Oklahoma Green Schools

Oklahoma Green Schools with Sara Ivey

The desire to create a green and healthy environment comes to everyone from a different place, and for many of us, it was something in our childhood that initially sparked our interest. My guest for today, Sara Ivey, spent much of her childhood playing outside, and gardening, composting, and recycling was the norm in her family home while she and her brother were growing up.

I invited Sara to join me on the podcast to talk about the Oklahoma Green Schools Program, to discuss the role she plays in the Department of Environmental Quality, and to explain the importance of helping our children understand where all their resources come from.

About Sara

Sara wears several different hats. In her first role, she is the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Green Schools Program, which involves working with schools all across Oklahoma and helping them to go green in a way that best suits each school. In her other role, she is the Education Coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, and that meshes very well with the Oklahoma Green Schools Program. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality graciously allows Sara to work on the Oklahoma Green Schools Program under the umbrella of the Education Coordinator.


When Sara was very young, her parents introduced her to gardening, composting, and recycling, even though recycling was not very cool, or common in the 1980s. Her parents used to drive their recycling to a drop-off point on Saturday mornings.

Water is a precious commodity

When Sara was in college, she became interested in environmental topics. She grew up in New Mexico, so she was always aware of how precious water is as a commodity, and so became very interested in water resources and started studying everything she could about the environment. That ultimately led her to where she is today.

A wasteful society

We live in a very wasteful society, and although living a green life seems very natural for some of us, it is still a relatively new way of living. Our grandparents did not live in that same way as we do now, so they generally have a much better grasp on how to use resources wisely.

School children need to understand where the resources come from

Every school kid is going to grow up to be a consumer, and one day, they will be making all the decisions. That’s why it is so important for them to understand where all the resources come from, as early on as possible, so that they can make the best decisions, and set themselves up in the best way possible.

About the Oklahoma Green Schools Program

The Oklahoma Green Schools Program got started by a group of interested parties with different areas of expertise. They were energy experts, architects, and people who knew a lot about water, and they wanted to help the schools that did not have the expertise to understand how to save resources, like water, energy, and landfill spaces.

Six steps to certification

They wanted the schools to be able to say that they got certified as green schools, so they created six steps to certification. And they also made flags to promote the program within the schools.

The Oklahoma Green Schools Program is not just for students

The Oklahoma Green Schools Program is not only there for the students. It is for the school as a whole. It is to empower both the students and the teachers in a way that they can make a difference.

The five investigations for Project Learning Tree

The Green Schools Program has five areas of investigation for schools in partnership with Project Learning Tree. They are:

  1. Energy
  2. Environmental quality
  3. School site
  4. Waste and recycling
  5. Water

Changing the lights can make a difference

It is interesting to discover how much energy gets saved by changing from using light bulbs to using LED lights.

Lights out lunches

After doing energy investigations, schools come up with all kinds of innovative ways to save energy. A novel idea was to have Lights Out Lunches once a week where only natural light was allowed in the cafeteria.

Form a Green Team and involve school staff stakeholders

When creating a Green Team, it is a good idea to get the maintenance workers and the administrators of the school building involved from the outset so that they will be willing to work along with the team to help make a difference.

Trash Audit

The Oklahoma Green Schools Program encourages the schools to do a trash audit, to sort the recyclable items from the waste, and to get to know exactly how much food is being wasted and thrown away.

There are many resources available for activities at home

The Oklahoma Green Schools Program was designed for use in almost any kind of educational scenario so that everyone can participate. And there are many different resources available on their website that can be used by homeschoolers, for activities at home.

Referral Links / Resources:

OK Green Schools

Project Learning Tree

Engage Your Students in Greening Their School

Checklist of Environmental Actions for Schools

i-Tree Design Tool

DEQ’s Environmental Education Program

NEED Curriculum Resources

Oklahoma Recycling Association

Join Us for Monthly Green Schools Webcast Opportunities

Sara’s emails: sara@okgreenschools.org