Getting started: Zionsville unveils Climate Action Plan


Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron’s administration has released its Climate Action Plan, which aims to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in Zionsville during the next several decades. The plan is the first of its kind in Zionsville.

The town’s goal is to keep emissions stable while the population continues to grow. The town identified strategic measures to reduce communitywide greenhouse gas emissions, including creating an inventory of the town’s greenhouse gas emissions and their sources and identifying the town’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, which are key components in the Climate Action Plan.

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Town officials believe the plan can greatly reduce its emissions impact on the environment while joining other communities with similar objectives.

In spring 2020, the town conducted a greenhouse gas emissions inventory. Zionsville’s projected population growth was used to estimate how its emissions would change, barring intervention. Town officials used the estimates to determine what it could do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The results were drafted into the Climate Action Plan. Goals include promoting access to clean energy and energy savings; green transportation in town; providing additional methods for waste diversion throughout Zionsville; and advancing sustainable climate resilience.

“I really love the data aspect to it because it takes some of the emotion out of these conversations,” Styron said. “And what I love is, Zionsville is already on the track of having a lot of positive components to our community and how it impacts both our community’s experience with our natural resources but also on the things that we are already doing to try to mitigate adding to what is undeniably an issue, which is climate change.”

Every three years, the town will update the plan’s progress, incorporate new sustainability and greenhouse gas reduction strategies and update older strategies.

In February, the Zionsville Town Council and Zionsville Parks Board passed resolutions adopting the Climate Action Plan, although the town council would still need to approve specifics of the plan at future dates.

“It really is a statement of support that the town council is committed to working with the administration and the town residents on climate action,” said town legal counsel Heather Willey, a lawyer with Barnes & Thornburg LLC. “But any specific proposals or any ordinance changes or anything allocating appropriations for a plan would have to come back before the town council for consideration and a vote.”

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Styron said that through specific initiatives, the town could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

“I really do think that it’s very nuts and bolts and practical at the local level,” Styron said. “There will be some very specific things that we can do that can have a bit of a positive impact.

In a press release, Styron stated the town needs households and businesses to support emission-reducing strategies and goals. She listed ways in which individuals and businesses can reduce emissions: “Opt into the curbside compost service, ride your bike to school and work, find out if solar energy can work for you, volunteer to serve on a Town committee, advocate for more green areas and pathways.”

As part of the plan, the town partnered with Earth Mama Compost, a local woman-owned business that provides fee-based curbside compost to residents. If 300 households participate and compost 25 percent of their solid waste weekly, town officials estimate 86 tons of waste from landfills will be diverted annually. Zionsville residents can sign up for the service for $10 a month, a 50 percent discount, at

Zionsville also was selected to join the Environmental Resilience Institute’s 2021 cohort and host an Indiana Sustainability Development Program Climate Fellow, an undergraduate or graduate student who will intern with the town this summer.

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Partnering to stop climate change

Zionsville’s Climate Action Plan is an example of many community programs developed to mitigate the negative effects of climate change.

Zionsville’s plan was developed with support from the Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute’s Resilience Cohort, an initiative of the Indiana University Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge. The plan also was developed with support from ICLEI USA Local Governments for Sustainability.

Based on communitywide greenhouse gas emissions data from 2018, Zionsville worked with ICLEI USA Local Governments for Sustainability and the Environmental Resilience Institute to project local emissions through the year 2050. Zionsville then created the first edition of its Climate Action Plan based on projections.

“It uses a data collection and engagement process that really helps us baseline our community’s climate impact to other communities in Indiana. To adopt that plan is a part of the whole process that other communities across that state are going through, particularly those who are working with IU in this effort,” Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron said. “When I was in grad school back in the 90’s in Bloomington with IU, I was one of those grad students that worked on the environmental commission doing this very same project.

“It had a different name and a different group of people, but what is exciting is IU, and Bloomington, in particular, has been working for a long time to try to ascertain through data collection and measured attributes how we positively or negatively impact our natural environment. And more importantly, how our impact may be damaging or negative, what are steps we can take to ameliorate those issues?”