WashPIRG’s fall quarter goals for sustainability, voting accessibility, and homelessness

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The UW chapter of WashPIRG at their fall kickoff meeting Wednesday, Oct. 9. Courtesy of WashPIRG UW chapter.

The UW chapter of Washington Public Research Interest Group (WashPIRG) is a student-run, student-funded activism group here on campus. As the UW’s leading student public interest group since 1976, WashPIRG fights for issues chosen by students throughout the year to impact social change. 

With their fall kickoff meeting just last Wednesday, Oct. 9, WashPIRG is actively working on five major issues this quarter: increasing student accessibility to voting, committing the UW to 100% renewable energy, banning single-use plastics, protecting the bees, and alleviating hunger and homelessness.

The New Voters Project is a non-partisan voter mobilization effort on campus. Its goal is to create an infrastructure in order to increase voting accessibility to students. In light of the 2020 elections, and given the history of disparity between young voters and older voters in voting turnout, WashPIRG finds it immensely important for students to understand and access voter registration. 

“Making it accessible and increasing the equity around voting on campus is really important,” Allison Kirste, chapter vice-chair and co-coordinator of the New Voters Project, said. “For students especially, it’s really difficult as young people who are moving often.” 

WashPIRG is working to build a coalition of RSOs that are on board, while also working with institutions like HSF and other groups to make sure their members are registered to vote. 

WashPIRG’s main campaign this quarter is its 100% Renewable Energy campaign, which is currently working to urge the UW to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2030. Hoping to have a commitment by the end of this quarter, the campaign has been running for several years, inching closer to a finalized commitment. Most of WashPIRG’s priorities are focused on this issue as they continue to collect petitions and receive faculty sing-on. 

Working closely with UW Sustainability, the main concern is finding an alternative solution to a major heating and cooling power plant on campus. As the UW continues to move toward more renewable energy sources, many people in WashPIRG, UW Sustainability, and the president’s office want to see a solution to this final barrier. 

The organization is also working to establish a statewide ban on single-use plastic products by revitalizing its Break Free From Plastics campaign. While we’ve seen local progress on campus and in Seattle on banning single-use plastic products, WashPIRG is working to garner support from other nonprofits to gain traction throughout the state. 

This campaign will take precedence during winter and spring quarters as WashPIRG is hoping to see a commitment from the state by the next legislative session. 

The organization also continues its work on its Save the Bees campaign. Working with different environmentally conscious RSOs and groups, they’re continuing to bring awareness to the importance of pollinators and working to integrate a pest management plan that excludes harmful pesticides on campus. 

Additionally, the UW’s WashPIRG chapter continues to be active in their Hunger and Homeless campaign, a service-based campaign that works with ROOTS Young Adult Shelter and the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) to alleviate hunger and homelessness in the U-District. 

“Students really, deeply care about the U-District,” Kirste said. “Since it always has been a service-based campaign, [students] really like the feeling of giving back to the community.” 

Reach reporter Andrew Ronstadt at [email protected]. Twitter: @AndrewRonstadt