Green Teams

Guest Blogger: Andrea Payne, J.E. Agnew Food Services

Guest Blogger: Andrea Payne, J.E. Agnew Food Services

You are ready to go! You’ve committed to reducing your environmental impact, you’ve joined the Green Economy Program and you’re eager to make change.  But what’s your first step?  An excellent place to start is to organize a Green Team.

What is a Green Team?  It’s a team of individuals within an organization that collectively aim to promote and improve the organization’s environmental performance.  Green Teams brainstorm, develop, and implement sustainability projects.

Embarking on any sustainability initiative, small, medium, and large organizations often benefit from having a Green Team.  By having a well-functioning, and well-supported Green Team, the process of incorporating sustainable initiatives into a workplace becomes more of a focused and directed process and the work can be shared among team members.

When we selected our Green Team members, we did so strategically.  A member from the Maintenance team, a member from the Accounting team, two Restaurant Operations Managers, our Training Coordinator and our Human Resources Manager.  Our Green Team meets every two weeks for one hour.  Generally, we review projects in progress, decide on action items, next steps, and split up the work and to discuss new ideas and projects. 

Understanding your organizational needs will help you understand how to integrate environmental actions into your organization.  By linking new sustainability projects to organizational needs, your projects are more likely to succeed as a result of higher buy-in amongst owners, management and team members.  Consider starting with projects and initiatives that will save the organization money and reduce the environmental impact.

When your Green Team implements a sustainability project to monitor or enhance the organization’s sustainability performance, it is likely that the project will result in at least one of the following four outcomes:

  1. Improving External Reputation

  2. Boosting Team Member Engagement

  3. Reducing Costs

  4. Reducing Environmental Impact

Maintaining the initial enthusiasm and energy that the team demonstrated early on can be a challenge, even with the most effective processes and spirited team.  Effectively managed teams remain creative and keep up their decision-making ability.  Three ways to maintain enthusiasm and effectiveness are to:

1. Foster your team’s identity

This involves recognizing your team’s role within the organizational culture, and the team’s interest and history. 

  • Create a mission statement, a team logo, and have a dedicated Twitter account, send out Green Team updates to the rest of the organization, and externally through social media and community presence.

Agnew Twitter.jpg

2. Recognize success of team and team’s members

This will promote a friendly level of internal competition and reward productivity.

  • Consider handing out awards, celebrate awards earned externally to the organization, recognize individual contributions to projects and achievements.


3. Build group traditions

By building group tradition, you can help promote the fun aspect of joining a Green Team, which is likely to lead to improved member retention and attraction.

  • Get your team ‘offsite’ on a field trip or afternoon retreat to learn about sustainability and climate change

  • Our Green Team went downtown to look at the Climate Change Display in June, and then went for munchies at the Lonestar.  We also toured the Norterra Organics Facility last spring.  Consider attending the Annual Climate Change Symposium in January, or the annual Evening of Recognition at the end of May.

4. Include Others

Consider including others from the organization (and community), and work deliberately to improve the workplace/community culture of Sustainability

  • When completing work or projects, invite others to join in. 

  • Consider recruiting high school students in need of volunteer hours to join in

  • One of the projects that our team is working on right now, is to recruit an Eco-Champion for each of our restaurants.  They will attend an orientation at our administrative office this month.  This will create an eco-network, improve culture, and allow us to improve the sustainability of our restaurant operations.

Some closing thoughts as you consider creating a Green Team, or as you continue to develop your Green Team’s capabilities:

1. It’s not a race

Sustained engagement over a long-term is what drives sustainability forward in an organization.

2. Recognize Accomplishments

The members of your green team are the ones that champion environmental progress-make sure they’re recognized so that they have a desire to push forward.

3. Make it FUN!

Build a team that enjoys coming together around a common goal, but also has fun doing it.  Positioning your Green Team as a fun and engaging group promotes retention.

4.  Ask for Help

If you want a second set of eyes on a specific decision, project, funding/rebate/incentive programs, Sustainable Kingston is there to help!

5. Use the Green Team Guide provided by Sustainable Kingston

Reading this document once won’t be the answer.  Pull it out in a meeting, ask program staff to elaborate on a section, or review it on a bi-yearly basis.