OKC promotes Earth Day and its Office of Sustainability


Earth Day is April 22, but the Oklahoma City Office of Sustainability is focused on clean air, water and soil every day. Established in 2010, the Office has a staff of two who use data-driven strategies to strengthen OKC in the face of economic, environmental and social challenges.

The Sustainability Office’s blueprint for action is a 165-page plan called adaptokc. The plan, a first for Oklahoma City, was adopted in the summer of 2020 and is due for an update in 2025. Adaptokc includes research and recommendations in the areas of energy, air quality, water quality, extreme heat, flooding and waste reduction.

“It’s important to have a roadmap like adaptokc to remind us of how our city got to where we are and to guide our work into the future,” Program Planner T.O. Bowman said. “In the more than 12 years since I joined the City, I’ve learned a plan is important, but it is absolutely vital to have strong networks of partners and the flexibility to seize opportunities as they arise.”

The Office’s recent work highlights the importance of those partnerships to fulfill its mission:

  • In 2022, the Office of Sustainability led a coalition of community-based organizations in the state’s first solar group-purchasing campaign called Solarize OKC. The program more than doubled the coalition’s goal for installed kilowatts of solar, with more than 1,400 kilowatts purchased and installed through the campaign. On March 28, 2024, OKC Beautiful awarded the Solarize OKC coalition with the President’s Special Recognition Award at its Distinguished Service Awards Luncheon.
  • In 2023, the Office used a $19,500 grant award to conduct an Urban Heat Island and Air Quality Mapping Campaign. The project mobilized more than 250 volunteers and involved more than 18 partner organizations. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provided the initial grant, and partners added $63,200 to study more than half the City and propose possible solutions. Funding partners include the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and Oklahoma City Community Foundation. Summary report results and campaign data are online at okc.gov/extremeheat.

Sustainability in OKC by the numbers

  • 648,710 pounds of debris removed from the Oklahoma River in 2023.
  • 796,649 pounds of household hazardous waste safely collected in 2023.
  • 10,655 pounds of litter collected by 239 Waterway Clean Sweep volunteers in 2023.
  • 644 bags of trash collected by 819 Adopt-A-City-Street volunteers in 2023.
  • 726 students from public schools learned about water quality and pollution in 2023.
  • 1,024 tons of roadway debris removed by street sweeping in 2023.

In addition to the Office of Sustainability, other City departments work to reduce their environmental impact and provide programming and educational opportunities.

Here are some ways residents can get involved:

April events

Recycle tires, ammo, computers and pharmaceuticals – April 6
A Special Collection will be held for ammunition, tires, computers, and pharmaceuticals 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 6 inside Gate 5 on the south side of State Fair Park, east of the arena. You must prove your OKC residency by bringing your most recent City of Oklahoma City utility bill. Syringes, liquids, inhalers, tire rims, wheels, televisions, and business waste will not be accepted. For more information, call (405) 682-7038.

Earth Kind Workshop – April 20
OKC Parks and the City’s Utilities Department are hosting the annual Earth Kind Earth Day Workshop at Will Rogers Garden Exhibition Center, 3400 NW 36th St., on Saturday, April 20. In addition to outside vendors, the Utilities Department will host booths relating to our Squeeze Every Drop program and recycling program. The Friends of Will Rogers Garden Foundation is also holding a plant sale. Register by April 15 here. $15 per participant.

Recycle the rain with a rain barrel
Oklahoma City and the Central Oklahoma Storm Water Alliance (COSWA) are offering upcycled rain barrels for just $69.50. A rain barrel promotes conservation and saves you money on water bills by harvesting rainwater for your garden. Order online by May 7 at okc.gov/rainbarrel. Pick up your order between 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on either May 11 or May 18 at 1621 S Portland Ave. For more information, call (405) 297-1797 or email StormWaterOutreach@okc.gov.

Free sprinkler check-ups
The City’s water conservation program, Squeeze Every Drop, offers free sprinkler check-ups for Homeowners Associations so they can ensure they are following best practices for outdoor watering, cutting down on water waste and saving money. Information about that program is here.

Saturday morning Clean Sweeps
Make a difference in your community with the Waterway Clean Sweep program. Volunteers spend a few hours removing litter and debris from local waterways and natural areas. Groups may schedule their own clean-up event or sign up for one of our monthly scheduled events. All supplies are provided. Call (405) 297-1797 or email StormWaterOutreach@okc.gov for details.

Adopt-A-City-Street volunteer program
Help keep our community beautiful with the Adopt-A-City-Street program. Groups adopt a city street for two years and commit to at least four litter collection events each year. Each group receives a recognition sign installed at each end of the adopted street during enrollment in the program. All supplies are provided. Call (405) 297-1797 or email StormWaterOutreach@okc.gov for details.

Free EMBARK rides – April 22
Celebrate Earth Day by leaving the driving to EMBARK on April 22, when EMBARK bus, RAPID NW, OKC Streetcar and Spokies bike share will all be free to ride. Visit embarkok.com or call (405) 235-7433 for details or to plan your trip.

OKC Zoo EcoChallenge
Making small changes can have big impacts for Oklahoma and the world. This April, the Oklahoma City Zoo is encouraging people to join the Zoo’s Drawdown EcoChallenge team. Whether it’s learning about alternative energy sources, like wind, solar and geothermal or reducing the number of single-use plastics in our daily lives, the Drawdown EcoChallenge gives participants plenty of one-time and daily recurring objectives to complete that are fun and engaging. Those interested in joining the OKC Zoo’s Drawdown EcoChallenge can visit https://bit.ly/DrawdownEcochallengeOKCZooTeam sign up and choose the best ways to contribute.

Sustainable Efforts

Recycle Right, OKC
Oklahoma City residents recycle more than 23,000 tons of items each year, but about 1/3 of that ends up in our landfills because it was misplaced in carts or is not recyclable. Learn how you can recycle right by following tips and tricks throughout the month of April on the City’s Facebook page or visit okc.gov/recycle.

OKC Streetcar runs on electric
The Oklahoma City Streetcar is fully electric. The 66ft-long x 8ft-wide vehicles use electric power from overhead wires (called the pantograph or “pan”) on part of the route and a lithium-ion battery on-board energy storage system. Regenerative braking & recharging points along the wire help to maintain battery capacity.

City’s trash & recycling trucks run on CNG
The Utilities Department’s trash & recycling trucks run on clean-burning CNG, which helps to cut down on vehicle emissions.

EMBARK’s alt-fueled vehicles and facilities
EMBARK’s investment into alternative-fueled vehicles and operating facilities began in 2016 when a plan was approved by the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority (COTPA) – EMBARK’s governing body – to replace its entire bus fleet with compressed natural gas (CNG) or electric buses by 2025.

Bus stop investment
500 bus stops are planned to be updated with bus shelters through MAPS 4, improving resiliency of the transit network to extreme weather events and natural disasters caused by climate change.

EMBARK’s service expansion
Expansion of EMBARK services corresponds to a reduction in vehicle trips, leading to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, broader climate change, and air pollution. As transit becomes more accessible, the community benefits through cleaner air and improved health.