Elaina Rollins ’16, News Editor
ConnPIRG, a consumer group that seeks to change public policy, is launching several new campaigns at Trinity this semester. ConnPIRG uses grassroots organizing, advocacy, and media to express their interests and create change. The organization states that their mission is to “speak up and [take] action…when consumers are cheated or the voices of ordinary citizens are drowned out by special interest lobbyists.”
Natalie Johnson is the campus organizer at Trinity. She has recently reached out to many students to inform them about the multitude of opportunities that ConnPIRG offers. This semester, ConnPIRG is focusing on three campaigns: Go Solar Connecticut, Zero Waste, and Hunger and Homelessness. Go Solar Connecticut seeks to find and use clean energy options. The campaign stresses that the way America currently uses energy is polluting, threatening, and unsustainable. Go Solar seeks to move away from energy sources like oil and coal and, instead, utilize the power of the sun, wind, and wave movement.
Go Solar’s goal is to move to 100 percent clean energy that is clean and sustainable. Although an overall lofty goal, the campaign currently strives to ensure that Conn. is getting 20 percent of its energy from clean, renewable sources by 2020. Currently, only three percent of the state’s energy is clean energy.
Natalie and other representatives at ConnPIRG stress the urgency of this campaign because in the spring, the Conn. legislature may rule that burning trash is a form of clean and renewable energy. The campaign is also largely focused on Don Williams, a CT state senator and Senate President who has lots of influential power. Go Solar seeks to get Conn. back on track towards renewable energy goals by promoting solar power.
Zero Waste, another ConnPIRG campaign at Trinity this spring, works to increase recycling and reduce waste. Trinity is an especially valuable location to participate in this campaign because not only is Conn. the state which burns the most trash per person, Trinity is only two miles from the biggest incinerator in the state. Conn. as a whole burns over two million tons of trash every year, and the nearby incinerator burns over 2,000 tons of trash every day.
One way to burn less trash is to first reduce the amount of trash the state seeks to burn. Reusing and recycling will reduce trash, and for the items we cannot reuse or recycle, Zero Waste wants to compost them. A zero waste community is a community that does not send anything to landfills or incinerators.
Trinity is, again, an important place for this campaign. Conn. has a statewide goal to recycle 60 percent of its waste, but is current only at 30 percent. Zero Waste wants Trinity to be a statewide example for reusing and recycling. The campaign aims to convince the College to embrace a Zero Waste plan.
ConnPIRG states that this semester, Zero Waste plans to change Trinity policy by “building a large coalition on campus, doing more to reduce on the ways Trinity can reduce waste, and working with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to advance statewide change.”
The ConnPIRG Hunger and Homelessness campaign focuses on the fact that although America is the richest country on Earth, there are 49 million Americans that are hungry this winter. Trinity students can help by building public support to bring about policy change.
The 26th annual National Hunger Clean up is taking place this semester. This project is a one day “service-a-thon” where volunteers are sponsored to do service. The 25 previous Hunger Clean Ups have raised more than a total of $2 million for hunger and homelessness relief efforts. The 26th Hunger Clean Up will raise $100,000 to fight the cause.
In the fall, ConnPIRG ran its New Voters Project at Trinity. This project registers college students to vote and helps get them to the polls during election season. ConnPIRG believes that, “the best way to get political leaders to pay attention to young people and our issues is to register and vote.” The campaign seeks to strengthen democracy by encouraging political participation.
The 2012 goal for the New Voters Project was to not only increase youth voter turnout, but to use the success from those votes to show government that paying attention to youth issues is important. Trinity students working on this campaign consistently worked outside of Mather Hall to encourage and help other students register to vote. Then on Election Day, students were given directions toward voting locations to cast their ballot. ConnPIRG lets students get involved in any of the spring campaigns in a variety of ways.
ConnPIRG has also previously run its Make Textbooks Affordable campaign, which fights to control the cost of overpriced textbooks. The average student spends $900 per year on books for classes.
By using money-saving technology like online rental programs, students can help put pressure on companies that are consistently hiking up prices. Students on the campaign raise awareness in the community and call local publishers, colleges, and foundations to stop issuing new editions that make books difficult to find at affordable prices.
Although it is too late to apply for credit internships, all ConnPIRG internships involve valuable hands on work centered on critical issues. As an intern, “you could learn to recruit and manage volunteers, plan events, build coalitions, work with the media, develop campaign strategies, or run research projects.”
ConnPIRG is all about student activism that leads to real results. It is easy to express concern for an issue, but real change comes from action. To get involved with ConnPIRG’s spring campaigns, students can contact Natalie Johnson at 860-297-5310 or visit the ConnPIRG office in the FACES lounge, next to the Community Service Center in the basement of Mather Hall.