Description: “As college students, we are about to face big problems when we graduate – from global warming to endangered species, from the escalating cost and declining quality of health care to the plight of the hungry and homeless.
Every campus has its share of apathy, but students care about these problems. And more than any other group of people, we have the time, the energy, the intelligence, the resources and the idealism to help solve them.
But will we? After all, colleges and universities teach students to become effective doctors, lawyers, engineers, computer programmers, entrepreneurs, managers and the like. But they don’t really teach us to become effective citizens. And effective citizenship is what it takes to shake up the status quo and get decision-makers to act on big social problems.
That’s where the Student Public Interest Research Groups, or PIRGs, comes in. The student PIRGs are independent state-based student organizations that work to solve public interest problems related to the environment, consumer protection, and government reform.
For 35 years, students who have been involved with their PIRG campus chapter have not only learned how to investigate a problem and come up with a practical solution. They’ve also learned how to convince the media and decision-makers to pay attention and take action.
Through the student PIRGs we gain an educational experience in democratic citizenship. In addition, we get a chance to face up to society’s big problems, take action, and win concrete changes that improve the quality of our lives.”
Sustainability Initiatives: New Voters Project
In 2004, the Student PIRGs launched the New Voters Project, our nonpartisan voter registration and mobilization effort. Since then, the project has registered over 600,000 18-to-30-year olds and made over 650,000 get-out-the vote contacts that year, making it the nation’s largest nonpartisan grassroots mobilization effort targeting young voters. During that period, young voter turnout has consistently increased, rising from 36% in 2000 to more than 52% in 2008.
Campus Climate Challenge
Student PIRGs across the country launched the Campus Climate Challenge. The goal of the challenge is for 500 colleges across the country to take the lead in fighting climate change by committing to reduce their emissions to 90% below 2005 levels by 2050.
Our Student Debt Alert campaign works to raise awareness about the growing problem of student debt and call for solutions. Through the campaign, hundreds of students posted their photos and stories on the Student Debt Yearbook, to illustrate to decision makers the importance of financial aid programs. Hundreds of additional students sent testimony to the federal Commission on the Future of Higher Education urging them to address student debt issues.
The Student PIRGs released groundbreaking reports on how the textbook publishing industry is ripping-off students. Students surveyed hundreds of professors and bookstores and our research led to approximately 400 news stories across the country. In addition, Congress called for an independent study by the GAO. The GAO student supported our conclusion that textbook publishers’ practices are driving up the costs of textbooks. The GAO report received attention from press across the country including USA Today.
Despite a strong push by the oil industry and their allies in Congress, the Student PIRGs were part of a successful campaign to beat back efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling.
Our Ecopledge campaign convinced Staples to stop selling products made from old-growth wood, and convinced Coke and Pepsi to start using recycled plastic in their bottles.
The Student PIRGs are a driving force behind the efforts to protect 58 million acres of pristine roadless areas in our national forests from road building and most logging.
Sustainability Awards, Recognition:
Link to Financial Profile: