NJPIRG campaigns for renewable energy at Rutgers with "10,000 Actions Day"
Throughout the spring semester, the New Brunswick chapter of the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) led the push for renewable energy at Rutgers University. The campaign aims to convert the University’s energy supply into 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.
During their renewable energy campaign of 2017, NJPIRG held “10,000 Actions” day. On Wednesday, April 12, Rutgers students were encouraged to raise awareness about the campaign by interacting with an NJPIRG informational video on social media.
April Nicklaus, a sophomore in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, is the NJPIRG state board chair and students chapter chair for Rutgers—New Brunswick.
Nicklaus said the student group aims to tackle issues of public interest through the use of both online and in-person campaigns.
“NJPIRG is a student-run, student-funded, non-profit organization,” she said. “We do non-partisan advocacy work in the areas of environment, public health, consumer protection, poverty relief and other things of that nature.”
Amy Wang, a first-year student in the Rutgers Business School, is the NJPIRG state board vice chair and chapter secretary for Rutgers—New Brunswick.
Wang said the non-profit organization campaigns for resolutions to non-political issues that Rutgers students have come to a clear consensus on.
“We try to work on issues that we think a majority of the population would agree with,” she said.
Wang said that NJPIRG’s push for renewable energy is a perfect demonstration of a campaign that focuses on a clear-cut issue that a majority of students can agree on. A shift to renewable energy is a non-partisan issue that will benefit all Rutgers students in the long term, she said.
Wang said the “10,000 Actions” event is also a great example of the way NJPIRG frequently uses social media to accomplish its goals. She is the organizer in charge of the renewable energy campaign and thinks that social media platforms are a vital part of the change-making process.
“The 10,000 actions event was a social media blast where we at NJPIRG wanted to raise awareness of our renewable energy campaign,” Wang said. “We created a video with information about renewable energy, how other universities are using it and why Rutgers should make a climate action plan and switch to 100 percent renewable energy.”
She said that the best way to get a message to the Rutgers student body is through social media blasts, where students participate in an effort to make the non-profit’s message go viral on the internet.
While the “10,000 Actions” event may have passed, Wang said students that are still interested in helping to raise awareness about the renewable energy campaign can continue to share the video posted on their official website, as well as the NJPIRG student chapters Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram.
“The '10,000 Actions' refer to 10,000 social media actions,” she said. “Liking, sharing and commenting on the video are all considered actions. Because social media is such a widely used medium, we wanted to make sure we utilized it properly and channeled students’ love for social media into spreading the word about our renewable energy campaign.”
Nicklaus said the mission of the campaign is to get Rutgers University, and by extension University President Robert L. Barchi, to sign on to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).
While 697 universities are signatories of ACUPCC, she said that the University of Maryland—College Park is the only university to make the commitment within the Big Ten, but has yet to become a signatory. Nicklaus said she hopes Rutgers will not just sign ACUPCC, but become the first university within the Big Ten to complete shift toward 100 percent renewable energy.
Neither the University nor Barchi have responded to NJPIRG’s push for renewable energy thus far. Nicklaus said she remains optimistic, citing the success of the “10,000 Actions” event as a sign of building student momentum.
“We got 15,309 actions over the course of the day, which is way above our initial goal of 10,000,” she said.
It may take some time for the administration to take action in respect to the non-profit’s clean energy campaign. In the meantime, Nicklaus said the NJPIRG has been largely satisfied with the results of its other campaigns this semester.
“In addition to our renewable energy campaign, NJPIRG hosted a number of other successful campaigns and events regarding public interest issues,” she said. “For example, we won our safe antibiotics campaign. Our campaign influenced Kentucky Fried Chicken to stop selling fried chicken that was raised on a routine use of medically unsafe antibiotics.”
Wang said that the success of their past efforts is primarily due to social media events like 10,000 Actions day. She stressed the importance of Rutgers students in each scenario, saying that these issues affect each student and can only be remedied through the subsequent involvement of each student.
“When we are victorious, what we see is a snowball effect,” Wang said. “At that point, the corporations that we are targeting can see that a lot of people care about the issues that we are campaigning against and that these people are mobilized to get them to make a change. Social media is really a huge part of the reason that KFC made the switch. So I think it’d be revolutionary if Rutgers became the first school in the Big Ten to not only sign the ACUPCC but make it a reality as well.”
Daniel Israel is a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.