When we say civic engagement means engaging young people year-round beyond election, we mean it.

This year, PIRG clubs and chapters across the country worked to make sure student voices were heard on more than a dozen issue areas ranging from fighting climate change and making higher education more affordable to making voting more accessible to students and conserving critical habitats for future generations. Our power is in the people, so we put a premium on local organizing driven by PIRG student leaders. In total, more than 45,000 students across the country called on elected officials and policymakers to act through peer-to-peer boots-on-the-ground campaign work.

PIRG’s community-based student organizations took these student petitions and testimonials and met with state and municipal decisionmakers to call for local solutions to local problems like expanding marine protected areas to protect wildlife in Oregon and moving a local polling location to the central Student Union at Florida State University.

We leveraged the strength of our national network to represent student voices in key Biden Administration decisions around Right to Repair, textbooks affordability, and fighting climate change. Our team also built bipartisan support for issues like food waste and plastic pollution in Congress.

Read on for some of our highlights from this year’s legislative agenda.

40+

Local, state, and federal policies that students advocated for

351

Students attending, local state, and national advocacy meetings.

340

Meetings with elected officials, their staff, and government officials.

12

Public interest policies passed or adopted at the local, state, and national level.

PIRG students with our inflatable whale in the Rayburn House Office Building supporting the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act at our national lobby day.
CALPIRG Students at a press conference in support of SB244, a bill to ban bee-killing pesticides.
Our team with legislative staff and coalition partners in front of the Georgia State Capitol advocating for increased protections for the Okefenokee Swamp.

Protecting our Environment

Our team advocated for policies that will ensure that future generations will have access to clean air, clean water, open spaces, and thriving biodiversity.

More Nature

Our network elevated student voices on numerous federal policies to protect old growth trees, create national monuments, and expand marine protected areas. We’re especially proud of our contribution to the successful campaign to protect the Tongass National Forest.

At the state level, Georgia students met with elected officials about protecting the Okefenokee Swamp, and in California our proposal to expand marine protected areas is being considered by the Fish and Wildlife Commission. In Oregon, students advocated successfully to increase funding for Oregon’s Marine Reserves Program.


Stopping Single-Use Plastics

Students in California met with more than two-thirds of the state legislature about policies to strengthen the state’s bag ban, ban PVC packaging, and ban plastic water bottles. Our Washington team ran a robust campaign to expand recycling through the RE-WRAP Act. Nationally, students successfully built bipartisan support for the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act which would ban the dumping of plastic pellets (also called nurdles) in our waterways.


Protecting Wildlife

In addition to our work to protect critical habitats, students advocated for policies that would directly protect wildlife. Nationally, we met with more than 50 Congressional staff to build bipartisan support for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act which would fund state and tribal efforts to protect important species.

We also made major progress in our national campaign to save the bees by expanding native habitat and banning bee-killing pesticides. California students successfully passed a state bill to restrict a pesticide dangerous to bees and New Jersey students met with nine cities about how to improve their local policies around bee conservation.

 


Getting Ready for Election 2024

Our democracy works best when we all participate and everyone weighs in on who gets elected.

We believe that the full participation of young people in the political process is essential to a truly representative, vibrant democracy. Despite record-breaking progress in recent elections, young people continue to be underrepresented in our democracy.

College campuses are key to organize in order to shift the overall narrative.

In states across the country, PIRG student leaders helped train student leaders and engage local voting officials through statewide student voting summits. From Michigan to North Carolina, PIRG students recruited their peers to attend summits, helped organize logistics, and led training sessions on how to turnout the youth vote.

Students also worked at the local level to make voting more accessible to their peers. At Florida State University PIRG leaders worked with the County Supervisor of Elections to move their polling location to the Student Union to make voting easier for the student body.

Federally, students met with the Department of Education to discuss how they can work together to better integrate voter engagement into higher education nationwide.

PIRG’s Vote Goat at the Michigan Student Voting Summit with Eaton County Commissioner Jacob Toomey.
Florida PIRG’s Sam Appel with the Leon County Supervisor of Elections and other campus groups celebrating their new campus polling location.

Acting on Climate Change

Burning oil, gas and coal has polluted our air, water and land for decades. Now it’s changing our climate even faster than scientists feared it would. We know we can have healthier communities right now and a livable future for ourselves and generations to come. But to get there, we must transform the way we produce and consume energy.

This year, our national network partnered with the Climate Action Campaign to engage thousands of students in defending the landmark investments in climate solutions in the Inflation Reduction Act in Congress, and call on the EPA to take the strongest regulatory actions possible to fight global warming. PIRG students called on members of Congress to invest in climate solutions and made sure student voices were heard on numerous EPA rules that will reduce climate emissions and make our air cleaner for generations to come.

PIRG students also advocated for state level policies that will push the envelope of what’s possible for climate solutions. Massachusetts students continued their campaign in support of a policy to commit the state to 100% renewable energy. Our California team advocated for more rooftop solar, funding for offshore wind, and an end to oil and gas subsidies. Washington students made the case for community based solar. Finally, Connecticut students lobbied in support of an omnibus bill that includes 22 initiatives to curb climate emissions and impacts.

Gerod Ford (Center, Georgia State University) delivering thousands of public comments on climate solutions to the EPA Youth Advisory Council.

Massachusetts PIRG Students at the capitol lobbying in support of the 100% CLEAN Act.

Michigan PIRG students with Michigan House Representative Julie Brixie at their table in front of the capitol on Earth Day.

California PIRG Students at the capitol in support of a $1 billion offshore wind bond.

Students from across the country in D.C. with the Federal Trade Commission staff after discussing solutions to planned obsolescence.
CALPIRG Students at a press conference in support of the right to repair our stuff.

The Right to Repair our Stuff

Companies don’t make things like they used to, and that’s a big problem. Not long ago, most consumer goods and business products were easily repaired with parts that were widely available. But more and more, manufacturers have implemented various legal, digital and physical barriers that prevent consumers from doing their own repairs or using independent repair shops.

The result is a massive amount of waste — in fact, electronic waste is now the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Continuing to extract, produce and consume electronics at this rate is not sustainable for the environment or consumers.

CALPIRG Students hosted a press conference with a local repair shop to highlight the problem, and met with dozens of elected officials in support of the Right to Repair Act. The bill passed this year, making California the third state in the country to give consumers the right to repair their stuff.

OSPIRG Students delivered letters of support from 40 small businesses to 65 legislators at their state lobby day. Oregon’s new law is the nation’s first right-to-repair bill that bans devices from blocking repair with software-pairing checks.

Our national network made sure student voices were heard during the Federal Trade Commission’s public comment period on Right to Repair in February. At our Federal Lobby Day, students met with the FTC to share their experience on repair with the agency and met with more than 50 Congressional staff about numerous national repair laws that have been introduced.

Making College More Affordable

Textbook Affordability

According to the College Board, the average undergraduate student should budget between $1,200 and $1,300 for textbooks and supplies each year. That’s as much as 40% of tuition at a two-year community college and 13% at a four-year public institution. The rise of automatic textbook billing programs at colleges and universities is exacerbating this problem. PIRG students organized students from 76 institutions in 20 states to sign onto a letter to the Department of Education in support of their proposed policy to regulate these predatory programs.

Our team continued to advocate in support of the Affordable College Textbook Act by meeting with Congressional staff about the benefits of free open textbooks.

In addition, students in California, Oregon (pictured below), and Pennsylvania advocated for bills that would make textbook costs more transparent and affordable.

Supporting Student Basic Needs

Across the country, PIRG students continued to advocate for Hunger Free Campus Bills and policies that would give students a basic safety net of food and housing.

In Washington, students successfully lobbied to pass HB230 which will establish an economic security for all grant program.

Washington students advocating for a new grant program that will benefit students.
More than 100 Bay Staters joined our lobby day in support of increasing Massachusetts’ investment in the Hunger Free Campus Initiative to $2 million in next year’s budget.