Your Simple Eco-Friendly Guide to Indiana

Photo of wheat-like grasses and a tree-covered sand dune below a blue sky at the Indiana Dunes National Park.
Indiana Dunes National Park

I’ve grown up in Indiana my whole life and I’ve been blogging about sustainable travel for over three years now. It seemed well overdue to put together an eco-friendly guide to Indiana.

Our mayor created the Office of Sustainability back in 2008 with the hopes of turning Indianapolis into a hotspot for sustainability in the Midwest. You’ll definitely be able to notice the effort if you’re visiting our capitol, which I’ve admittedly under appreciated in my time here. Bloomington, Indiana – about an hour south of the capitol and my college stomping grounds – is another city where sustainability has been prioritized.

Throughout the rest of the state, access to sustainability initiatives varies greatly and can be a bit more difficult to find. We have a lot of very rural, small towns that are struggling – you’re not going to find the plethora of eco-transportation options and healthy, locally sourced eateries as you might in our big cities. That’s pretty typical anywhere you go though, and it doesn’t mean there aren’t options. You’ve just got to do a little extra digging!

If you’re planning a visit to the crossroads of America, read on for my recommendations on sustainable accommodations, eateries, transportation, attractions, and ethical considerations.

Eco-Friendly Restaurants in Indiana

Indiana is an agriculture state, as you’re sure to notice if you do much traveling outside of the cities. Corn and soy fields are classic scenes for me, and our large population of farmers means it’s actually not so difficult to eat sustainably. Beyond sustainability, Indiana culture really values our local farmers and artisans and you’ll see evidence of that appreciation throughout all aspects of our tourism.

Now, we are NOT what I would call a “vegan friendly” state. Indiana locals, also known as “Hoosiers,” tend to love their animal products. If you’re looking for local eggs, meats, and cheeses, you’ll find those aplenty at the farmers markets. That said, it’s not so hard to follow a vegan diet if that’s what you’re looking for too.

Here’s some of my top recommendations for local and vegan eateries across the state:

Farmers Markets in Indiana

A black cat sniffs a countertop laden with produce, including a loaf of bread, paper bag of mushrooms, carton of eggs, ears of corn, leeks, and cucumbers.
I ordered this haul online from Market Wagon, the Instacart or Amazon equivalent of Indiana farmers markets.

Farmers markets will be your best bet if you’re hoping to cook yourself. You’ll find a local farmers market in nearly every city or town on Sundays, and often throughout the week. It’s not uncommon to see a roadside stand selling peaches, tomatoes, or ears of corn throughout the summer either. Even if you don’t have kitchen access on your trip, a visit to an Indiana farmer’s market is a MUST to get a flavor of the culture.

Indianapolis has options! Broadripple, Downtown, and Binford farmers markets operate on Sunday mornings (generally 8am-1pm), among about seven other locations.

Nearby towns of Noblesville, Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, and the like have their own markets too.

All told, there’s over 50 farmers markets in the state, the full directory of which you can find here.

Restaurants featuring Local Produce

There’s a great chapter of Slow Food in Indy, which is a larger grassroots non-profit dedicated to food justice and equality throughout the US. They “connect consumers in central Indiana with local, sustainable farms and restaurants through educational programs, hands-on workshops, farm tours, and delicious meals.” They recognize eateries which are putting into practice their ethos of good, fresh, fair food. Some of the places they’ve awarded the Snail of Approval are listed below:

  • Goose the Market
  • Rook
  • Pizzology
  • Public Greens
  • Cafe Patachou
  • Black Market
  • (So many more but these are all in Indianapolis – you can out the full list of Snail Approved places here)

Vegan Eateries in Indiana

The following are self-proclaimed vegan eateries. The list of vegetarian eateries, and restaurants which offer vegan dishes, is far too extensive to list!

  • The Owlery (Bloomington)
  • Rainbow Bakery (Bloomington)
  • Soma (Bloomington)
  • 10th Street Diner (Indianapolis)
  • Chicago Style Vegan (Indianapolis)
  • Brewer Bakes (Vegan + Vegetarian Cookies)
  • The Cul De Sac Kitchen (Indianapolis)
  • Smoove’s Indy (Indianapolis)
  • Green Leaf Juicing Company (Indianapolis)
  • Three Carrots (Indianapolis)
  • Ezra’s Englightened Cafe (Indianapolis)
  • The Garden Table (Indianapolis)
  • Sea Salt + Cinnamon Bakery (Muncie)
  • The Loving Cafe (South Bend)
  • Savery Vegan Grill (South Bend)
  • Piniellia (South Bend)
  • Aracari Kitchen (Terre Haute)
  • Le Fountain Health Institute (Gary)
  • Flourish Plant Based Eatery (Evansville)
  • The Black Crow Cafe (Elkhart)
  • Lelulo’s (Crown Point)
  • Hunter’s Brewing (Chesterton)

If you’re looking for a more exhaustive list of local businesses in Indianapolis, check out my post where I rounded up all the small businesses in downtown Indy I could find.

Sustainable Accommodations in Indiana

By and large, Indiana is not overflowing with super sustainable hotels and hostels. I’d really recommend AirBnB for the most local experience. There’s a wide variety of farm houses, sleek city apartments, and cozy cabins scattered throughout the state.

Indiana also has a generous number of campgrounds if you’re seeking an outdoor experience. With 23 state parks and 1 national park, there’s plenty of places in the great outdoors to keep you busy.

Still, you’ll find some sleek hotels in the bigger cities and a number of boutique hotels scattered throughout the state. Here are some listings and booking platforms to inspire you!

Cool AirBnBs in Indiana

(I haven’t personally stayed in these but they all look super fun and have great reviews!)

There are hundreds of options on Airbnb right now and there are truly so many unique stays.

Campgrounds in Indiana

Indiana has 38 campgrounds that are state-owned & operated if you want to get in touch with nature. You can reserve a camp site on the government website or search from a more comprehensive list of sites on the Visit Indiana website, which includes state parks and smaller campsites operated by other entities.

A grey and orange tent sits on a campground site, surrounded by trees and a picnic table with two mini pumpkins atop.
Our campsite (pumpkins not included) at the Dunes National Park campgrounds.

Hostels in Indiana

Yes, there are actually two that I’ve been able to locate!

Lost River Hostel – Self described as something between a hotel and campground, this hostel offers a relaxing stay in West Baden, Indiana, including a labyrinth hedge maze in the woods.

Indy Hostel – Located a few blocks from where I live, this hostel offers a close proximity to eateries and the redline for a short ride downtown. They also offer a new 2 bedroom apartment if you’re looking for a private stay.

Sustainable shopping & attractions in Indiana: Supporting local Businesses

Agritourism

Agritourism is a blend of agriculture and tourism which Indiana is well positioned to offer with our abundance of farms.

Arguably one of the most fun ways to explore this is through You Pick experiences, where you visit a farm and can pick your own produce to take home. Apples, pumpkins, or even Christmas trees!

Tuttle’s Orchard is probably the most famous and has been in operation for 90 years. Exploration Acres offers the largest corn maze and pumpkin patch in the state. Whitetail Tree Farm is your go-to for Christmas trees, and spruce, fir, and pines seasonally too.

Agritourism also includes wineries and breweries, of which we have a fair variety. I can personally vouch for Oliver Winery and Sun King brewery, while my partner would recommend West Fork Whiskey Co.

Indiana artisan shops

Hoosiers love a good vintage store, and you’ll find them scattered throughout the state, in just about every city, somewhere. Bloomington has an enormous one which is highly rated, so large it’s named Bloomington Antique Mall.

Indiana Artisans Gifts and Gallery features goods made from exclusively Hoosier artists.

Not so much a shop as an initiative, People for Urban Progress (PUP) is an “Indianapolis-based 501c3 non-profit that advances good design and civic sustainability by developing products and projects in connectivity, responsible reuse, and making”. You might see some of their work as you’re exploring the city.

One such project they’re working on is in partnership with Amtrak, the train system, who decided to update their train interiors in 2018. The upgrade called for replacement of over 6,000 leather seats, which PUP has upcycled into a variety sleek, handmade goods like backpacks, totes, and sunglasses holders. They’ve done similar projects reusing the fabric roof of the RCA dome too.

Free libraries

You can see them downtown on the circle, and in uniquely decorated “book houses” throughout our neighborhoods. This is a great spot to swap out the book you finished on your trip with one for the ride home!

These books are free for anyone and don’t require any sort of checkout system or library card, which makes it super accessible for those whom getting a library account might be difficult.

Photo of wooden box with a pointed roof, with a plaque that says "little free library" and a glass door revealing three shelves of free books.
A little free library near my house in Indianapolis.

Getting around Indiana: Transportation

We’re called the crossroads of America for the intersecting highways running through the center of the state which connect the west coast to the east. Unfortunately, most of this is traversed by car, which is by far the most popular means of transportation in the state. Uber and Lyft are widely available.

Amtrak, our national train service, does have a their Cardinal route which run through the state and connects Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

Taking the Bus in Indiana

There are also local bus options in most cities, as well as Greyhound and other buses lines which are the second most popular. I’d recommend taking the bus you’re going from city to city – it’s usually an affordable ride to get from Indianapolis to Chicago in the next state over. Far more affordable than renting a car on your trip if you decide you don’t otherwise need one.

For links to the public transit systems by city, check out the Indiana Department of Transportation website.

The IndyGo Redline, a new rapid-transit electric bus system built in 2019, connects 13 miles of Indianapolis, from Broadripple up to Carmel. Tickets are really affordable. If they’re actually checking your tickets, that is. They also have bike racks and wifi, making it a great option for work commutes or city exploring.

Unfortunately, our electric-car ride share option, Blue Indy, went out of business and officially shut down in May of 2020.

This photo shows an IndyGo bus sign; public transportation is a major part of my eco-friendly guide to Indiana.
Indy Go bus stop & route sign.

Biking in Indiana

Within our capitol, Indianapolis, you’ll find Pacers Bikeshare stations. (The Pacers are our local basketball team). There are 50 stations and over 500 bikes available throughout the city, stationed along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Indy was actually voted one of the best cities in the US to see by bike!

There are also a good amount of scooters for Lime and Bird scooters for rent, which might be my personal favorite way to get around downtown.

Look for the Monon Trail, which runs 27 miles through the city, alongside a wonderful array of eateries, art displays, and Indiana culture, more broadly. You’ll find walkers, runners, and bikers on the trail on any given day.

So there you have it! Your eco-friendly guide to Indiana. If you’re looking for more on Indiana, try these posts next:

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SMALL BUSINESSES IN DOWNTOWN INDIANAPOLIS

UNDERRATED INDIANA – 18 REASONS TO ADD THIS MIDWESTERN STATE TO YOUR BUCKET LIST

THE SINKING SHIP: A MUST TRY VEGAN FOOD RESTAURANT IN INDIANAPOLIS

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Your Simple Eco-Friendly Guide to Indiana

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