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  • Lars Lawson

Michele Schilten: IRC Recycling Rock Star

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

Celebrate the awesomeness of Michele Schilten by donating to the IRC in her honor. Your tax-deductible contribution will help the IRC reach its 30th Anniversary fundraising campaign goal and helps fund our education and advocacy projects – and more

Michele Schilten’s passion for conservation and living more sustainably ignited when she spent a year in the Netherlands, the homeland of her husband. She still incorporates the lessons she experienced while living in a sustainability-focused region.

“It opened our eyes to the things we could easily be doing—recycling, composting, biking, walking, public transport, limiting waste,” she reminisced. She specifically remembers that trash cans were about one fourth the size of a typical American bin. This reinforced the idea that waste should be limited. 

Her experience in the Netherlands established strong habits around sustainable practices. Her driving motivator, however, is represented in her two children and future generations.

“What kind of world do we want to leave them? A healthy, clean, thriving world,” she said. 

For the past six years, she continued to involve future generations in conservation efforts. Schilten’s role as Director of Education and Conservation at the Indianapolis Zoological Society has immersed her in daily sustainable practices. “Being around people with a passion for conservation and sustainable living has influenced my growth,” she stated. 

Schilten’s time at the zoo has included a wide variety of sustainable projects, from composting to reducing single use plastics. 

“While at the zoo, reaching all these people through programs and messages, you see people clicking and making that connection,” she shared. “We get notes from families getting rid of straws; the reaction and movement we are starting to see is great.” 

One program Schilten loves is a dolphin presentation that teaches how plastic pollution harms dolphins and oceans. “It’s important to have programs that resonate, empower, and inspire people to make change,” she stated. 

The dolphin presentation educates zoo visitors on simple things they can do to combat plastic pollution. It provides real-life examples of two Indiana families making small, but impactful choices that help improve the environment and protect wildlife. 

“It’s not only helping to protect our planet, wildlife, and resources; less waste and pollution is just better for our health in general,” she said. 

As the Indianapolis Zoo continues to implement sustainable practices and eliminate plastic, Schilten teaches the community the small steps it takes to achieve big results. 

“The little things make a difference. Even if everyone does little things collectively, it can make a big difference. The zoo is on a journey of being more sustainable and we invite families to join us in doing the same thing.”

Written by Lindsay McGuire


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