Energy Service Corps
This year we launched a new program with Americorps to provide direct service and community education around energy issues. The way we use energy is unsustainable. Fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – provide more than 85% of all the energy consumed in the U.S. This creates a whole host of environmental and public health problems – from global warming, to air pollution that causes asthma and cancer, to the environmental problems created by mining and drilling for coal and oil. We’ve known for some time that the quickest and easiest way to cut down on all these problems is to use less energy. Cutting our energy use will not only help our health and the environment, but it will also help take the burden on our pocketbooks as energy bills become more and more expensive. Since many people in our community cannot afford an energy audit or performing many upgrades in their home, we are providing a simple energy assessment and weatherization for free. We’re also reaching out to area schools to teach K-12 students how to cut their energy use.
In our first year running Energy Service Corps, students in CO educated more than 5,800 elementary and high school students about energy efficiency and conducted individual energy efficiency assessments in more than 680 homes, apartments and businesses.
Making Higher Education Affordable
In March 2010, President Obama signed into law the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which invests in financial aid by ending sweetheart deals to big banks and loan companies. CoPIRG Student Chapters along with students from across the country contributed to the call for reform of our federal student loan programs. Thousands of students participated in a Wall of Debt week of action in September 2009, filling out petitions in the form of bricks indicating the level of student loan debt they will graduate with. In March 2010, students educated their peers with an event called “Take A Swing at Sallie Mae” to highlight the excessive subsidies that banks and lenders received for making loans, while students plunged into deep debt. CoPIRG Student Chapters' research also helped document the need for reform.
Hey Gov: What’s Your Plan for Higher Education
Public higher education in Colorado faces an uncertain future. Overall, funding for higher education form the state’s general fund has dropped from $654 million in 2002 to $324 million in 2010. As a result, tuition at CU Boulder has skyrocketed. Resident tuition tripled from $2,164 in 2002 to $6,446 in 2010. Many students are now being priced out of an opportunity to go to college. For those who can afford it, many must work 2 – 3 jobs and struggle to find time necessary to study, not to mention taking out hefty college loans. The next Governor and state legislature will be forced to make decisions that will greatly impact the direction of public higher education in Colorado. CoPIRG students used the Election season this year to ask the candidates running for Governor what their plan is for higher education. In early September, no candidates were discussing higher education. By Election Day, we managed to track down each candidate numerous times during the campaign season to ask them what their plan was. This strategy made higher education a much more discussed issue during the election. Now we must take further action to ensure the Governor-Elect knows the distressed situation students are in across Colorado.
National Geographic: Practice What You Print
Every second a tree is logged for all the US magazine paper. More specifically, every minute 1.5 trees are logged just for National Geographic. National Geographic does NOT use recycled paper in their magazines’ pages; they do NOT specify certain certification to ensure that the fiber is harvested legally and sustainably; and, they use a paper mill that is one of the worst polluting mills in the world. If we get National Geographic- a leader of the U.S. magazine industry-to switch to recycled paper and use a cleaner mill, then they will set the example for the many other magazines that need to change their ways.
As a part of a national coalition of nonprofits, we’ve been pressuring National Geographic by gathering hundreds of petitions from students in Colorado asking National Geographic to commit to using at least 30% recycled paper by 2013, and that they restore the health and vitality of the Androscoggin River. We also met with Dr. John Francis, Vice President of Research, Conservation, and Exploration at National Geographic and Jimmy Chin, alpinist, adventurer when they were on the CU Boulder campus for a public lecture.
Take Back the Tap
Bottled Water has many detrimental impacts on health and the environment. U.S. plastic bottle production requires about 17.6 million barrels of oil, enough to fuel more than one million cars. 86% of empty plastic water bottles in the U.S. land in the garbage instead of being recycled. More shockingly, many people drink bottled water because they see health and safety problems with tap water. However, tap water is actually much safer than bottled water. Plastic bottles leach chemicals into the water, and bottled water is highly unregulated. Public tap water is healthy, safe and monitored. In fact, the EPA requires extensive testing of public water for both organic and inorganic contaminants, whereas the FDA regulates only the 30-40% of bottled water sold across state lines. It’s time to Take Back the Tap. People everywhere can save hundreds of dollars every year by switching back to tap water. We have been educating hundreds of students about bottled water by hosting film screenings of “Flow” and “Tapped” and educating people one-on-one. We’re also working with the CU Student Government to draft legislation that would require CU to buy and sell less bottled water.
Keep Transit on track
The Obama administration distributed $8 billion nationwide for high-speed rail, and here in Colorado we have a great opportunity to develop our public transit. Taking I-70 up to the mountains is a dangerous drive and the traffic can be unbearable. CoPIRG students in Denver have collected over 300 public comments on the Auraria Campus in favor of high-speed rail along the I-70 corridor, and delivered them to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness
Students in Colorado along with thousands of students on campuses across the country join together through our annual Hunger Cleanup each April to raise money and volunteer in a day of service in their communities. Since students started this annual tradition in 1984, more than 150,000 have volunteered and their combined efforts have raised over $2 million. This year, in addition to local charities, students donated funds to relief projects in Haiti.
In November 2009, we launched the Resolve Conference, where 250 students were joined by activists, advocates and organizers for a weekend of education and training to create anti-poverty campaigns in their communities. Coming out of the conference, participants joined hundreds of campuses holding educational and service events during the annual Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
For National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week 2010 we held a series of education and service events on hundreds of college campuses to make sure that these problems stay on the forefront of people's minds. The Auraria Campus collected almost 500 items of food and warm clothing that we donated to the Denver Rescue Mission and towards starting up a UCDenver food bank. CU Boulder held a Faces of Homelessness Panel, where three people who are transitioning into housing shared their personal stories with homelessness. We worked with CMACS to host a Town Hall Meeting to discuss methods of bettering the health of homeless people in Boulder. And we ended the week with CoPIRG’s 3rd Annual Hunger Banquet.
New Voters Project
Launched more than 25 years ago, the Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project has helped to register more than 700,000 voters and make more than a million personalized voting reminders since 2004, 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.
The 2008 election saw young voter turnout surge by at least 2.2 million votes over 2004 levels. Students involved with the New Voters Project played a big role in the impressive turnout of students in this historic election. On 100 campuses in 17 states, the Student PIRGs' New Voters Project combined old-fashioned pavement pounding with cutting-edge technology to reach young voters.
CoPIRG Student Chapters worked at CU-Boulder, CSU, UNC, CU-Denver, and CSU-Colorado Springs to run a massive voter registration and mobilization campaign. We helped register over 4,000 students to vote and made over 48,000 reminder contacts in the days leading up to the election.
In 2010 across the country we helped over 30,000 students register to vote and had 170,000 conversations with students in the days leading up to Election Day to remind them to vote. At CU Boulder, we worked with a coalition of groups to help 1,800 students register to vote and made 6,000 reminder contacts. At Auraria Campus, we helped over 600 students register to vote and made over 5,000 reminder contacts.
Global Warming Solutions
CoPIRG PIRG students have joined together with PIRG students in other states in educating the country about the solutions we have to global warming and building support for local, state and national policies that will put those solutions into practice. In Spring 2010, we mobilized over 30,000 students and community members to call for clean, renewable energy and an end to our dependence on oil and coal. We held events on and off campus to educate thousands of people, resulting in more than 100 news stories about our work.
In 2007, CoPIRG Student Chapters at CU Boulder, with a team of 22 Climate Action volunteers, ran a drive to collect comments to Chancellor Bud Peterson, requesting that he sign a commitment to make the campus a leader in reducing our impact on global warming. The team gathered more than 700 requests from CU students in less than a week and ended up convincing Chancellor Peterson to sign onto the American University and College President's Climate Commitment letter. The chapter also gathered over 1,000 student signatures encouraging Colorado Governor Bill Ritter to reduce global warming pollution
CoPIRG Student Chapters at UC Denver won initial approval in 2007 for a large solar array to be installed on campus that will produce solar power on site. This will be the largest solar project on any college campus outside the state of California.
No Drills, No Spills
After the Gulf oil spill disaster, we joined a national coalition of groups to call for an end to new offshore drilling and a renewed commitment to breaking our country's dependence on oil. More than 400,000 Americans signed petitions and made calls to the Obama administration calling for a ban on new offshore drilling. And despite heavy pressure from big oil and gas companies, we won. On December 1st 2010 the Obama Administration announced that it will protect the coasts of the continental United States from new drilling through 2017.
Wall Street Reform
We helped lead a year-long campaign to “Rein in Wall Street” and protect consumers, investors, and taxpayers from further financial meltdowns. This July we had a huge victory when the Consumer Protection Act was signed into law.
The marketplace can be daunting even for the most educated consumer. To help students avoid rip-offs and unsafe products and have the information to make educated choices, we're creating a set of guides for students. This semester, we released the Young Person’s Guide to Health Care and the Guide to Credit Cards.
Truth About Credit
Since 2007, COPIRG Student Chapters and USPIRG have been running the Truth About Credit campaign to expose dangerous credit card practices and clean them up. We organized “FEESA” educational tables on colleges nationwide, where we acted like credit card marketers but instead promoted principles for responsible credit card marketing on campus. In 2008, we also surveyed over 2,000 students and released a subsequent report, “The Campus Credit Card Trap,” which garnered nationwide media coverage.
Student Debt Alert
Our Student Debt Alert campaign raises awareness about the growing problem of student debt and calls for solutions. Through the campaign, over five thousand 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 facing students in Colorado and across the country.
COPIRG Student Chapters have been leading the charge to make textbooks affordable. We have been building support for “open textbooks” – books that are available to students for free – and signed on over 2,000 college professors who support using open textbooks in their classes. In addition, our extensive research on the textbook industry has defined the debate on the issue and sparked a Congressional investigation into textbook pricing.
As part of a national coalition, CoPIRG Student Chapters played a critical role in helping to protect 58.5 million acres of roadless areas in our national forests with the Roadless Rule.
CoPIRG Student Chapters has a long history of accomplishments. Among those: In the 1980s, we helped to pass the Lemon Law, a law forcing full disclosure of any previous accidents when selling a used car. We also qualified and passed the Motor Voter ballot initiative, an initiative which allows people to register to vote when they get their driver’s license.
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