Green energy teams sustainability goals

As a sustainability consultant who specializes in high performance facility management, I love working with my clients’ green teams. Why? Because these teams are full of people who are passionate about sustainability, using discretionary effort to accomplish something beneficial for their workplace.

You can harness the energy of your employees by forming an internal green team or by asking for volunteers to help you achieve your operations goals for sustainability.

What is a Green Team?

Sustainable facility operations require input and ongoing coordination from a wide variety of company stakeholders. An internal green team consists of members from across the organization with a broad range of expertise and backgrounds. The team is an extremely effective way to achieve your green building goals and strategies.

They help build and maintain momentum for sustainable initiatives, achieve buy-in from critical groups across the organization, and bring visibility and transparency to a company’s sustainability initiatives..

Green teams are usually formed in one of two ways. Leadership will designate a green team to support corporate sustainability goals, such as company-wide greenhouse gas reduction targets. Or, employees will form their own volunteer team to work together to support their company’s goals.

Responsibilities can include activities such as:

  • Creating new waste management or recycling policies
  • Educating other employees about company initiatives
  • Identifying opportunities for energy or water reduction

Getting Your Green Team Started

If you’ve been designated as the green team leader, you may be wondering how to get started.

To recruit additional members, use email, signage, the corporate intranet, and other communication vehicles. Invite those who are personally interested in social or environmental causes. Seek out people with the expertise you need to accomplish your goals. Entice them to the first meeting with a bonus — food is always a magnet!

Once you’ve gathered your team for their first meeting, ask for suggestions of activities the team might undertake and have them agree on a purpose statement for your group. This statement should communicate how the green team’s effort will support overall corporate business goals and objectives. The team should also assign roles and responsibilities, how you will communicate with each other and how often. Most important, establish a timetable for deliverables

Then the team can begin to brainstorm the activities they will undertake that support the team’s purpose statement and the company’s sustainability goals. These activities can include building-specific actions, community-focused efforts, or even global outreach.

For example, I interned for a company in Atlanta that manufactured contact lenses and glasses. It started an outreach program to provide used glasses to low-income individuals abroad. This aligned with the company’s core business while providing social benefits to underserved populations.

You might identify local environmental issues where your company can make a positive impact in its own community.

After brainstorming the list of potential activities, the group should narrow the list to a manageable number. There is no point in making a laundry list of activities that won’t get done. Instead choose from three to five key activities that members are most enthusiastic about.

Implementing Your Green Team Initiatives

For each activity, involve the people with the authority to make go/no-go decisions, including management advocates and sponsors.

As a new green team, it’s important to prove the value of your efforts early on. Focus on “low hanging fruit” such as increasing recycling efforts, sustainability communications, and education efforts. Establish baselines before you start and track key performance indicators along the way for your progress reports to management.

When I was chairing a green team at my former condo building in Atlanta, I started by expanding recycling efforts to include mercury-containing lights and batteries that can be recycled at Home Depot, and increasing education efforts to building occupants about what materials can be recycled and how. I reported to residents about our goals and progress in reaching them.

Communicate Results

Be sure to celebrate your successes and communicate them to higher-level executives to gain their continued support. Share your progress with the rest of the company. Consider using:

  • A green e-newsletter
  • Posters and signage
  • Reports at all-staff meetings
  • A section on the company’s intranet where you can upload your activity reports for everyone to see

The team should also coordinate with Marketing to communicate achievements externally to customers, clients and investors through social media, press releases or the annual corporate sustainability report.

Continue Building Momentum

After momentum and support has built for the green team efforts, consider more costly initiatives that require higher-level decisions. Lighting retrofits are a great place to start by changing out T12 or T8 light fixtures to more efficient T5s or LEDs. These projects typically have about a one-year payback.

Other green team activities could include:

  • Starting or expanding a composting program
  • Collaborating with the company in expanding the its community outreach program
  • Gaining third-party certification such as LEED EB:OM or GRI

Consider conducting an annual retreat to revisit the team’s’ mission statement and goals — are they still applicable to the organization or do they need revision based on changing circumstances in the company? Do you have the right type of expertise on the team or do you need to recruit members from other areas?

Green teams are extremely valuable assets to companies because they provide the staffing needed to successfully achieve sustainable goals. There are many opportunities for green teams to make a contribution to your company’s sustainability programs. It’s important to keep up the momentum.

Celebrate successes, communicate with others, continue learning what motivates members, and most importantly – have fun with it!

Candice Goldsmith is Associate Green Building Consultant, FMP, LEED® AP O+M

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