What is a Green Team?
A Green Team or environmental club is a group of individuals who collaborate to raise awareness about environmental issues in their school community and take action to reduce their school's environmental impact.
How to Start a Green Team - Strategies for Success
Refer to the steps below to get started
Which of the areas below would you be most interested in exploring as part of your Green Team?
- Educational Awareness Campaign
- Educate your school community about how to create a greener place in which to learn.
- General Advocacy
- Advocate for greener decisions among your facilities, purchasing, or administrative departments.
- Physical Project
- Work together to design and implement a project to leave a lasting impact on your school or local community.
- Promote Behavior Change
- Create a contest or rewards program to inspire others to contribute to helping improve your school’s environmental footprint.
- Educational Awareness Campaign
1) Get administrative approval and support from your principal.
It is also beneficial to obtain the support of custodians, kitchen staff, and other facilities staff, as you may be engaging in school-wide activities related to daily operations around the campus.
2) Recruit team members.
Spread word throughout the school that an environmental team will be forming for all students and staff members interested in helping make the school more environmentally friendly. Adult members can serve as primary contacts for your Green Team to receive support from county organizations, such as the San Mateo County Office of Education and the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability.
Strategies for Recruiting Team Members:
- Promote: Use posters, flyers, and morning announcements.
- Ask an existing club to include Green Team activities: Consider ASB, gardening, or community service clubs.
- Consider designating a specific grade level as the school’s Green Team.
- Use a formal application process: An application form and pledge helps students reflect on why they are interested in joining the team, establishes a formal commitment, and shares parent contact information. Feel free to use SMCOE’s Sample Green Team Application or modify it for your own use.
1) Name your team
Come up with a name for your team that fits with your goals and with your school’s personality, mascot, or location (or use Green Team!)
2) Establish a team leader or advisor
This team member is responsible for communicating with administrators and monitoring meetings. This will most likely be a teacher, school staff member, or other adult.
3) Assign other roles and responsibilities
Establish a list of roles for team members to help divide tasks. Roles can include, but are not limited to:
- Secretary: Takes notes and attendance during meetings and keeps track of upcoming events.
- Treasurer: Keeps track of team funds, supply inventories, and progress toward related goals.
- Artist(s)/Designer(s): Makes posters or designs creative elements for projects.
- Writer(s): Writes articles about what the team is doing for the school newspaper or newsletter.
- Communications/Social Media: Creates and runs social media accounts for your Green Team.
- Photographer: Takes photos at Green Team events.
- Promoters/Advocates: All students can serve as promoters and advocates to share sustainable practices with the rest of the school community.
4) Schedule and begin your meetings
Determine the best time of day for your team to meet as well as frequency. Once the team is established, meetings can generally be scheduled at least once a month. Try to hold meetings on a regular basis to keep members interested and attendance consistent.
Get inspiration for your team meetings and projects
- Icebreaker Activity: Lead an icebreaker activity so members can start getting to know each other. Example Icebreaker Activities.
- Introductions: Invite team members to introduce themselves. This could also be part of an icebreaker activity.
- Brainstorm goals: Brainstorm goals and share what members of the team would be excited to work on so the team can work toward these goals throughout the year. Provide an overview of what you expect the group to be doing during the year.
- Discuss possible team roles: Talk about what roles are available for members of the team. Members can write down what roles they may be interested in and roles can be assigned at the following meeting.
- Develop a list of desired projects for the year and decide which projects will be priorities.
- Start to develop a campaign: Develop plans for a campaign to communicate your team’s goals and key messages.
- Set the stage for upcoming meetings: Provide details on upcoming outings or meetings so members know what to expect in the future.
- Create a calendar of team activities or projects and set realistic goals for completion throughout the school year. the school newspaper or newsletter.
- Check classrooms to make sure lights are turned off in unoccupied rooms and that other energy conservation practices are routinely followed.
- Monitor lunch recycling, landfill, and composting stations to help fellow students learn how to properly sort materials.
- Try to assign at least two student monitors to each bin.
- Rotate the monitoring responsibility between students, classes, or grade levels.
- Create a short video to share with other students how to properly sort their food waste, trash, and recycling.
- Make announcements (morning announcements, school bulletin boards, newsletters, etc.) about waste reduction, recycling, energy conservation, water conservation, and other conservation practices.
- Promote and educate the school community about packing waste free lunches.
- Host a school supply swap day.
- Check classrooms to make sure lights are turned off in unoccupied rooms and other energy conservation practices are followed.
- Identify contamination (such as liquids, straws, and other materials not accepted in the school recycling program) in recycling bins, and then create an announcement or other awareness campaign to educate students and staff about how to reduce waste and improve recycling.
- Organize an Earth Day (or Earth Week) celebration.
- Assess waste, energy or water use, or modes of transportation to and from school with semi-annual or annual audits.
- Network with Green Teams from other schools via Zoom or in-person. The San Mateo County Office of Education plans networking events in partnership with community organizations. Email email@example.com to get on the mailing list!
Advocacy and Education Awareness Campaigns
- Watch this video called “Become a Solutionary." A solutionary is someone who identifies unsustainable systems and transforms them in ways that do the most good.
- Watch this video called “The Power of Advocacy” to get inspired about how to make change in your community.
- Read a book with your Green Team from the Environmental and Solutionary Books List.
- Get inspired by these Student-led Community Impact Projects that were conducted by high school students in the Youth Climate Ambassadors program.
- Plan your own campaign!
Animals and Endangered Species
- Choose an animal to support and hold a fundraiser to raise money for organizations that support that animal. Examples: World Wildlife Fund, National Audubon Society (supports bird conservation), The Nature Conservancy.
- Plan a wildlife or bird watching field trip in a nearby park.
- Do a habitat restoration project with an organization such as Grassroots Ecology or Save the Bay. The best way to save endangered species is to restore their habitat.
Energy Conservation Ideas
- Organize a Walk, Bike, or Carpool to School Day. Reach out to SMCOE’s Safe Routes to School program, which provides training, resources, and support to schools to reduce traffic congestion and improve the environmental health of our communities.
- Develop a campaign to remind members of your school community to turn off lights, computers, and other electronics when not in use.
- If enough natural light is available, use it and turn off the lights.
- Use the “off” button on power strips to ensure all equipment is turned off at the end of the day (as long as it is not important to leave them on overnight).
- Conduct a school Energy Audit focusing on the energy used in the school building for lighting, electronics, and heating/cooling to determine areas in which you can make the largest impact.
- Present your findings to school administrators or relevant staff members and persuade them to investigate options to improve the school’s energy usage.
Waste Reduction Ideas
- Conduct a Waste Audit of your campus to assess the waste created in the school building, including recyclable, organics/food, and landfill materials.
- Tally your recycling totals on a weekly basis so that you can continually work on increasing your recycling rates throughout the school year.
- Make recycling available at all school related events, such as sporting events, concerts, school dances, fairs, etc.
- Encourage individuals or other groups within your school to sign a pledge to commit to recycling consistently.
- Campaign to convert your cafeteria trays and flatware to reusable ones if not already using them.
- Develop a composting station in your cafeteria that will benefit a school or local garden.
- Advocate for installing a bucket in the lunch area for used milk or other beverages, so they do not end up in the landfill.
- Create videos or school announcements to teach people how to properly sort their recycling and compost.
- Contact the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability Schools Program or Rethink Waste to schedule a waste presentation or assembly for your school.
Water Conservation Ideas
- Walk through the school and determine all the points where water is consumed.
- Conduct a School Water Audit to investigate how your school uses water, where water comes from, where water goes when it leaves the school.
- Work together to estimate the quantity of water consumed in each location.
- Establish a simple, ongoing program that would enable students to report leaking faucets or toilets so that they may be fixed.
- Propose and implement adjustments to the landscape to increase absorption; consider planting native plants or a rain garden in strategic locations.
- Create a mural, poster or 3-D display to engage other students and staff in your water conservation campaign.
- Encourage students to do a home Home Water Use Audit to see how much water they use every day, then give prizes for those who complete the audit and pledge to reduce their water use.
- SMCOE Earth Day/Week Toolkit: This toolkit is designed to support student leaders in middle and high school (6-12 grade) and K-12 educators plan activities and campaigns for Earth Day and Earth Week. Held annually on April 22nd, Earth Day offers an important moment to consider the widespread impacts that humanity has on the planet, from habitat destruction and biodiversity loss, to industrial pollution near vulnerable human communities and ecosystems, to the various consequences of climate change. It is also an exciting opportunity to celebrate and put in action the possibilities for sustainable living.
The County Office of Education and our community partners want to support you in your green efforts
For starters, email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
San Mateo County Office of Education Resources
- Green Team Sample Student Application: Use or revise this sample application form if your school wants to ask students to fill out a form to join the school Green Team.
- Bin Tally Sheet: Take inventory of the bins already at your school to help you assess the need for any additional bins.
- School Waste Audit: Conduct a waste audit of your school using this resource from SMCOE. This audit will focus on the “waste” that is created in your school building, including recyclable, organics/food, and landfill materials. In this audit, you will investigate some basic definitions about waste, what is “wasted” in our schools, and how your school reduces waste sent to landfills.
- Green Team Activity Menu: Browse a variety of fun games and activities to participate in during your Green Team meetings and/or events.
NYC Department of Education Zero Waste Schools
RethinkWaste offers the following for Green Teams:
- Green Team training
- Tour of Shoreway Environmental Center for Green Team members: Virtual or in-person
- Help with lunch time bin monitoring
- Facilitation of games and activities: Bin sorting game, litter bingo, etc.
- Aprons and trash pickers: About 4-5 aprons and pickers per school
- Replacement/additional bins, dollies, signage, etc.
- End of the semester/end of the year celebrations: pizza party, small giveaway items
- Contact: Emi Hashizume, Environmental Education Manager, email@example.com
Flows to Bay offers the following for Green Teams:
- Promotes Schoolyard Greening and Rainwater Resilient Schools. Helps residents, businesses, teachers, and students understand the effects of stormwater pollution and how they can help prevent it.
- Contact: Reid Bogert, Senior Stormwater Program Specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org, or reach out to email@example.com.
The San Mateo County Office of Sustainability - Schools Program offers the following for Green Teams:
- Green Team facilitation and training
- 4R’s Unit Games (for training others)
- Online waste games to test your waste reduction knowledge and teach you how to protect the environment while having fun!
- Worm bin and backyard compost bins for school gardens
- Signage for bins
- Green Teams can also borrow Reuse Kits (such as Solar Oven and Paper Making Kits)
- Contact: Gerald Schwartz, Sustainability Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
This guide was adapted from resources from the following organizations: The Green Team Program Guide, King County Green Schools Program, Lincoln Public Schools, NYC Department of Education