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Referred to as Green Teams, Green Project Teams, or Eco-Teams, these groups consist of occupants/tenants and building staff who voluntarily educate fellow occupants and empower their organization to adopt sustainable practices. Identifying and implementing building-specific initiatives through occupant-run programs and regularly occurring calendar events, these teams seek to create a more environmentally friendly workplace.
By promoting sustainable practices in the workplace, Green Team projects have several benefits:
- Increased occupant engagement
- Enhanced occupant and/or tenant satisfaction
- Increased cost savings
- Improved regulatory compliance and environmental performance
- Improved community impact
Use our strategies below to establish your Green Team.
Combined with grassroots’ efforts, senior-management endorsements will help Green Teams succeed. Green Teams should be treated like any other business initiative, complete with a senior level manager. See Helpful Tips: For leaders for more information.
Resources: See Sample Green Team Structure for more details on leadership structure.
The first step in kickstarting the Team is recruitment. Email staff with interest surveys (see page 13 of the Columbus, Ohio How-To Guide: Forming a Green Team at Work for sample). Make announcements at all-staff meetings or create a sign-up sheet in the break room to get on people’s radars. Include the first meeting agenda and topics details in recruitment material. Craft Green Team outreach to the culture of the building community and tailor efforts accordingly. See the Columbus, Ohio How-To Guide: Forming a Green Team at Work document for more recruitment details. To maintain an active Green Team, different building offices/agencies should be represented with a cross-section of roles. Team members should include senior manager representatives but should not be limited to them. Potential offices/agencies include, but are not limited to:
- Building management
- Human resources
- Custodial leads
- Those with unique backgrounds/perspectives
Tenants who engage in Green Teams should post a small sign in the entryway stating that they are members of the building-wide Team. This conveys support across the building and from senior leadership.
Note: GSA prefers that agencies take the lead of Green Teams within GSA owned and leased facilities. This allows property management personnel to serve as team members and resources for holding building-wide events, such as Earth Day.
Resources: Visit the Structure and Team Roles for detailed descriptions of member roles. Use the Columbus, Ohio Green Team Member Pledge & Green Team Member Supervisor Commitment forms (page 12) for supervisor-member agreement documentation. Refer to the Green Team Jackson Federal Building Charter Template (GSA employees only) for more information on the Team’s mission, membership, and norms.
Hold a formal kickoff meeting once Team roles have been identified. Suggested activities for the first meeting include introductions, important laws/policies identification, goal development, commitment to the mission, charter development (see the EPA’s list of Laws and Executive Orders, Summary of the Energy Independence and Security Act, and Laws & Regulations), and familiarization with tools and templates.
GSA’s Property Management Office can provide details regarding energy and water use, recycling, and resources for assessing GHGs for GSA owned or leased properties. The results of the assessment should inform the Team’s priorities. If not, the following questions should be discussed:
- What can be accomplished easily as a quick success to build support?
- What would provide the most visibility for building occupants to build commitment?
- Where are we at the most risk within the building safety, health, regulatory compliance or financially?
- Where could we achieve the most impact on reducing our negative environmental footprint?
Hold productive and engaging meetings with an appropriate frequency (e.g., twice a month in the beginning to every month thereafter). Without setting clear goals, timelines, roles, and expectations or recognizing the progress made, the Team can lose commitment and momentum.
- Were the goals achieved?
- What worked?
- What could be done differently?
With any changes, there can be resistance and uncertainties. The key to combating challenges is to accept incremental progress, as long as it is progress. Using planning and prioritizing actions at the start, Green Teams can track their progress.
Structure and Team Roles
Below is a sample structure of a Green Team provided by GSA (note: “Agency Representative” can be replaced with Office Departments):1
Outlined below are the potential duties for different Green Team positions:
|Green Team Members
- Start small
- Involve building services
- Create campaign calendars
- If creating an “official” Green Team faces resistance, form an “unofficial” team through Lunch & Learns
- After gauging staff interest level, the case for a formal team could be made
- Maintain a core group of people (3-4) focused on setting the green goals and recruiting fellow occupants to work on those action items
- Hold regular meetings with updates on projects
- Encourage project ownership
- Breakdown borders and work across divisions
- Be flexible
- Make it fun to encourage active participation
- Explicitly outline the Team’s role in and relevance to building and organization goals
- Establish a reporting structure and timeline
- Request SMART (Specific, Measurable/Monitored, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) goals from the Team
- Promote Green Team effectiveness through Team activity engagement and participation
- Support innovation and collaboration
- Expect success
- Value superior quality and service
- Pay attention to details
- Value recommendations/suggestions from the team and others
- Reward teamwork rather than individual performance on an ongoing basis
- Green practices to implement at home:4
- Recycle and look for recycled furniture, etc.
- Lower your heat
- Drink tap water over bottled water and clean with green cleaners (can be made at home)
- Make adjustments to your daily water use habits
- Use green transportation (walk or bike) instead of driving
- Make use of natural light and turn off lights to reduce electricity use
- See Optimizing Daylighting for more tips
- Incorporate biophilic elements (e.g., plants, natural light) into your workspace
- Cook lunch from scratch over frozen meals
- Print double-sided when possible and have a Good On the Other Side pile for reuse
- Set your computer screen settings to turn off after 15 minutes of being idle instead of having a screen saver
- Furnish with used pieces
- Use CFL light bulbs over LED bulbs
- Recommendations for Green Team leaders to promote inclusivity
- Hold virtual workshops via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, etc.
- Create monthly sustainability challenges that members can participate in virtually
- Share at-home sustainability tips for not only remote individuals, but all employees
- Visit FlexJobs, a virtual company, for more detailed tips
- See the SFTool Personal Control, Choice, and Workplace Customization section for information on how to make adjustments at the workplace, at home, or at “third-party” locations (e.g., coffee shop, hotel, etc.)
Visit these SFTool pages for more background information and training resources:
- Switch sink faucets to WaterSense labeled products
- Behavioral changes:
- Encourage occupants to report water leaks and other water issues
- Remind occupants to turn off the faucet when not in use
- See the Rockefeller Foundation Food Waste Toolkit for the Office for more tips on how to enact behavioral changes
- Encourage use of alternative transportation
- Install a bike rack outside the office building
- Designate at least one parking spot for “green” vehicles
- Install electric vehicle charging stations
- Provide a bus pass/public transportation reimbursement program
- Behavioral campaigns
- Examples: workplace competitions and encouragement from fellow occupants and other champions of sustainability
- See the behavioral sections of the waste reduction, food waste, conserving and protecting water, and conserving energy items for more specific examples
- Include a green tip to staff each week in newsletters
- Local organization sustainability presentations to staff
- Volunteer opportunities for staff with a local environmental nonprofit
- Visit a local landfill or recycling center
- Work with custodial staff to identify current product use and if green alternatives are possible
- Install floor mats at front doors to improve indoor air quality
- Email or spread information on green cleaning tips in the office and at home
- Encourage building occupants to practice personal health measures through health programs that include, but are not limited to, the following components:5
- Health education programs
- Workplace environment that is free of recognized health and safety threats
- Instituting a means to detect and address new problems as they come to light
- Company policies that promote healthy behaviors (e.g., tobacco-free campus policy)
- See the CDC Workplace Health Promotion for detailed guidance and resources for creating a healthy workplace and promoting health for all
Case Studies/Success Stories
Institute & Center (IC) Green Teams "help identify immediate environmental issues and challenges for their individual ICs, set goals and milestones to address issues, change how practices and procedures are conducted, and track resulting improvements."
— National Institute of Health
- National Institute of Health — This website contains a list of institutes and centers with Green Teams
"A Nielsen study in 2015 showed that 66% of online consumers are willing to pay more if the company has a positive social/environmental impact"
— Columbus, Ohio
"The Cisco Green Team Network (GTN) is a global employee-led team with 11 local chapters and hundreds of members."
"Across more than 100 of our offices, Green Teams led by over 1,000 passionate colleagues are driving environmental initiative to reduce our footprint and build awareness about environmental sustainability."
— McKinsey & Company
"Almost 30% reduction in GHG emissions over 11 despite increase in campus population and building space."
"Over 1 million sq. ft. of LEED building space with nearly half being LEED gold."
— University of Rhode Island
- University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
- Cornell University
- University of Florida
- Harvard University
- Visit the Harvard Sustainability page for more Green Teams tips
- University of Michigan
- University of Pennsylvania Engineering
- Visit the UPenn Sustainability page for a Green Teams guide
- Pennsylvania State University
- University of Rhode Island
- University of Texas at Austin
- See this article from UT Austin's Office of Sustainability about their food waste reduction success story
- Visit the Sustainability Initiatives at UT Austin Housing & Dining for details on their best practices
Below are certification programs that Green Teams can reference for guides and resources. These programs can also provide the opportunity for regional/national recognition.
1 GSA | Northwest/Arctic Region Green Teams Guide (GSA employees only) 2 Harvard | 10 Tips for a Successful Green Team 3 Columbus.gov | How-To Guide: Forming a Green Team at Work 4 FlexJobs | How to Be Green as a Remote Worker: 18 Ideas 5 CDC | Workplace Health Promotion 6 EPA | Environmental Justice