City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Seeing green

One planet and Tulsans trying to save it


Only a few years ago, Tulsa’s idea of sustainability was curbside recycling. Today, sustainability has evolved from a 21st century buzzword to huge strides taken by residents and companies alike. Simply defined, sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations. The ironic aspect is that people have always worked toward sustainability, but with the increase in pollution, plastics and people, it’s become more and more of a challenge.

These Tulsans talk the talk and walk the walk:

Michael Patton

Executive Director Legacy Land Trust

Michael Patton, also known as “Recycle Michael” has been on the sustainability scene professionally since 1990. But, his unbridled enthusiasm started much earlier. An 11-year-old Patton gathered his friends to help clean up litter at the local hang out, McClure Park, for the city’s first ever Earth Day.

Today he is the executive director of Legacy Land Trust or as Patton explains, “a different shade of green.” Legacy Land Trust’s mission is protecting green space which includes land as well as Tulsa’s water sources. It doesn’t stop there. He also works with the federal government to preserve land around military bases to ensure the land remains undeveloped.

Patton defines sustainability as the quality of life that in no way impairs future generations. “Remember, every dollar you spend votes for something,” advises Patton. He encourages everyone to think about the four R’s - reduce, reuse, recycle and reject. “We must think about the life cycle of everything.”

As an example, Patton points out that each Oklahoman consumes 300 bottles of water a year. Less than 20 percent of those are recycled. Each water bottle is usually 16.9 ounces. If you pay only one dollar for that bottle, that’s 3,000 times more expensive than just using tap water. It impacts our environment and our wallet.

Most of all, Patton says his goal for keeping Mother Earth healthy is not necessarily changing the world, but changing the mood.

“We need to stop scaring younger generations into thinking there is no hope. There is hope. We should be coming up with solutions instead of just yelling the sky is falling.”

Corey Wren Williams

Executive Director Sustainable Tulsa

People, profit and planet are the focus of Sustainable Tulsa, a nonprofit agency that educates and assists individuals and  local businesses to become more sustainable.

Executive director and founder Corey Wren Williams grew up in Tulsa and has seen a huge growth in concern for the carbon footprint industries and individuals are leaving. "I am seeing more and more companies wanting to add sustainability initiatives and reduce their impact on the environment."

To combat staggering global concern, Sustainable Tulsa works with companies and schools through their Score3card® program to educate on three major areas of sustainability: social responsibility (people), economic vitality (profit) and environmental stewardship (planet). 

Score3card is the company’s tracking tool for participants to help them navigate best practices that will support sustainability and cut expenses. “We’ve had companies that in as little as 18 months, have saved a million dollars. Learning sustainability best practices in the work place can also filter back to how we manage our homes and help us save money and protect natural resources!" Williams said. 

“We are all investors in our community and can take careful consideration in every purchase we make.” Williams suggests starting simple by making informed decisions at the grocery store. Is it a single-use product? Can we reuse it? Is it recyclable?

Williams stresses that transparent conversations concerning taking better take care of the planet are key. First Thursdays are networking events that allow people to hear first-hand from local, regional and national leaders on ideas for creating a better place for us all to live. Visit and join in the conversation.

“We are all investors in our community and as such should take careful consideration in every purchase we make.”

Graham Brannin

Executive Director the M.e.t.

For nearly five years, Graham Brannin has overseen the Metropolitan Environmental Trust, commonly known as the M.e.t. Before Brannin began as executive director, he worked with the city of Tulsa on environmental issues.

Although the M.e.t. has grown into an all-encompassing recycling resource, Brannin is most proud of the education piece the nonprofit has developed to teach school-aged children about the importance of sustainability and what they can do to make a difference.

One of the biggest misconceptions about recycling is that it either gets thrown away or is shipped to China. “Both are far from the truth,” laments Brannin. Tulsa recycles most everything locally, which lowers the eco footprint and benefits the community.

How are we doing? Right now, more than a quarter of curbside recycling is contaminated with items that cannot be put into the bins. Plastic bags are the biggest problem, getting caught up in the machines and slowing the process. A simple visit to the M.e.t.’s website shows citizens what can be placed in the bins.

Brannin emphasizes that we must be responsible for whatever we purchase. “Once you put something in the trash, that’s the end of the story. When you recycle, you give it another life.” An example is aluminum cans. If you recycle aluminum, it’s crushed, melted and turned into a new can within 30 to 60 days. Without recycling, aluminum must be mined in another part of the world just to create a new can.

“One person can absolutely make a difference. You’d be surprised how much of an influence behavior has on others. Environmentally sound decisions can be contagious,” says Brannin.

“Once you put something in the trash, that’s the end of the story. When you recycle, you give it another life.”

  • Corey Wren Williams Executive Director, Sustainable Tulsa
  • Graham Brannin, Executive Director the M.e.t.
  • Corey Wren Williams Executive Director, Sustainable Tulsa
  • Michael Patton, Executive Director Legacy Land Trust