Free Guide: How To Start a Green Team at Your School
Thinking about starting a club for future environmentalists at your school?
Looking for a hands-on way to get students involved in environmentalism? Want to make your school a greener place but need help doing so? A school Green Team may be the answer! This free guide will help you get started and take your group to the next level. You can also print this guide for future reference.
Let’s Get Started
Congratulations! You’re one step closer to helping students learn the importance of environmental sustainability and teaching them how to make a positive impact in their school and community. By starting a Green Team at your school, you’re helping students develop valuable leadership skills, all while making the world a better place.
The following will serve as your step-by-step guide to developing a strong group of students to take on the challenge of making your school a greener place. In addition to this guide, you can access customizable materials in the Green Team Toolkit Supporting Resources folder.
- Set goals
- Name your group
- Enlist support from other faculty and staff
- Which students to target
- How to invite students
- Tools to help spread the word
- Assign roles and responsibilities
- Establish a routine
- Discuss potential projects, activities and events
- Create swag
- Use social media to broaden reach
Establish a Green Team
An inspired group of students can influence the behavior and decisions of their peers and of adults in ways that few others can. So consider, which of the areas below would you be most interested in?
- Tracking your progress toward improving your impact on the environment and implementing plans to continuously improve
- Educating others and bringing them along on your school’s journey to become a greener place
- Working together to build a tangible reminder or project to leave a lasting impact
- Promoting a contest or rewards program to inspire others to improve your environmental footprint
- Advocating for greener decisions among your facilities, purchasing or administrative departments
Use the following questions as you think about which goal(s) would be appropriate for your green team:
How does your school compare against other schools in your consumption
of natural resources, such as water, electricity, natural gas and solid waste?
- If you don’t know, devote a portion of your team’s time toward gathering the data necessary to figure this out.
- If you do know, focus on improving in the areas in which you are not doing so well. Or, focus on promoting and expanding the things that you do really well.
Do you consistently overhear students, faculty or staff discussing something your school does not do that it should be doing? Examples could include:
- Using re-usable or recyclable / compostable trays in your cafeteria instead of non-recyclable materials
- Turning off the heat when you’re sweating on hot days
- Recycling common school supply materials through alternative recycling programs
Are there certain green behaviors you do at home that are not yet implemented at your school? Examples could include:
- Composting food scraps
- Adding aerators or low-flow fixtures to water faucets
Are there any open spaces that your school could use to improve your environmental footprint? Examples could include:
- Planting a rain garden
- Planting more trees
- Removing invasive species and planting native species
Are there any common myths or misperceptions that are consistently shared throughout your school that could be clarified?
Don’t be shy about striving to achieve something big! To achieve an ambitious goal, be sure to break out some milestones along the way. This helps your team stay on track and keeps them motivated all the way to the finish line.
Naming Your Team
Come up with a name for your group that fits your goals. Consider coordinating it with your school’s personality, mascot or location. We’ll reference it as Green Team throughout this guide, but feel free to make your own name! Examples include:
- Sustainable Superstars
- Waste Warriors
- Green Guardians
- Green Brigade
- Conserver Crew
- Save the Earth Squad
- Environmental Council
- Or keep it simple and just call it “Green Team”!
It’s always best to share your vision for a green team with your peers and administrators. See if you can identify some individuals to help support or sponsor your team.
Customize the Informational Email Template from the Green Team Toolkit Supporting Resources folder. Send it to other faculty and staff to explain why your school should create a Green Team and why students should join.
Potential talking points and key messages:
- You are hoping to enlist approximately XX students to join your Green Team.
- You plan on making it free and open to students who meet _______criteria. (Determine the criteria for participation – e.g., grade level, interests, minimum academic standing or GPA, etc.)
- The Green Team will take advantage of rewards from Recycle Rally (and possibly other programs) to operate with a minimal or negligible budget.
- This can be a great way to engage students. Plus, it may help reinforce some of the things they’re learning in the classroom. They could potentially improve their academic performance while also developing leadership skills and helping to improve the school and planet.
- The Green Team will take minimal time before, during, or after school (average of ______ hours per month). There will be flexibility to fluctuate activity level throughout the year. (Determine how many hours the students will meet each month. If you’re unsure of how much time to suggest, start with two to six hours per month.)
- The Green Team is led by [INSERT STAFF NAME] and meets regularly at [INSERT TIME] on a [WEEKLY, BIWEEKLY, MONTHLY] basis.
Recruiting Students to Join
Who to Target
- Groups of anywhere from five to 30 students (or more if you think you can manage them!)
- Students who have a passion for the environment
- Students you’ve noticed are interested in recycling
- Those who have an interest in making a positive impact on the people around them
- Students who are looking to get involved in a fun school club
- Students who are natural leaders and can help recruit others
How to Invite Them
- Talk it up in classrooms and at school assemblies, events, sporting events, morning announcements, etc.
- Host a “call-out” meeting. Explain how it works for those who are interested in learning more but not sure if they want to commit.
- Position the opportunity to join a Green Team as a privilege or special opportunity.
- Send home fliers with students so they can talk to their parents about it.
- Promote the benefits of participating by hanging posters or sharing your own custom-made creative materials.
Tools for Spreading the Word
The following tools will help you recruit and spread the word. Find them in the Green Team Toolkit Supporting Resources folder:
- Poster: Print out and hang up around the school in popular, communal areas.
- Handout: Turn this into a flier and pin it up on classroom boards.
- Email: Send to faculty so they can encourage their students to join the team.
- Social media: If appropriate, upload the suggested social posts to your school’s social media pages to spread the word about your school’s Green Team.
Engage Students Who Are Ready to Spread the Word
Assign Roles and Responsibilities
Establish a list of roles for Green Team participants to help give students direction and hone in on specific interests. Roles could include, but are not limited to:
- President: The President will run Green Team meetings and band the team together. They’ll and likely be an older, more experienced participant.
- Vice President: The Vice President will help support the President in running meetings and promoting unity amongst Green Team members.
- Secretary: The Secretary will take notes and attendance during Green Team meetings. He or she will keep track of upcoming Green Team outings and events.
- Treasurer: The Treasurer will keep track of all Recycle Rally/Green Team funds. They also record rewards points, supply inventories, and progress toward related goals.
- Recycling Handler(s) / Tallier(s): These students keep track of all bottles and cans brought to the school. They’ll assist the Recycle Rally Leader with keeping track of the amounts on the online leaderboard.
- Promoters / Advocates: All students should serve as Promoters and Advocates for the Green Team. They will spread sustainability practices and recycling tips and tricks to their peers, teachers and community. Designate a few ‘Leader Promoters’ to rally the group.
- Artist(s) / Designer(s): Enlist the help of artistic students to make posters to hang around the school. Design creative elements for recycling bins to help them stand out.
- Writer(s): Literary students can write articles about what the Green Team is doing for the school newspaper or newsletter.
- Technology Gurus: Create social media accounts for your school’s Green Team and enlist a group of students run them.
- Photographer: Have a student or two take photos at Green Team events.
Establish a Meeting Routine
Create a meeting agenda before each Green Team meeting. This will help guide the meeting, keep things organized and ensure all important topics are covered.
Meeting with the Green Team for the first time? Some suggested meeting agenda topics include:
- Green Team 101: Give background on the club. Then provide an overview of what you expect the group to be doing during the school year.
- Introductions: Invite team members to introduce themselves.
- Brainstorm goals: Brainstorm goals and ask students to share what they would be motivated to work on. That way, the team can work toward these goals throughout the year.
- Discuss possible team roles: Talk about what roles are available for students to fill. Have students write down what roles they may be interested in. Assign roles during your next meeting.
- Develop a campaign: Develop plans for a campaign to communicate your goals and key messages.
- Set the stage for the next meeting: Provide details on upcoming outings or meetings.
Ice Breaker Activity
To help the students build rapport, introduce an ice breaker activity. Arrange the group in a circle and invite one student to start off by sharing why they were interested in joining the team. Then have them say the name of another student and toss an empty can [or bottle] to them. That student then does the same thing and passes it on to another student who hasn’t received the can yet. Continue until everyone has received it once. If the can is dropped before everyone gets a turn, then start over! Go back through each of the names until it gets back to where the can was dropped.
Not your first Green Team meeting? Suggested meeting agenda topics include:
- Introduction: Introduce any new Green Team members and give them a warm welcome.
- Recognition: Show your gratitude to any team members who have accomplished a goal or been giving it their best effort.
- Status Updates: Discuss any ongoing projects and give an update on where they stand.
- Stand up to the challengers: Have any of your members been told that one person or one small group of people can’t make a difference? Are there any naysayers telling you that your efforts are not worthwhile? Spend some time brainstorming solutions, responses and/ or researching indisputable facts!
- Upcoming events/meetings: Provide details on upcoming outings or meetings so Green Team members know what’s happening in the future.
- Discuss potential projects, activities and events: Think about events, field trips or ways to “give back” that the Green Team can do throughout the year to help promote recycling and sustainability. Giving the Green Team things to look forward to will keep participation rates and excitement levels high.
Project, Activity, and Event Ideas
- Develop a “tip-of-the-day,” “tip-of-the-week” or “tip-of-the-month” campaign to help peers take simple actions and collectively make a big impact.
- Set up a meeting to propose new ideas to administrators or relevant staff members.
- Network with Green Teams from other schools via Skype or in person if possible.
- Organize an environmental fair or assembly. Or, work with your school’s Facilities, Operations or Purchasing department to implement a major new project on the school campus.
- FAQs: Create a bulletin board with answers to frequently asked questions about relevant topics in your school (e.g., what’s recyclable and what’s not).
Waste Reduction Ideas
- Tally your recycling totals through the Recycle Rally portal on a weekly basis so that you can continually work on increasing your recycling rates throughout the 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 that they will recycle consistently.
- Make notepads by collecting scrap paper that has not been used on one side and gluing it together into pads.
- Campaign to convert your cafeteria trays and flatware to compostable or recyclable ones.
- Develop a composting station in your cafeteria that will benefit a school or local garden (if possible).
- Review the supplies commonly provided by your school. Determine if there is an opportunity to work with the administration to replace these items with those that are more recyclable or include more recycled content and contain less hazardous materials, etc.
- Organize a recycling drive to increase awareness and magnify the impact of your efforts.
Water Conservation Ideas
- Walk through the school and determine all the points where water is consumed.
- Work together to estimate the quantity of water consumed in each of these locations.
- 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 use water more efficiently. 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.
- Harvest rainwater to minimize water runoff.
- Install rain barrels if you have a community garden.
- Plant trees where possible.
Energy Conservation Ideas
- Organize a Walk, Bike, or Carpool to School Day.
- Develop a campaign to remind people to turn off lights, computers, etc., 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. (Make sure it is not important to leave on overnight.)
- Conduct an energy assessment to determine the areas you can make the biggest impact.
- Purchase an inexpensive power meter from a local hardware store or read the power labels on the backs of your electronics. Use the figures to estimate the power consumption of common items, such as computers, projectors, tablets, etc., in your school.
- Look at the wattage rating on your light bulbs and count how many of each item are in use. Multiply by an estimated number of hours per year to estimate your annual energy consumption in kilowatt-hours.
- Contact your local power company for assistance. They may even help conduct an energy assessment or audit for free!
- Make announcements to the whole school to share your top opportunities for making an impact.
- Present your findings to school administrators or relevant staff members. Persuade them to investigate options to improve your energy usage.
Tools to Engage Students
- Create and hand out swag to students when you’ve hit a goal! Examples include Green Team mechanical pencils, flash drives, hats and lunch bags.
- Encourage students to share images with their social media followers to broaden your reach and encourage others to join.
Looking for additional ideas, suggestions, or tips? Visit any of the links below.
- Ways to improve recycling, end littering and beautify communities
- Sustainability resources
- Reduce and reuse basics and benefits
- Recycling basics and benefits
- Resources for students and educators
- Homework help, awards and activities for K-12 students
- Classroom resources and project ideas
- Additional resources for educators and education professionals
- Resources for teachers and educators to empower teens to becoming lifelong environmental stewards
- Curriculum programs for middle and high school teachers
- Ideas for projects and experimental education activities
- Network and organize with other environmental clubs around the world
- Interactive lesson plans and videos that help you teach students how nature works for us