Sustainability reinforced by partnership of two green-minded organizations

President of Sustainable OKC and UCO sustainability coordinator, Tim Tillman and board member Brandon Tyler during a SOKC board meeting at the Myriad Botanical Gardens confrence room in OKC. (Photo/Lauren Hamilton)

President of Sustainable OKC and UCO sustainability coordinator, Tim Tillman and board member Brandon Tyler during a SOKC board meeting at the Myriad Botanical Gardens confrence room in OKC. (Lauren Hamilton)

In an effort to expand sustainability programs in the Oklahoma City area, Sustainable OKC (SOKC) has partnered with the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). The partnership brings SOKC under the UCO Foundation’s umbrella, granting the nonprofit organization 501(c)(3) status, a tighter infrastructure and a pool of student volunteers through UCO’s Volunteer and Service Learning Center.

“[UCO wants] to serve OKC, not just Edmond. This is why we have the downtown consortium (Downtown College Consortium), the ACM (Academy of Contemporary Music). But most of all, Sustainable OKC’s mission syncs up with UCO’s green initiative,” Tim Tillman, president of SOKC and sustainability coordinator at UCO, said.

Both UCO and SOKC strive to provide a model and ideas for sustainability programs, and this partnership bolsters that initiative.

In 2006, UCO became the first university in the state to derive 100 percent of its energy needs through wind power.

The university commissioned the “BroncH20” hydration trailer in 2012 to reduce plastic waste. Created by the UCO Plumbing Shop, is utilized at both campus- and community-based events.

Presently, the university is sub- metering its buildings to see where additional energy cutbacks can be made.

In 2005, SOKC was created as part of the Oklahoma Sustainability Network. Since then, it has put education and networking at the forefront of its work. The group hosts Green Drinks — an event where green-minded individuals meet and discuss tangible ways to change environmental impacts and oversights — every quarter.

The group also curates Buy Fresh Buy Local, a guide that helps consumers connect with local farmers, and operates Fresh Greens, a blog providing tips on gardening, recycling and transportation.

In May, SOKC partnered with SixTwelve, a community outreach and educational center focused on creativity and sustainability, to give away rain barrels at the Paseo Arts Festival.

The two groups took drums donated from Great Plains Coca-Cola and then crafted kits to fix the rain barrels to gutters.

James Varnum, SixTwelve co-founder and SOKC vice president, contends that programs like this not only preserve the environment but help with personal well-being.

“Using, reusing things smarter, using local food — knowing where that food comes from — makes you happier. You walk. You bike. Endorphins are released. It’s better for the environment, and it makes you happy,” Varnum said.

On July 12, SOKC’s board held a retreat to plan ahead for the next few years. Alongside UCO, SOKC is working on plans to host a global sustainability conference as soon as the fall of 2015.

Tillman said trying to maintain SOKC’s nonprofit status before the partnership was tedious.

“With a nonprofit, you have a board of nine to 12 people, and these people have to manage all the bookkeeping as well as the administrative needs. These are people with full-time jobs. It’s near impossible,” Tillman said.

In 2012, SOKC’s nonprofit status lapsed due to an oversight with the paperwork. Looking to avoid similar complications, Tillman approached both the UCO Foundation and the university’s legal counsel about the incorporation of SOKC.

The legal counsel crafted a memorandum of understanding granting SOKC full control over their bylaws, meeting times and agendas before the partnership was finalized. The memorandum also provides UCO with one board seat. And finally, it was agreed that neither entity were agents or employers of the other.

Print Headline: Central sustainability

Josh Hutton

This article was written by an Oklahoma Gazette contributor. To reach an editor, please email jchancellor@okgazette.com with this story's headline in your subject line.

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