What is a Green Team?

Creating a sustainable school will require leadership, vision, and a commitment to starting the long-term journey toward sustainability. It does not matter what you call your green team; what matters is that it is working in a coordinated fashion to identify goals and take steps towards addressing key sustainability issues. Its success depends on how well the entire school community is included at the beginning of the process. Equally important, is to build awareness of and support for the green team’s ongoing efforts through publicity and engagement of the school community.

Green teams leverage the skills and expertise of team members to develop plans, implement programs, and assist with educational opportunities that raise awareness and commitment to a brighter future, one school at a time. Such entities can go by any name, but the critical role they play is the same.

School districts and their individual schools, should decide how best to manage sustainability efforts. Green teams can be established to serve all district schools, or created at the individual school level or at a combination of both levels. Coordination and a strong working relationship between the district and schools seeking certification will be extremely important as schools work on their program actions.

Creating a green team is the only mandatory action in the Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification program.


Green Team Formation

District Green Team

If a district-wide green team is formed, the superintendent, working with the school board, district union leadership, and other key constituencies, should formally establish the team and appoint members. Some school districts may elect to have a district team coordinate sustainability initiatives for actions that benefit the whole district and form school green teams to support sustainability efforts in their individual school buildings.

Individual School Green Team

If a school green team is formed, the school principal will formally establish and appoint members for their school green team. The principal will also need to invite the building union leadership of the individual school to appoint up to two (2) members to serve on the school green team. .

Recommended Green Team Members

The formation of the team is a prime opportunity to expand inclusion. District and school green teams should reflect the overall demographics of the school community so the green team's efforts reflect the priorities of all community members. The following school community members would make excellent green team members:

  • School board representatives provide the vision, leadership, authority and access to resources needed to implement a wide range of sustainability plans, programs or projects in the school district.

  • A business administrator manages the budget, purchasing, and cost-saving programs that the school district may pursue.

  • Teachers play a key educational role to help a new generation of students to understand complex sustainability issues. Incorporating education for sustainability into the classroom, through clubs, enrichment programs, and place-based learning will foster a deeper understanding of sustainable development concepts. Teachers are important partners in a wide range of school health and wellness issues. 

  • Facility managers have direct technical responsibility for managing the school's heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, school maintenance as well as the school's integrated pest-management program. The facility manager is also a crucial partner in a wide range of indoor air quality issues.

  • Custodians play an important day-to-day role in supporting a healthy school environment through green cleaning, recycling, and managing indoor air quality and environmental risks. 

  • Health officers and school nurses' roles in student and staff health and wellness are expanding as asthma, childhood obesity, mental health, substance abuse, and other issues continue to impact student performance. The school nurse can be an advocate and expert for a wide range of new programs. 

  • Food service staff are helpful in incorporating school gardens, farm-to-school programs, recycling, and waste reduction activities, as well as promoting healthy eating campaigns into food service operations. • Educational support professionals assist teachers in educating for sustainability and support student involvement with a wide range of activities at the school.

  • Parent-teacher organizations/associations are key partners in advancing a wide range of sustainability programming and projects. Their leadership with parents in the school community positions them to advocate and support new school programs ranging from school gardens to waste reduction programs and school community educational programs. 

  • Parents can be important champions for a wide range of new programs. Including parents on work groups and committees may bring additional resources and expertise to the school Green Team. 

  • Students are the core reason for integrating sustainability into the school learning environment and broader school community. A sustainable future is only possible if we help students learn the importance of using resources wisely to assure that both their generation and future generations enjoy a world where the pillars of sustainability--people, prosperity, and planet—are considered. Student participation on the Green Team or on project committees will assure that the student focus stays core to the program. 

  • Community groups, businesses, and nonprofits, such as cultural and arts organizations, health advocates and hospitals, environmental and stewardship organizations, gardening and health food advocates, transportation organizations, and green businesses could be excellent Green Team members. These groups are frequently well connected to the community and can generate resources to help the program succeed. 

  • Municipal green team liaisons will be great local experts who can help schools complete actions, or provide tips and guidance on how they completed similar program actions. 

  • Fleet managers and drivers play an important role in anti-idling campaigns, fleet management, and partnering on safe routes to school programs.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can an existing school committee serve as the green team?

Yes. A district or school can appoint an existing committee to serve as the green team as long as it meets the requirements of the Green Team action. For example, an existing Wellness Council can be designated to serve as the green team, however, the Wellness Council's membership may need to be expanded to include representatives from additional areas of school operations. 

Is there a minimum or maximum number of green team members allowed?

No. It is entirely up to the district or school to determine the number of green team members as long as it meets the requirements of the Green Team action. Some green teams have a handful of members that work in cooperation with other groups, while others have upwards of 20. Schools with green teams of all sizes have been successful in the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program.

How long does it take to establish a team?

It will take approximately one to two months to identify, recruit, and appoint members to serve on the green team. Districts and schools can also choose to designate an existing committee to function as the green team. 


Resources to Get You Started