zoo

As an organization, the Indianapolis Zoo recycles its paper, corrugated cardboard, aluminum, newspaper and mulch thanks to our official recycling partner Ray's Trash. We use landscape and tree trimmings as enrichment for some of our animals. The Indianapolis Zoo also has a herbivore manure recycling program. Partnering with Ray's Trash Service, our manure is taken to a special facility located in Indianapolis. There the manure is composted and turned into fertilizer — completing the natural cycle. Check out more about the Zoo's recycling efforts in this video. [close]

A Green Roof for Orangutans

Forget about the gold standard — the Zoo is setting the "green" standard with the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center's special roof.

A lush carpet of a hardy type plant called sedum is planted on top of lightweight growing substrate and a waterproof membrane. Sedum was selected for its regenerative abilities, low maintenance and tolerance to heat, drought, wind and frost. The green roof catches approximately 70 percent of an average day's rainfall, while the remaining run off goes into 10,000 gallon storage tanks that are used for irrigation at the Zoo as needed. At approximately 6,400-square-feet, the Center's green roof provides ecological, economic and aesthetic benefits now and for years to come. Look up high to see this special garden in the sky!​ [close]

Power Recycling Weekends

Electronics waste is a growing challenge with over 2.5 million tons of electronic waste incinerated or placed into landfills in the United States each year since 2009. Many of these electronic devices contain mercury and lead which could leech into the ground, contaminating soil and water supplies. The Zoo takes a leadership role in this challenge by hosting two Power Recycling weekends each year. Through these events, the Zoo and its partners typically recycle 15-20 tons of electronics from paper and paint to cell phones, computers and TVs.​ [close]

Green Business Initiative

The Zoo is a proud member of the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce's Green Business initiative. The Zoo scores very high among local businesses in its programming and commitment to environmentally safe and sustainable practices and operations. Many different items are considered to achieve this designation, including reduction of paper usage, recycling, using eco-friendly products, reducing lighting, unplugging unused appliances, rain recovery systems, water recovery systems in our water facilities, and many more. ​[close]


There are lots of easy ways for you to start living a "greener" lifestyle. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you start making a change.

Before You Leave — Recycle Your Map

We would like our guests to join us and Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance in improving our environment by recycling your Zoo maps when possible. As you exit the Zoo, simply deposit your map in the glass box and we'll take care of the rest!​ [close]

Skip the Drive-Thru

This tip is from our friends at Polar Bears International​! Did you know for every two minutes an average vehicle idles, it burns the same amount of fuel it takes to drive one mile? Many people idle their cars while waiting in drive-thrus, picking up or dropping off passengers, or warming up their engines before driving. By not idling, you'll save fuel and reduce greenhouse gas pollution … plus you'll help polar bears too! [close]

Take Time to Unplug

Many electronic devices continue to pull power even when they're not being used. Taking a moment to unplug things like TVs, computers, video game consoles and microwaves will help save power. You can even use a power strip to make it easy — a quick flip of a switch and you're saving time, energy and money.​ [close]

Keep it Cool​

Reducing heat, weather it relates to your laundry or the temperature in your home is a definite power saver.

About 90 percent of the energy consumed for washing clothes is actually used to warm up the water. If you make sure to run full loads and use the coolest water possible you'll reduce energy use while still getting your clothes clean. There are even cold-water detergents that more effectively pull dirt and grease for those really big spills and stains.

Lowering your thermostat a few degrees in the wintertime significantly reduces energy. Start by bringing it down while you're away from home and clicking it back up when you're spending time there. [close]

Green Power at Home

The Indianapolis Zoo wants to help lead the conservation charge, and inspiring the community to find out more about green power is one small way in which to contribute.

Residential customers interested in IPL's Green Power Option can participate at one of three levels — 25, 50 or 100 percent.  While customers can expect an increase of a few dollars to their monthly power bill, they can also feel confident in renewable energy coming from Indiana and Midwestern wind farms.​ [close]