ecoteam leader's guide

Learning and Acting Together for Sensible Sustainability

“Never doubt that a small group of committed individuals can change the world-indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

We're glad you're here!  The following information will help you as the leader of your group to get started.  Use what helps you the most and contact us with any questions.

The EcoTeams program is coordinated by Sustainable Tallahassee and was initially co-funded by the City of Tallahassee and Leon County.  This guide would not have been possible without the quality contributions of Kathryn Ziewitz and Will Sheftall and others at the University of Florida, IFAS and Leon County Extension Service.   The efforts of Florida State University, Department of Urban and Regional Planning interns, Hiba George, Cheryl Dippre and Jiwuan Haley are also appreciated.



What is an EcoTeam?

EcoTeams are small education-action groups of 5-10 people who meet on a flexible schedule to learn about sustainability issues, and to discuss changes we can make at the individual, group and community levels. Any neighborhood, faith-based, workplace, friends or other groups can create an EcoTeam.  Here is a great handout you can print out and distribute to help get people interested in joining a team. And here are a couple of great handouts that Betton Hills team leaders put together: Role Examples and Lessons Learned.  

Meet Team Leader Brian Lee. Brian led a team that met at St. Johns Episcopal in 2013. Brian is on the Leon Soil and Water Conservation District 4 and is the Director of Research and Policy for ReThink Energy Florida. He is interested in clean, sustainable energy. Contact Brian at

What will EcoTeam Members Do?

Most EcoTeams will meet 4-6 times over a period of about 2 to 4 months. The core topics covered will be water, waste, energy, and transportation, with additional optional topics such as food, consumption, and local resilience.  Participants will also be invited to attend local discussion panels, workshops and field trips to learn more about sustainability efforts in our community. At the conclusion of the series there will be an EcoTeams celebration to recognize all that has been learned and accomplished.  The EcoTeam Project provides a supportive peer network for individual, group and community efforts.  Together EcoTeams work towards social, economic and environmental sustainability -- for themselves and future generations. 

  Meet Sue Hansen. Sue has been involved with more than one team in Betton Hills. Her interests are recycling, getting rid of plastic, sharing tools, and sharing expertise. She thinks we should form a job-sharing website as they did in Maine in the movie, "Fixing the Future." Contact Sue at

What is this Guide?

This guide is designed to assist leaders in initiating and conducting EcoTeams that educate, motivate and help members plan and implement individual, group and community-wide actions.   The guide describes EcoTeam goals, benefits and principles, suggests host and facilitator leadership responsibilities, and provides guidance and resources for initiating and conducting meetings. This guide is a work in progress.  We look forward to incorporating what works well for you and what resources you develop or find useful.  There are separate guides for core and optional sessions.

  Meet Peggy Sanford.  Her Indianhead-Lehigh neighborhood used the EcoTeams model to divide the 2015 year into five seasonal modules, with neighborhood activities in each segment devoted to EcoTeams topics - a terrific and creative way to adapt the EcoTeams model to fit her neighborhood group.  Read Peggy's "Greening Our Community" blog, published in the Tallahassee Democrat, about how they made it work, HERE.  

Potential Benefits

 A study of over 20,000 Green Living Handbook EcoTeam members reported these average annual savings:

      40% less garbage sent into the waste stream
      32% less water used
      14% less energy used
      18% less fuel used for transportation
      15% less CO2 emissions
      Financial savings of $255

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Guiding Principles for EcoTeams

  • 1. To support the development of a dynamic social group that will become meaningful for each member during and after the class.
  • 2. The group process will allow participants to build a common sense of community, through the power of story and joint and individual actions.
  • 3. Together each person can find the motivation to make lifestyle changes.
  • 4. The transfer of all essential knowledge is much less a priority for class time than facilitated discussion that will solidify group identity and affinity.
  • 5. Class discussions should be focused on facilitating group understanding of the range of each issue – from its global context, to its manifestation in one’s own community, to what individual actions are summoned in response.
  • 6. Action planning & impact evaluation can be motivating for participants.

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Host Responsibilities

Host and facilitator responsibilities can all be done by one person or divided in different ways between 2 or more people based on interest and time availability.

Getting Started:  EcoTeam Initiation and Meeting Preparation
    • 1. Solicit members from your church, neighborhood, workplace, professional, civic or social group, or just invite family and/or friends.
    • 2. Arrange the location and logistics for EcoTeam meetings.
    • a. Identify a location at an office, community center, church, library, home, etc.
    • b. Poll members to determine the frequency, dates and times for meetings
    • c. Arrange for tables, chairs, and any equipment you might need.
    • d. Provide refreshments, if desired.
    • 3. Coordinate with the Discussion Facilitator if someone other than you.
    • 4. Send meeting reminders and get confirmations of participation.

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Responsibilities at EcoTeam Meetings
    • 1. Welcome participants and support the Discussion Leader as needed.
    • 2. Manage logistics; ask for volunteers to share the responsibilities.
    • 3. Work with the facilitator to record key discussion points and proposed actions.

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Responsibilities Between Each Session
    • 1. Call or email anyone who misses a meeting to highlight what they missed, go over assignments and encourage them to come to the next meeting.
    • 2. Send out meeting reminders and other materials as needed. One facilitator took the opportunity in between meetings to send words of encouragement, resources to review, etc.

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Responsibilities at the Conclusion of the Series of Eco-Team Meetings
    • 1. Send thank you messages to EcoTeam members, speakers and others.
    • 2. Send out reminders to do 6 and 12-month reports/surveys on action plan activities and results.
    • 3. Lead, support and/or monitor implementation of your EcoTeam’s special projects.

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Discussion Leader Responsibilities

Host and facilitator responsibilities can all be done by one person or divided in different ways between 2 or more people based on interest and time availability.

Responsibilities for EcoTeam Initiation
    • 1. Talk with the Host about the members’ interests. Talking or emailing with members or sending a survey may help inform/motivate them and get a sense of their interests.
    • 2. Assemble and prepare the materials you'll use in the meetings. Check out the resources information available on this website.
    • 3. Send an invitation/introduction letter or email to EcoTeam members.
    • 4. Adapt the draft agenda for the initial session as needed.

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Responsibilities at the Orientation Session

(This can be the first 20-30 minutes of the first topic session)

    • 1. Introduce the EcoTeam concept, possible benefits and how the program works.
    • 2. Ask the members to briefly identify themselves and an example of their current sustainable practices and what they hope to gain from EcoTeam participation.
    • 3. Present core and optional topics and agree on the number of sessions and topics.
    • 4. Facilitate the scheduling meeting topics, dates, times and locations.
    • 5. Make this calendar available to all of the members and to Sustainable Tallahassee ( It may be possible for those who miss a session to attend the topic session with another EcoTeam.
    • 6. Determine if any members want to lead specific sessions.
    • 7. Make it clear that EcoTeam members do not have to do any preparation in advance of meetings. However, they are invited to explore optional readings, videos and other resources, if they like.

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Responsibilities at Topic Meetings
    • 1. Start every meeting with an inspirational opening or thought provoking question. This could be a poem, quote, personal anecdote, or something that connects the group to the meaning and larger purpose of what you are doing.
    • 2. Ask members for a report on new sustainability actions since the last meeting.
    • 3. Introduce the topic of the current module with a brief motivating, informative overview that provides the basis for discussion. Members can also be asked for their insights from personal knowledge, experience or optional readings/videos. This may be done by the facilitator, another EcoTeam member or a guest speaker.
    • 4. Refer to the topic action checklist that will be provided. Ask members to share what they are already doing and their plan for additional activities. Also explore ways they can help each other. Also discuss obstacles to action and how to overcome them.
    • 5. Refer to descriptions of possible community activities and resources that will be provided and ask for ideas for how the group can contribute to their group’s and community-wide sustainability efforts.
    • 6. Close the session by asking for a concluding insight and why it is important. This can be a special time for members to identify the significance of sustainability.
    • 7. Coordinate with your host to record action ideas and commitments for each session and email them to EcoTeam members and Sustainable Tallahassee (

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Responsibilities between sessions
    • 1. Prepare the agenda and materials for the next meeting
    • 2. Invite speakers, if desired.
    • 3. If someone else is leading the next session, help them prepare as needed.
    • 4. Prepare an email with instructions and optional resources for the next meeting.

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Responsibilities at the Conclusion of the Series of Eco-Team Meetings
    • 1. Work with the Host to prepare an EcoTeamsummary with contact information for the participants, highlights from the meetings, proposed EcoTeam projects, and lessons learned about how to improve the EcoTeam experience.
    • 2. Submit new ideas and resources from the meetings to be added to the EcoTeam website; this may be a wiki or blog that anyone can contribute to at any time.
    • 3. Lead, support and/or monitor implementation of your EcoTeams special project, if one is developed alone or in coordination with the Host.

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Core and Optional Topics

Session Options:

You and/or your EcoTeam will need to decide on:

    • 1. Number of Sessions
    • a. Orientation, 4 core modules (water, waste, energy, transportation) and possibly 1 or more elective modules (food, etc.).
    • b. Conclusion or wrap-up meeting, with tokens of appreciation, celebration, future action opportunities.
    • c. Optional field trips, community sustainability events, etc.
    • 2. Session frequency: weekly, bi-monthly, monthly or based on member availability.
    • 3. Session Length: 1, 1.5 or 2 hour sessions.
    • 4. Optional EcoTeam Project during or after completing modules.
Core Sessions 

(Allow 20-30 minutes for EcoTeam overview at first meeting)

    • 1. Waste
    • 2. Water
    • 3. Energy
    • 4. Mobility/Transportation
Elective Session Options 

(The group /facilitator can choose to create sessions with available resources as desired.):

    • 1. Food: Eating, Shopping, Growing
    • 2. Consumption, Purchasing, Simplicity
    • 3. Resilience
    • 4. Climate Change
    • 5. Consumption and the Economy
    • 6. Land Use, New Urbanism, Traditional Neighborhoods, Sense of Place
    • 7. Natural Resource Commodities (Minerals, Water, Timber, Fish)
    • 8. Natural Resources, Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity
    • 9. Wastewater
    • 10. Bartering, Local Currency

Additional Information

The EcoTeam support team is available to assist leaders in planning and preparing for their sessions. Suggested resources are available HERE on this website.

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