Sara Ivey

A transplant from New Mexico, Sara Ivey fosters a passion for environmental education that has led her to several jobs in our state. After stints at Oklahoma Kids in Environmental Education and the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, Ivey became the education programs and services coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality in 2012. We caught up with Ivey and got her thoughts on …

… her passion for sustainability.

Like most kids, I grew up playing outside. My parents recycled before recycling was commonplace. We grew a backyard vegetable garden every year and composted our organic waste. I was exposed to a sustainable lifestyle from an early age but did not realize it until I was older; it was just normal for me. I became interested in water issues as water scarcity is a major concern in New Mexico and the entire desert Southwest. In college, I took a lot of courses focused on sustainability. I knew that I wanted to teach children about these concepts, but not in a formal classroom setting. When I had that … job working for Oklahoma Kids in Environmental Education and I could see the light bulb come on for children as they learned about an environmental concept, that was when I was hooked.

… professional milestones.

One of the programs that has seen a lot of success is the Oklahoma Green Schools Program, [which] helps schools throughout the state become greener and healthier places to learn by conducting student-led investigations in five areas: energy, environmental quality, school site, waste and recycling, and water. The students become auditors, collecting data on how their school is doing. When the data collection is done, they analyze it, determine what their school is doing well and where there is room for improvement. Then they develop a student-action project to address one of the areas needing improvement. They have to present their findings to a decision maker … and get approval for their project.

… her enthusiasm for recycling.

I am the president of the Oklahoma Recycling Association, a nonprofit that works to improve the business of recycling by providing education and resources about recycling and solid waste issues, and acts as a central communication point for anyone interested in recycling. I prioritize my time so I can participate in the association and help its mission to increase recycling in our state.

… how individuals can help the environment.

There is no right way to do it; just find simple ways to change your habits. While I am a big promoter of recycling, reducing and reusing are more effective. Ditching single-use plastics can have a really big impact. Bring your own bags to the store; bring along a reusable water bottle, coffee mug and straw. Take your lunch in a reusable container rather than a plastic bag. Be mindful of your water use, especially outdoors. Think about your energy use. Turn off lights and use power strips to stop devices from using energy when not in use. Try to eat local, in-season food or grow your own in your backyard garden and compost your organic waste. Reduce your impact on air quality by carpooling, combining errands into one trip, biking or walking when you can, skipping the drive-through, and making sure your car is properly maintained and tire pressure is correct.

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