An update from Dan Xie, national political director of the Student PIRGs
MAY 27, 2022
Since the 1970s, young people have been at the forefront of the environmental movement, helping to plan the first Earth Day and energizing Americans and the world to act for our planet’s future.
I’m beyond proud that young people working with the Student PIRGs are carrying on the legacy of the first Earth Day in 2022 and beyond.
I wanted to take a minute to highlight just a few of the more than 120 events students planned as part of the Student PIRGs’ and our partners’ third annual Youth Earth Week. These events won our Youth Earth Week awards for engaging the most people, being creative, and advocating for tangible solutions to environmental problems.
Students at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst celebrated a major victory on Earth Day when the university announced its plan to get to 100% renewable energy by 2032.
Students working with their campus PIRG chapter at the university launched their campaign calling on the university to act in December 2016. In the five years since, they’ve organized their peers, delivered tens of thousands of signatures and hundreds of faculty endorsements to university leadership, and won support from the student government.
Throughout it all, students like Kaitlyn Mitchell, who joined our team as a campus organizer, continued to demonstrate support for moving to 100% renewable energy by engaging the entire campus community.
Students working with their campus PIRG chapter at UCSB planned a series of events designed to highlight the problem of plastic waste and its solutions, culminating in a rally in support of California bill AB2026, which would ban plastic packaging from e-commerce transactions.
Students canvassed surrounding neighborhoods, going door to door to collect plastic waste and turning it into a 7-foot tall sculpture (nicknamed Agent P) on campus to draw attention to the problem. Volunteers then collected more plastic from students passing by, to the point where no more plastic could fit on the sculpture. Finally, students organized a rally and march in support of AB2026, marching from campus to the beach carrying the plastic sculpture and homemade Earth Day signs.
PIRG students at Eckerd College won a groundbreaking commitment from the university in 2019 to break free from single-use plastic waste in 2019, led by students including Brower Youth Award winner Alex Gordon.
After this historic commitment, Eckerd students set their sights on making their college into a national example for the zero waste movement, working with departments across campus to reduce waste.
A key part of their campaign involved working with campus dining services and local businesses to launch a zero-waste store on campus where students could buy sustainable living products without contributing to plastic waste, and be able to use their meal plan flex dollars to do so, helping to make zero waste a reality for every student. The store officially launched on Earth Day and PIRG students were there to celebrate.
PIRG students at Rutgers University, Newark organized an Earth Day campus cleanup and gardening event, partnering with Campus Facilities and the Office of Student Life and Leadership to engage students. Students walked around campus and collected over five bags of trash and plastic waste and learned gardening tips. Isnard Mir-Merced, Program Coordinator for the Office of Student Life also ran a demonstration for students to turn old shirts and other clothing into reusable and eco-friendly bags.
PIRG students at UCLA used Youth Earth Week to organize events and lobby meetings with local officials to advocate for a zero-carbon transportation system and zero waste.
Students worked with other campus organizations to host an Earth Day Fair on campus, and collected signatures from students in support of local commitments to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure and better public transit, as well as support for AB2026, the anti-plastic packaging legislation as well as local measures to curb plastic pollution.
Students also turned that support into action, meeting with the Los Angeles City Council to urge them to adopt a zero-waste measure and increase investments into electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Much more work remains to create the future we want, but it’s clear that with young people leading the charge, we can and will get to the future we want to see. We want to thank our partners at Break Free From Plastic, Environment America, Plastic Pollution Coalition, The Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, and Surfrider Foundation for helping us put on another successful Youth Earth Week!
Photo credits: Staff