What is a Green Team?

Green Teams are groups of faculty, staff, and students volunteering to engage and educate their peers to help their organization (college, department, building, etc.) operate in a more efficient, innovative, and healthy way. Typically, Green Teams focus on making their operations more sustainable through initiatives unique to their departments and/or the easy to follow Green Paws Program. Currently, the University has 30 Green Teams operating in various colleges and units and 11 of them at the Commonwealth Campuses. This network of change agents work with the Colleges’ Sustainability Councils, which have been formed to strategically advance the University’s sustainability goals, matching the work to the College’s unique mission.

Penn State Sustainability sponsors the Green Team program and supports it with information, resources, and training. What initiatives are these teams working on? Check out the success pages.

See the tabs above for more on forming your own Green Team, signing up for an orientation session, learning resources, and locating a team in your unit. For more information contact Jack Rumery at jxr6164@psu.edu.


The ability to work with co-workers to make positive change:

  • It’s more effective (and more fun!) to work with others
  • Connection to over 40 Green Teams across the Commonwealth
  • Bring recognition to your unit for having a Green Team
  • Communicate with a network of Green Teams and access SDG educational resources through our Teams channels.
  • Invitation to Green Team gatherings and special training sessions
  • Access to the best and latest information, resources, events and news available from Penn State Sustainability that can help you and your Green Team succeed.
Green Team picture

How to Form A Green Team

  • Contact Jack Rumery to arrange a meeting and answer any questions you have: sustainability@psu.edu

Update Information

To ensure that we provide your Green Team with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we ask that you let us know if there are any changes to your existing team. Please use this form to update the following:

  • Green Team Name
  • Green Team Leader Information
  • Green Team Member Information
  • Green Team Contact Information


Green Team Resources

With Green Teams on the front line of engaging others about sustainability, Penn State Sustainability aims to offer our Teams resources to broaden their understanding of these concepts and use to engage others in conversations about these topics. There are two types of resource banks below. First is an archive of the former newsletter for Green Teams, called AIR, which highlights short articles about sustainability achievements, inspirations, and bits of fun stats to share with your peers. Second is a host of materials, divided into nine categories that can be used to learn some basic information about each topic and for the Green Team to use to prompt conversations with your coworkers! Have fun exploring!  


Orientation and General Resources

Resources by Category


The first step of ensuring an inclusive world is understanding the breadth of sustainability.  How do we work together to create this better world? The United Nations has created 17 goals with measurable targets that enable nations across the globe to become more resilient. As you work through the below resources, you will learn that sustainability is more than just recycling and switching off the lights. It is an approach to decision-making that recognizes the interconnectedness of economic, social and environmental systems and is framed using a set of global goals and our University’s priorities to have positive, long-lasting impacts beyond our borders and for many years in the future.

In light of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sustainability Institute has compiled a repository for educational materials on each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The SDG educational resources channel on the University Park and Commonwealth Campuses Sustainability networks provide a collection of videos, activities, articles, and other media resources to build not only an understanding of each SDG, but also an appreciation for how it operates here in Pennsylvania. While the repository was launched in 2022, its current version is only a starting point. It is intended to be a “living resource,” by which it is constantly be amended and added to based on feedback from Green Teams. Any suggestions for additional resources are highly encouraged, and should be communicated to Lydia.  To join either the University Park or Commonwealth Campus Sustainability Networks Microsoft Team, please email Lydia Vandenbergh at lbv10@psu.edu 

Below are some other introductory materials on the SDGs.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Progress Towards the SDG’s

Educating Others on the SDG’s

Atlas for the SDG’s

Project Regeneration


Explaining the SDG’s

Behavior Change

Transformation to a culture that values sustainability will require changes in perspective and action. Key to this process are awareness of the problem, ability and willingness to make a change and the motivation to do so. From all our unsuccessful New Year’s resolutions, we know that just having a willingness or knowledge won’t make the change happen. What can help the process are prompts, feedback, dynamic messages, setting goals and rewards. Check out the resources below to find information on how to combine these elements into behavior change campaigns.

Doug McKenzie-Mohr: Steps To Sustainable Behavior Change 

Dr. Doug McKenzie-Mohr is a pioneer in environmental psychology and community-based social marketing. In this video, he explains how developing effective programs requires that the behavior change tools that make up our strategies are well suited to the barriers and benefits of a particular behavioral change. He also delves into proper delivery for maximum effectiveness of these sustainable behavior change strategies. 


On the surface, communicating about sustainability seems to focus on rallying people to address the topic through education, information, warning, and persuasion. However, at a deeper level, our varied experiences, mental and cultural models, as well as underlying beliefs and worldviews, influence how we communicate about sustainability. In general, accounting for where an individual is coming from is crucial to effective communication, and resources to aid engaging in this type of successful communication are outlined below. 

  • Short Version: Communicating Impacts and Adaptation – Susanne Moser This talk provides insight into how to successfully communicate the impacts of sustainability and the effects of climate change, with a focus on the psychological factors that influence how people react and may either support or undermine their active and persistent participation in preparation for a sustainable future.  
  • MIT has created a toolkit to help students talk to others about climate change. This 45 minute video demonstrates to the participant the evidence of climate change, where it is happening, and how to talk with peers, engaging them in conversation.


Energy use is the largest driver of Penn State’s greenhouse gas emissions and it costs about $30 million annually to provide heat and air conditioning to our buildings, electricity that make our day to day work possible, and fuel for our vehicles. The Physical Plants at all of our campuses work consistently to increase efficiency of our buildings, which has reduced our energy use, but there are actions that Penn Staters can take to cut waste. The resources below can help you and your peers understand the impact that energy has on climate change both in our individual decisions, as well as with large scale operations. 

First Gigawatt Down: Round 1 and Round 2 

The “First Gigawatt Down” metric clarifies and illuminates any given energy supply solution. Part One of this two-part series defines the metric, while Part Two gives examples of how to achieve the First Gigawatt Down using current solutions taking place in various parts of the United States. 

How Behavioral Science Can Lower Your Energy Bill 

What method has been shown to reduce energy costs? Would you believe that in can lie in learning what your neighbor pays? In this TED Talk, Alex Laskey demonstrates how a peculiarity in human nature might help us all become better, wiser energy consumers, with lower energy bills as evidence. 


While there are benefits to recycling, there are also many issues. Where possible, it’s best not to create waste in the first place. That’s where the Five R’s (Rethink, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle) come in. There are several versions of this framework, but the underlying values are the same. The Five R’s offer a fleshed out framework for thinking about the objects we bring into our lives and how we dispose of them. Awareness is a critical first step. With practice, this framework will become part of your everyday decision making process. Remember – every small action adds up! 

Step 1 – Rethink: The first step is most effective in minimizing waste and maximizing savings, but it can often be the most challenging. We are conditioned to say yes – to disposable cups, utensils, straws, magazines, flyers, unnecessary packaging, and swag. Practice accepting the things you need, and rethinking the rest. Making thoughtful choices and setting standards for your team (or your household) can make it easier to “rethink” waste in the future. Here are some resources that can help you explore options.  

Rethink Clothing Purchases 

Conscientious Coffee Drinking 

Tips for Slashing Trash  

Waste Free Holidays 

Rethinking Food Selection


Step 2 – Reduce: Where possible, reduce the use of harmful, wasteful, and non-recyclable products by simply using less. Be realistic about what you need, and take good care of what you have, reducing the need to repurchase in the future.  


How to Reduce Your Wardrobe  

Reducing Food Waste at Home 

Reducing Food Waste with Apeel 

Step 3 – Reuse: This is where a circular mindset begins to comes into play. Consider how you can reuse an item to keep it out of a landfill. Can you repair a damaged product instead of purchasing new? Reusing also means selling or donating your used items so they go to loving homes instead of the landfill.  

Reusables Versus Disposables  

Big Businesses on Reusable Packing 

How to Reuse Wine Bottles 

Step 4- Repurpose: We can creatively repurpose (or upcycle) products to give them new life and avoid waste. The possibilities are endless. 

Turning Food Waste Into New Products 

Repurposing Glass Jars 

Step 5 – Recycle: After practicing the first four R’s, recycling is your best option.  

Importance of Rinsing Recyclables? 

The Amazing Aluminum Can 

Recycling Myths  

Electronics Recycling 

Composting 101  

At Home Composting 

REUSE! Because You Can’t Recycle the Planet 

REUSE! chronicles Reuse Pro Alex Eaves’ journey across the country to the 48 contiguous states of the United States. He discovers countless sustainable reuse solutions for our waste problem along the way, many of which are also simple and fun. He also discovers the true benefits of “reuse” for people, the environment, and his wallet. 

It’s All On the Line  

A father and son go fishing at their favorite spot, only to continuously catch single-use plastics with their lines. Watch this short video to discover the importance of small actions, like adopting a reusable water bottle.  


Some friends dumpster dive in unsuspecting locations, finding thousands of dollars’ worth of completely edible food. Dive! looks into the subculture of dumpster diving as a means of lessening one’s impact on the environment and the world. 

Climate Change

Long-term changes in temperature and weather patterns are referred to as climate change. These changes in the most recent centuries have been caused by human activity—primarily the combustion of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. Climate change causes adverse effects on the planet, such as forest fires, increased drought and rising sea levels. In Pennsylvania, we are seeing the impact of climate change in the increased extreme weather events, such as intense rain storms which can cause flooding; a rise in Lymes disease due to warmer winters, and more frequent deaths due to intense summer heat events. The below resources outline in depth what climate change is, what it means for our planet and people, and steps the Centre county region is planning to prepare for adaptation.  

Climate Catastrophe –  How did we get here?! 

This short video outlines the history of climate change and our planet, and how the rise of fossil fuels has permanently altered our future.  

Healing the divide on climate change | Karin Kirk | TEDxBozeman 

In her TEDTalk, Karen Kirk illustrates how to frame the climate issue in a way that can bring together diverse groups. Through this video, we can learn how to have calm discussions and how to avoid typical pitfalls that cause conflict on this contentious topic. 


The focus in this section is water, the life blood of life. Pause for a moment and look around to consider how water connects to everything around us. Up to 60 percent of the adult human body is water and it is essential for survival. Sometimes we take this resource for granted and it is in times of drought, or pollution driven shortages that we take time to consider its value. In this section, we will pause to consider how we use this resource.  

Did you know that only 2.5 percent of our planet’s water is fresh and we depend on this water for growing crops, cooling our power plants, hydrating our bodies, caring for our animals, bathing and producing materials. Reducing water use, either through conservation or preventing leaks decreases the stress on our local water supplies. Consider adopting sustainable habits such as not leaving the water running when washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, and watering your garden. 

Understanding Water Sources 

Gapminder Water Accessibility  

Spring Creek Watershed Atlas 

River Runner App 


Water Consumption and Reduction 

5 Ways to Reduce Water Waste 

Water for Health Management 

Water Calculator Footprint 

Just Add Water – an explanation of water treatments 


Threats to Our Water 

Flooding Maps 

Pennsylvania Acid Mine Drainage 


The Wait for Water 

This social experiment documents the responses of unsuspecting passersby in different parts of the world when they are informed that they could have to wait up to six hours for water. In the underdeveloped world, a person can spend up to 6 hours each day retrieving the clean water that they need to survive. Watch this video to learn 3 types of actions that you can take. 

A River Reborn 

In the Allegheny Mountains, the Little Conemaugh River has been contaminated by toxic waste from abandoned coal mines. This river faced neglect for generations because people believed the damage to be permanent. However, a campaign by a network of local organizations has started to point to a new future for the Little Conemaugh, other rivers in Pennsylvania, and beyond.  

Environmental Justice

Environmental racism is a form of systematic racism in which marginalized communities are plagued with excessive environmental hazards in comparison to more privileged communities. Environmental justice aims to highlight these wrongs, and bring all people and communities equal environmental protection. The below resources can help us understand the full extent of what environmental justice means and how certain communities face disproportionate amounts of injustices.  

Bureau of Environmental Justice 

This video highlights how the State of California acknowledges there are still far too many neighborhoods where poverty and pollution coexist, and works to fight against it. To amplify their voices and combat environmental injustices across the state, their Bureau of Environmental Justice works diligently. 


What Is Environmental Justice? 

The NRDC explains how numerous disadvantaged communities are impacted by environmental justice concerns because polluters are far more likely to target them, and showcases how as a result, these citizens suffer the most. 


The variety of animals, plants, fungi, and microorganisms that make up our natural world are all included in what is known as biodiversity. All of these critters collaborate in complicated web-like ecosystems to keep nature in balance and support life. We cannot have the healthy ecosystems that we depend on to give us the oxygen we breathe and the food we consume without a diverse variety of animals, plants, and microbes. The resources outlined below showcase what biodiversity means in terms of benefitting our planet.  

What on Earth is Biodiversity? 

In this short clip, Conservation International outlines what biodiversity means in terms of nature and how extinction risks are harming our planet. Explaining how without immense biodiversity, humans are in trouble, Conservation International clearly explains the link between biodiversity, health and resilience.  

Existing Teams

Green Team Resources

Green Team Contact(s)
Abington Environmental
Conservation Objective (ECO) & Interdisciplinary Environmental Action (IDEA)
Shelly Grinar
Abington Sustainability Council Peter Hornberger Katie Odhner
Altoona DUS Advising Green Joy Frank
Altoona Sustainability Council Andrew Mack
Beaver Sustainability Council Carey McDougall
Behrend Sustainability Committee Sherri Mason
Berks Green Team Mahsa Kazempour
Brandywine Sustainability Commission Mark Boudreau Julie Stanton
DEVinitely Green Hershey Samantha Moore
DuBois Michele Joseph
Fayette Chancellor’s Office Billie Jo Yuhaniak
Fayette Green Team Barry Polowski
Great Valley Sustainability Council Becky Stanko
Greener Allegheny Louise Aravich Lorraine Craven
Lehigh Valley Denise Ogden Karen Kackley-Dutt
Harrisburg Sustainability Council Rick Ciocci
Mont Alto Sustainability Committee Kristi Addleman Charlene Saeman
New Kensington Ruth Herstek
Schuylkill Julie Meyer Mary Ann Smith
ShenanGO GREEN Tony Paglia Tammy D’Artenay
Scranton Sustainability Council Teresa Black Gene Grogan
Wilkes-Barre Sustainability Council Erin Brennan Susan Gross
PS York Sustainability Council Fulgentius Lugemwa
Green Teams at University Park Contact(s)
Administrative Units:
BURSAR: Better Understanding Recycling, Sustainability, and Resources Kelley McCord
Educational Equity
Values in Action (VIA) Team Debra Thurley
Green Innovations – Investment Office Karen Hammel
Office of Student Aid
Office of the President Green Team Marissa Shamrock
Office of the University Registrar
Research Accounting Cissy Reese
University Libraries Harlan Ritchey
Human Resources:   
Bennett Family Center Kendra Adkins
Hort Woods Jaylene Manuel
Finance and Business:
Housing David Manos
Office of Physical Plant
Parking Office/ Tranportation Cecily Zhu
Procurement Becky Fike
Residential Dining Jaime Robinson
Outreach (UP)
Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center Brian Sedgwick
Penn State Arboretum Jenn Hooven
Student Affairs:
Old Main & Career Services Jane Millar Katrena Keeler
CAPS Mini Green Team Susanna Hummer
Center for Spiritual and Ethical Development Rachel Galloway
HUB Green Team Mary Edgington Jennifer Keen
Residence Life Heide Port John Hurst
University Health Services Michele Brown
Campus Recreation Jason Erdman
Academic Colleges & Institutes:
Plant Pathology & Environmental Microbiology Judy Sinn
Zero In (Ag Engineering) Chris Costello
Arts and Architecture
Arts & Architecture Green Team Deborah Gulick Brendan Berthold Keith Brainard Nina Bumgarner
COMMunity Green Team
DUS Green Team
Earth & Mineral Sciences
Dutton e-Education Institute Green Team Matt Bugaj
Earth & Environmental Systems Institute Sarah Potter
EMS Deans Office Karen Royer
EMS Ryan Family Student Center Michael Gordon
Energy and Mineral Engineering Department
Energy Institute Jennifer Matthews
Geography Department Lucille Laubenstein Jodi Vender
Geosciences Department Suzanne Godissart
Materials Science and Engineering Department Seda Oturak
Meteorology & Atmospheric Science Department Marisa Ferger
College of Education Boni Richardson
College of Engineering Green Team David Jones Lauren Rodgers
Health and Human Development
Nutrition Denise Lawson
Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center Brian Sedgwick
Information Sciences and Technology
IST Building Green Team Lisa Crownover
Liberal Arts
College of Liberal Arts Sustainability Council Austin Boyle
Psychology Department Green Team Nick Pearson
Pond Lab Green Team Allison Haas
College of Medicine Green Team Savannah Marshall
Nursing Simulation Lab Kristal Hockenberry
Biology Howard Fescemyer
Chemistry Department Russel Saieva
Land and Water Green Team Lydia Vandenbergh
The Huck Green Team
University Park Green Teams 48
Commonwealth Campuses Green Teams/Sustainability Councils 23
Total Penn State Green Teams 72


Penn State’s Green Teams initiative officially began in the summer of 2009, and since then these volunteer groups have engaged their peers and worked to expand their understanding of sustainability. Their activities have covered topics from reduction of waste to recycling, health and energy, to biodiversity, spanning most of the SDG goals. Continue reading to learn more about the positive changes Green Teams have made to save resources, both financial and natural, and to improve the health and happiness of our community.

Communication’s “Freeshop”

The Communication Green Team’s freeshop was set up similarly to a yard sale around their building’s lobby. Office members donated their unwanted goods to the freeshop and the items were displayed for two days to find a new home. Almost all of the items were taken and the rest were able to be recycled. “I think the freeshop made faculty, staff and students more aware of the recycling efforts that are shaping the College’s sustainable culture,” said Johnson. “It also increased awareness of our GT’s presence in the College and allowed those participating to feel good about actually doing something instead of simply talking to raise awareness for sustainability.”