Though it's often referred to as "the oil capital of the world," Tulsa, Okla., is rich in more than just fossil fuels. Oklahoma's second-largest city is home to Art Deco architecture, vibrant Blue Dome District nightlife, Native American roots, and Arkansas River views, giving residents and tourists alike a wide range of things to do.
Considering the bleak environmental impact of the oil industry — as reckless drilling leads to pollution, exorbitant greenhouse gas emissions, and wildlife-killing oil spills — it's no surprise that Tulsa was tied for the highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the U.S. in 2022, as reported by The Hill.
Still, T-Town has made grand sustainability efforts, including its plans to turn green waste into mulch following the August 2023 wind storm, the 15-year waste-to-energy plan, and the City of Tulsa Sustainability Plan.
Additionally, according to climate scientists, Tulsa is one of the best U.S. cities for avoiding sea level rise associated with climate change, as the city has made astonishing anti-flood efforts since 1984.
However, the black gold hub is flooding with eco-friendly activities, eateries, and shopping. Without further ado, here's our Green City Guide for Tulsa, with our recommendations of how to spend your time there sustainably.
Where to stay: This Curio Collection by Hilton hotel offers an eco-friendly four-star experience.
Sitting pretty in Tulsa’s Art Deco District at 115 E. 5th Street, the Tulsa Club Hotel promises "luxury reborn." Designed by architect Bruce GoffBuilt and built in 1927, the 96-room hotel takes pride in its glamorous '20s history.
As much as we love smoked cocktails and a rooftop terrace, we commend the swanky boutique hotel — part of the Curio Collection by Hilton — for its sustainability.
According to Booking.com, Tulsa Club has various sustainability certifications for its environmental management systems, energy management systems, and quality management systems, and that calls for some vanilla battered French toast with fruit compote.
Where to eat: Vegan fried chicken sandwiches and blueberry cake donuts? T-town has it all.
Ti Amo Ristorante Italiano:
With two locations at 6024 S. Sheridan Road A, and 219 S. Cheyenne Avenue, Mehdi Khezri's Ti Amo is a safe haven for Alfredo-loving vegans.
While the Downtown menu features vegan lasagna and fettuccini puttanesca, the 61st & Sheridan menu has an entire vegan section. The sound of that spicy Cajun parmesan almond milk reduction has us pinching our fingers and shouting "bellissimo!"
Once the First National Auto Bank, the mid century modern building is now home to The Vault.
With a retro feel, an extensive vegan-friendly brunch menu, and themed cocktail classes (the beauty of that Dolly Parton Cocktail Class is beyond compare), OSU Culinary School graduate Libby Billings's The Vault is a standout.
Take a trip to 620 S. Cincinnati Avenue and enjoy some Loaded Mac & Cashew Cheese and a Banker's Ex-Wife cocktail!
Big Baby Rolls and Donuts:
We'll certainly have a few rolls after visiting Big Baby Rolls and Donuts at 3739 E. 11th Street, and we'll wear them with pride! Rania and Andrew Warren took a leap of faith during the COVID-19 pandemic and opened Big Baby in 2021, hoping to spark culinary joy.
Where to shop: Tulsa is a paradise for secondhand fashion aficionados.
"With $200 and a cigar box in place of a cash register," Joanne Wilkinson opened Echo Shop in 1968. Planted at 5926 S. Lewis Avenue, high fashion lovers are drawn to the consignment shop like a moth to a flame. Echo Shop is a chic destination for those who have "million dollar taste and a $50 budget," and that's what ritzy vintage shopping is all about.
Located at 1315 E, 6th Street, The Sobo vintage shop carefully curates its selection, ensuring that clothing "[follows] trends while still pushing the boundaries and inviting styles that are about to make a comeback." Not only will you be supporting a more sustainable world by shopping at The Sobo, but you'll be supporting a small business.
What to do in Tulsa: Western art museums and flourishing gardens bring beauty to the urban city.
Philbrook Museum of Art:
The verdant gardens supply the museum's restaurant, Kitchen 27, with fresh herbs and produce, and whatever is leftover goes to the Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, and mobile food initiative Food on the Move.
As for what's inside Philbrook, it proudly houses "more than 16,000 objects with a focus on American, Native American, and European art," telling a comprehensive tale of Tulsa's history.
Gathering Place at 2650 S. John Williams Way is a riverfront utopia with sustainability at its core. The 66.5-acre park has worked to increase biodiversity, has an LED lighting system, recirculates pond water, and utilizes infiltration basins and gardens. Additionally, all park buildings adhere to LEED requirements.
Woodward Park and Gardens:
Within the Woodward Park and Gardens Historic District at 2435 S. Peoria Avenue is the stunning David R. Travis mansion, which is now the dwelling of the Tulsa Garden Center. The 45-acre park is famous for the Upper and Lower Rock Gardens and the award-winning terraced Tulsa Rose Garden, both of which were constructed in the 1930s.
Park visitors can take a stroll through the Instagram-worthy gardens, check out the newly-restored "Lina Jane" Conservatory Greenhouse, or enroll in the Native Plant Certification Program! Even in the "oil capital of the world," you can be at peace with nature.
In “Green City Guides,” a travel series from Green Matters, we break down what to do, where to stay, what to eat, and more in various cities around the world — while staying sustainable.