Establishing a green team is a great way to help your business or organization reduce its utility bills, become more sustainable, and build a community. Many organizations find it difficult to pursue energy-saving projects because they lack the resources to dedicate an employee to this task. A green team can divide the responsibility for pursuing energy-reduction opportunities among a group of interested employees. This also helps to embed the concept of resource conservation across departments and roles. Green teams identify, evaluate, and implement simple operational, procedural, and cultural changes that have a positive environmental impact.
Though there are many issues that green teams can focus on, such as energy, waste, water, and purchasing, it is energy-efficiency upgrades and energy education that have the biggest potential for cost savings. We’ve broken down the process of creating and running a green team into seven easy steps.
Step 1: Develop a statement of purpose and get management buy-in. Identify a few colleagues who you think might be interested in being on a green team. Work with them to put together a brief statement of purpose for your green team, and then get management approval. For example: “We would like to establish a green team at Company X to save money and have a positive environmental impact. The green team will identify, evaluate, and implement simple low- and no-cost improvements to our facility, recommend new procedures, and host team-building activities.”
Step 2: Host a fun kick-off activity and recruit team members. Plan a lively, informative kick-off event to introduce the green team and recruit members. Highlight that you’ve received management support, discuss the team’s purpose, and brainstorm possible activities for the team. If there is a lot of interest, you may want to create one green team for each department. Then, set up regular meetings.
Some ideas for kick-off activities include:
- Create a “MythBusters: Green Workplace Edition” quiz and distribute it at the beginning of your event. Award prizes for correct answers and discuss the topics covered in the quiz.
- Make or buy small flags in two colors, such as green and black. In the evening, after all employees have left, place the green flags on the desks of people that shut down their computers or turned off their lights before leaving, and place the black flags on the desks of those that didn’t. Be mysterious! Repeat this every few days until someone is able to solve the “green flag mystery.” Chocolates or other treats can accompany the green flags to provide extra encouragement.
Step 3: Establish a baseline for existing activities and energy usage. Ask your facilities manager to give a presentation on energy-efficiency projects he has already implemented and his ideas for projects for the green team. Also request copies of your electric, gas, and water bills from the previous year so that you can establish what your baseline usage is.
Step 4: Identify and evaluate energy-reduction projects and campaigns. There are many ways that your team can identify possible projects:
- Check your utility’s web site for ideas and financial incentives.
- Walk through your building as a group to get project ideas.
- Have a professional energy audit of your building performed.
- Brainstorm ways to encourage or incentivize employees to reduce energy.
Step 5: Set a goal. A concrete goal for your team will allow you to know when you’ve achieved success. Your goal could be to:
- Implement three energy-efficiency projects by the end of the year.
- Reduce energy consumption by 10 percent within two years and 20 percent within five years.
Request support and a budget from your management team to help you achieve your goal.
Step 6: Implement your projects. Begin with projects that are easy, low-cost, or have a short payback period (Figure 1).
Step 7: Measure progress toward your goal and celebrate your successes. Track progress with a poster or bulletin board in a public, high-traffic area. When you achieve your goal or reach a critical progress point, have a party to celebrate and recognize your hard work and success!
Above all, strive to make your green team a fun, participatory, and rewarding activity. Keep meetings short and lively, establish an inclusive environment in which all potential ideas are discussed, and consider rewarding or recognizing employees who make an especially valuable contribution to the team.