After the founding of the NC State chapter of the North Carolina Public Interest Research Group (NCPIRG) in spring 2020, the student organization made progress on the “Break Free from Plastics” campaign which aims to promote sustainability on campus.
Lauren Willhite, a third-year studying environmental sciences, is the campaign coordinator for the “Break Free from Plastics” campaign. She said other campaigns in NCPIRG include those focused on affordable textbook access, food and housing insecurity and increasing youth voter turnout. Willhite said they are beginning work on the “Raleigh Renters Recycle” campaign to address the lack of recycling services at off-campus apartments.
“The goals of NCPIRG are generally to support college students and to promote and advocate for problems that affect college students,” Willhite said. “Some of the main campaigns that we're working on right now are ‘Break Free from Plastics,’ which is trying to get NC State to pledge to eliminate or phase out single-use plastics.”
Willhite said the “Break Free from Plastics” campaign has started with photo petitions, tabling on campus and a pledge which students can add their signature to. NCPIRG also wrote a bill for the Student Senate regarding the campaign, which Belle LaMontagne, the campus organizer with NCPIRG, said is expected to be on the floor in a couple of weeks.
“We're trying to get a resolution passed in the Student Senate,” Wilhite said. “Our next step would be to get that passed in the Faculty Senate. Eventually, our goal is to get the entire University to, and the chancellor to, sign off on it.”
LaMontagne said that the nonpartisan organization has chapters at NC State, Durham Tech, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte and Duke, among other locations.
“The overarching goal of NCPIRG, and student PIRGs in general, across the country is just to help train the generation of college students to be better activists,” LaMontagne said. “My job is really just to support the chapter students in the positive social changes they want to see in their community and campus.”
Willhite said anyone on campus can be involved in NCPIRG, including undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral students.
“It's a good way for students to get involved more at a decently high level of government,” Willhite said. “I was able to meet with U.S. representatives and senators — the people that work for them — and talk about doubling the Pell Grant, which is another thing that we were working on previously. I got to share my parents’ stories of how they got the Pell Grant and my experience with how that kind of changed my entire life and them being able to support me as well in my college experience.”
After their initial kickoff event on Sept. 1, LaMontagne said the NC State chapter of NCPIRG plans to do a tabling event on Wednesday, Sept. 8 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., followed by chalking around campus Wednesday at 12 p.m.
“We just look for students who are passionate about making positive change in the world and want to see their communities be a better place, whatever that looks like to them,” LaMontagne said. “If that looks like a greener, cleaner environment, then that's what we want to help students accomplish.”