CALPIRG students at UCLA held campus events to turn out the vote. NOTE: Photo taken before the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdown. Photo: Staff

Work On Critical Issues To Shape Our Future

As an organizer with the Student PIRGs, you’ll work with students, on campus or online, to make a difference on important issues facing your community and your country. Take a look at some of our current priorities:

New Voters Project

Young people represent the largest and most diverse group of potential voters in the country, with our own values and our own ideas. But the issues that affect us are not being addressed because we don’t vote in high enough numbers. That’s why the Student PIRGs have been working to help students register to vote since 1984.

In 2020, the Student PIRGs ran one of our biggest New Voters Project efforts yet!

  • Over the summer and fall, the New Voters Project recruited and trained over 2,000 interns and 3,000 volunteers who led our nonpartisan voter registration and turnout campaign.
  • Despite the pandemic, we were able to expand our team of professional organizers to train even more students. This team of over 100 staff worked with students on 200 college campuses, 73 of which are minority-serving institutions or made up of majority-minority enrollment.
  • In all, our voter education program made 366,000 peer-to-peer GOTV contacts, and ultimately reached at least 2 million students.
  • We’re successfully building civic engagement infrastructure that can keep turning out students for years to come and get them involved in social change organizing.

Preliminary results from the 2020 election are showing historic voter turnout nearing 150 million votes cast, including record levels of participation by young voters. New data from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) estimates that based on votes counted as of November 6, suggest that 49 percent to 51 percent of voting-eligible young people, ages 18 to 29, cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential election. This represents a historic increase between 5 to 10 percentage points from 2016.

100% Renewable

America’s more than 5,000 universities, colleges and community colleges are big energy consumers with large buildings, many of which are open 24/7. At the same time, college campuses are largely self-contained communities, and therefore better able to find ways to generate all the power they need from clean, renewable sources — especially given the expertise among their faculty and the enthusiasm among their students for going green.

Cornell University, Green Mountain College, Colorado State University and, most recently, the University of California, are among the campuses that already have committed to going 100 percent renewable. Our goal is to get at least 50 college campuses to commit to 100 percent renewable energy by June 2021.

To achieve that goal, our organizers are working with the campus communities at 50 campuses in 10 states. To date, more than 350 faculty members from across the country have supported us in calling for commitments to 100 percent renewable energy — many of whom will prove to be valuable allies when we ask local and state government leaders to consider taking similar action.

Break Free From Plastics

Every day, people throw away tons of plastic “stuff” — which not only clogs our landfills, trashes our parks and litters our streets, but also washes into our rivers and oceans, where it can harm wildlife.

Recycling certainly can help mitigate the problem. But unfortunately, of the millions of tons of plastic we produce every year, most is currently not recyclable, and we produce vastly more waste than our recycling infrastructure can handle. As a society, we need to stop creating enormous quantities of unnecessary waste in the first place, rather than focus only on recycling and reusing waste after the fact.

The good news is that we have lots of alternatives to single-use plastic items that would prevent needless harm to the environment. We’re calling for campus, city and statewide bans on single use plastic products, including straws and take-out foam cups and containers. And we’re seeing real progress: In 2019, for example, CONNPIRG Students helped secure the passage of a statewide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags in Connecticut. This and other recent victories came from grassroots organizing tactics such as gathering student petition signatures, working with small businesses, hosting community plastic cleanups, and earning media attention for the cause — and we’re looking to do the same thing on dozens more campuses this year.

Nothing we use for a few minutes should threaten our health and pollute our future for hundreds of years.

Save The Bees

Millions of bees are dying off, with alarming consequences for our environment and our food supply. We rely on bees to pollinate everything from almonds to strawberries to the alfalfa used to feed dairy cows. What happens if the bees disappear? It’s simple: No bees, no food.

Scientists point to several causes behind the problem, including global warming, habitat loss, parasites and a class of bee-killing insecticides known as neonicotinoids (or neonics).

Right now, we’re letting big agrichemical companies use more of the chemicals that are known to kill bees just as we’re in the midst of an unsustainable die-off in bee populations. That has to change. Now.

With the Student PIRGs, you’ll organize students—not just in classrooms, but in dining halls all across the country—to pass state and local legislation to ban these toxic pesticides, and get our campuses to go "bee friendly."

Make Textbooks Affordable

College is already too expensive. Why are millions of students forced to pay hundreds of dollars each semester for brand new textbooks, especially when there are cheaper, smarter alternatives? We’re working to make sure students have access to these other options—at an affordable price.

For more than a decade, the Student PIRGs have led the way in exposing publishers' practices that rip off students, championing cost-saving textbook options such as used books and rental programs, and advocating for open textbooks as a long-term solution.

We can save students a ton of money, and put the heat on publishers to make textbooks affordable.

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