CALPIRG Runs Plastic Reduction and Zero Hunger Campaigns on Campus

By: Christina Acevedo

Photography by: Diego Hardy

UCI’s CALPIRG chapter is pushing the university to ban single-use plastics through their fall campaign, which aims to have the UC system eliminate single-use plastics by 2022.

According to CALPIRG Campus Organizer Diego Hardy, the campaign’s goal is to combat ocean pollution by reducing per capita plastic and to establish a model for other college campuses to follow.

The UC system already has a plan to become zero waste, but according to Hardy, the plan is behind schedule. He hopes that each UC CALPIRG chapter’s work can get each campus to accelerate the process.

“Each UC has like 30,000 odd students,” said Hardy. “California is a policy leader in the nation, so any work that we do here would actually go a very long way in changing the larger way we think about how we use plastic.”

To increase student involvement, the organization has had students compose and send letters about the impact of plastic pollution on their lives to the UC Office of the President. CALPIRG has also gathered petition signatures and is planning to organize events such as beach cleanups with special guest speakers.

“We are trying to give students the best experience they can while also being able to make a measurable impact,” Hardy said.

In addition to their work surrounding plastic pollution, CALPIRG plans to get Irvine to implement a transition into clean electric buses, make progress with a Zero Hunger and Basic Needs Campaign and facilitate student voter registration through a New Voters Project.

The Zero Hunger and Basic Needs Campaign focuses on having UCI to commit to zero hunger on campus and to fortify systems such as meal swipes and food banks by 2025. It also aims to increase support from the surrounding community through partnerships.

“What we were working on is gathering support to encourage Chancellor Gillman to be a champion on the issue of zero hunger,” said Hardy. “It’s ridiculous that students have to give up [their meals] to afford [Irvine’s] housing costs and the price of textbooks.”

CALPIRG’s textbook campaign plans to persuade professors to utilize free course materials on an open-source website to reduce the amount of money that students spend on textbooks.

As for the New Voters Project, the chapter is awaiting the establishment of a campus voting center that Hardy believes the eventual construction of was agreed to last year. The CALPIRG UCI chapter is also looking for ways to increase student voter turnout by using tactics such as simplifying the voter registration process and potentially using “vote goats” and “vote dogs” to inspire voting. 

Students looking to get involved with these campaigns and the campus organization itself can attend the organization’s weekly meetings held in Humanities Hall, Room 105 on Mondays at 6 p.m.