Meet Parren Fountain, and how he helps students get involved in sustainability at BU

Tell us a bit about what you do at BU Sustainability. 

I am the Engagement Manager at BU Sustainability, where I coordinate outreach programs and initiatives for students, staff and faculty members that align with the BU Climate Action Plan. I am here to help people get involved in sustainability on campus! 

What brought you here to BU? 

Before coming to BU, I co-founded a “library of things” in Lund, Sweden, while studying for my master’s in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science at Lund University. A “library of things” is similar to a regular library, but instead of books, it has all sorts of things like camping equipment, ice cream makers, bicycles, movie projectors and more! Through our project, we worked closely with university students who could take advantage of more sustainable ways to reutilize and share material goods. 

Why are you passionate about sustainability? 

Early on in my career, I was directly confronted with the effects of climate change and saw issues of environmental injustice firsthand. This was my primary motivation for transitioning my career into sustainability. Seeing the impacts of climate change with my own eyes led me to pursue a career and master’s degree in sustainability and environmentalism. 

What is one fun fact about sustainability at BU that you hope people can know? 

I think BU is unique because we have committed to being a Zero Waste campus by 2030. A few people didn’t just create our Zero Waste Plan, but a 54-member task force of faculty, staff, and students coming together to outline 21 initiatives that focus on various important aspects of Zero Waste.  

You can already see these things coming to life across campus, with sending food waste to a composting collective, installing water bottle filling stations, to more recycling, food waste and trash disposal locations around BU. And it is not just BU Sustainability that is a part of executing this plan – we work closely with Campus Planning & Operations, BU Dining Services, and a host of partners across our community to make this happen. 

How can members of our community get involved in sustainability? 

Students have a lot of resources here at BU, especially our undergraduate students. There are many clubs and groups on campus that students can get involved in, including the BUMC Climate Action Group, Cleantech Club, and the Environmental Student Organization. But that does not mean sustainability is just for our undergraduates. I’m really looking forward to working with graduate students in finding ways they can take action on campus and in our community. 

Also, at a school like BU, you are not just a part of the university, you are part of Boston and environmental and sustainability initiatives beyond our campus. Many students, alumni and faculty are involved with environmental action organizations, such as Boston Climate Action Network, 350Mass, Speak for the Trees, the North American Indian Center of Boston, and GreenRoots – we even have some alums that work for these organizations. 

For our faculty and staff, we have the Sustainability Liaisons Program, which encourages sustainability leaders in departments across BU to get their colleagues more engaged in sustainability and help them find ways to make their office space more eco-friendly. We provide the Liaisons resources on how they can make their office more sustainable, give them tips on reducing waste and increasing proper recycling, and serve as a support system in helping to make BU a Zero Waste and Carbon Neutral campus. 

Lastly, there are things that people can do in their day-to-day lives. Some simple things people can do are use a reusable water bottle, composting in their kitchen (and there are ways to make it not smell), and take public transportation or bike around town. I am an avid cyclist and love to bike to work and around the city. Boston has many protected bike lanes, so it’s incredibly convenient and safe to do so. Maybe one day, you’ll see me out on the Esplanade bike bath or on my way to work on Comm Ave! 

Thank you, Parren!