Sustainability Program Manager Bruce Dixon with intern Lauren Dadekian ’24 at Pine Tree Preserve. (Lee Pellegrini)

Toward a greener future

Sustainability initiatives are everywhere at BC

Did you know that the Zambonis cleaning the ice at Conte Forum run on electricity instead of fossil fuels? That two of the McMullen Museum’s rooftops are actually alive*? Or that a colony of honey bees resides above Fulton Hall?

If you’re among the more than 3,000 individuals following BC’s Office of Sustainability on Instagram, you’re probably familiar with those facts and more. For three of her undergraduate years, Lauren Dadekian ’24 made it her mission to educate her fellow students on the huge strides the University has made towards becoming more sustainable, and invite them to support those efforts—whether it’s by composting their coffee grounds or signing up for a watering shift in the University garden.

“It’s important to me that we have a flourishing, connected sustainability community,” said Dadekian, a double major in management and environmental science, interviewed before her graduation in May. “I have a relationship with every single eco group on campus now—we work together and help each other out.”

It hasn’t always been this way. Before he assumed his current position as Sustainability Program Manager, Bruce Dixon can remember a time when the word “sustainable” wasn’t part of the Institutional Master Plan, and composting hadn’t yet entered the mainstream. Now, he partners with administrators, students, and departments across campus to design and implement large and small-scale changes—both in mindset and in practice—that will lead Boston College to a greener future.

In the past four years, the University has built three LEED Silver-certified buildings (the Margot Connell Recreation CenterFrates Center, and 245 Beacon Street) and spent millions updating its energy infrastructure—investments that will reduce the University’s carbon footprint for years to come. It’s also put resources toward smaller improvements like motion sensor lighting and hydration stations that encourage students to ditch plastic water bottles. With a residential community of more than 7,500, even modest shifts in behavior can add up to major impact.

“It’s about creating that culture, that mindset, and then initiating it,” Dixon said. “It’s getting folks in the habit of doing things differently.”

Students at a farmers market

This year's Earth Week festivities included a spring farmer's market. (Lee Pellegrini)

The journey to zero waste

If you want to see sustainability in action at BC, just visit one of its 14 dining locations, where 22,000 meals are served every day during the academic year, with nary a styrofoam tray in site. In addition to sourcing locally grown and responsibly harvested food, BC Dining serves to-go coffees and salads in compostable cups and bowls and offers generous discounts to students who bring their own thermoses or reusable meal containers through the University's Green2Go program. Thanks to these incentives, and outreach efforts by BC Dining’s sustainability interns, the number of students participating in Green2Go more than doubled in 2023.

Jane sitting in the dining hall

Jane Fulton '24 worked on sustainability initiatives for BC Dining during all four of her years at the Heights. (Lee Pellegrini)

“It’s been really cool to see how many students are using it,” said Jane Fulton ’24, who served as sustainability student intern manager. “Everyone cares about different things; trying to bring in students who might not have sustainability as their top issue, and for them to incorporate more sustainable habits, is what this job is all about.” 

At BC, Fulton worked to reduce waste in the dining halls since she started as a sustainability intern her freshman year. Using a portable scale, she helped BC Dining Services staff track and reduce the amount of leftover food that gets composted after every meal. Food that can still be served is packaged up by the BC student volunteer club Every Bite Counts, which then partners with the nonprofit Rescuing Leftover Cuisine to redistribute it to people in need. Between October and December of 2023, the students donated 839 pounds of food waste, the equivalent of 700 meals. 

“That’s food that would otherwise go into the compost, but it’s so much better if we can get it to a human who can really use it,” said Fulton. “It’s all about connecting back to the community.”

In the spring, Fulton and her team's efforts were recognized by the National Association of College & University Food Services, which granted BC Dining a bronze sustainabilty award in the category of waste reduction. 

Sustainability Snapshot


tons of food waste composted at BC dining halls in 2023, a 17% decrease from pre-COVID reports.


increase in students participating in BC's reusable container program, Green2Go, in 2023.


of all seafood purchased by BC Dining is third-party certified to be sustainable. (Read more)


of all baked goods purchased in 2023 were regionally produced.

An education in…trash

Compost bins are now commonplace inside BC dining halls, but elsewhere across campus they have yet to take hold. To change that, Dixon is currently piloting a composting program in three residence halls, educating students on good composting practices and granting them access to locked bins outside. Every week, he drives by to make sure the bins are clean and secure, and to weigh how much food waste has been collected. Eventually, he hopes to merge his pilot with one run by BC’s Undergraduate Student Government, to create an expanded permanent program. 

A group of people wearing green shirts with Baldwin

The Green Ambassadors with Baldwin on Game Day.

“Right now we don’t have compost in the first-year halls, and I think that’s the key,” he said. “If you start earlier, you get students used to the repetition.”

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome with composting—and recycling—is contamination, so Dixon is always looking for creative ways to educate the University community about proper waste disposal. At sporting events, he and a team of students known as the Green Ambassadors circulate among the crowd, engaging fans in “sustainability trivia” for a chance to win local restaurant gift cards. And before football games, they cheerfully explain the trash and recycling policies to tailgaters while handing out bags and compostable cups. 

Dixon’s other new projects include the recently-launched BC Shares program, created with sustainability interns Sarah Treacy ’24 and Vasilia Kavadas MSW ’24 and managed by EcoPledge, where students can donate items they no longer need instead of throwing them away. At the Earth Week Fair in April, students dropped off lamps, gently used clothing, and kitchen items to be given away to fellow community members. Dadekian contributed her rolling cart, which she won't need after graduation, so that instead of languishing in a landfill, it can help another student haul groceries home on the T. 

Appreciating the outdoors

There are more than 300 student-run clubs on campus, and a large handful of them are related in some way to the environment. There’s the Outdoors Club, Plant Club, Geology Club, Moon Club, BC Bikes, Real Food, Charity: Water, and EcoPledge, the University’s largest sustainability organization. Every week, Dadekian posts a roundup of activities happening on campus, like the University farmer’s market, or an invasive species cleanup at Pine Tree Preserve. 

A badge for winning the campus race to zero waste in 2024

BC has won the Campus Race to Zero Waste competition in the Per Capita Recycling large campus division for two straight years.

Through BC Bikes, students can check out a bicycle from O’Neill Library, or store their own and make small fixes in one of several storage and repair hubs on campus. For anyone with a green thumb, Real Food manages the University garden, which produces crops of herbs, fruits, and vegetables to be served at campus events and donated to the Newton food pantry. Compost from the dining halls is used as fertilizer, and bees from the nearby hive on top of Fulton Hall (a gift from a parent in 2016) travel there to pollinate. 

Today’s college students expect these types of programs, said Dixon, who has noticed an uptick in interest in his office from sustainably-minded first-year students, many of whom have experience composting at home or are passionate about climate change. Prospective students now visit his table at the activities fair for more than just a free reusable water bottle, and high schoolers touring campus are more knowledgeable than ever about environmental issues. But the Green Ambassadors still find plastic bottles in the trash can after hockey games, and some students still bypass the compost bin when they’ve finished their lunch. Those are the students Dixon is trying to reach. 

A jar of honey with the label "Honey from the Heights"

"Honey from the Heights," produced by BC's very own honey bee colony, is served at special events. (Lee Pellegrini)

For Earth Day this year, he partnered with Campus Ministry to host a Pause and Pray event at the memorial labyrinth, something he’s been wanting to do for years. Members of the BC community were invited to take a break from their busy days to honor the environment, either through prayer or a moment of silence. Students from different majors and social groups sat in a circle and later stood with their arms around nearby trees, breathing in the crisp spring air. It was exactly what Dixon had envisioned.

“I want this to be something that all students do, whether they’re environmental club students or in the school of management or studying law,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, you can care about the environment.” 

*Live or green roofs, which are covered with vegetation and a growing medium planted over a waterproofing membrane, offer a number of environmental benefits.