2024 Program Agenda

Asilvero | CC-BY-SA-3.0

CALPIRG is an advocate for consumers, advancing solutions to problems that affect our health, our safety, and the quality of our lives.  This year we’re continuing our efforts to reduce waste, protect public health, and defend consumers. 

Beyond Plastic

Nothing we use for a few minutes should threaten our health and pollute our future for hundreds of years. That’s why we’ve been working to move California beyond single-use plastic. Over the last decade, California has taken actions to curb plastic waste, including recently approving the Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act, which mandates significant reductions in single-use foodware and packaging and holds producers financially responsible for the plastic they put into our communities. While this law represents a huge step forward, we’re not done yet. 

  • CALPIRG supports updating our statewide regulation on single-use plastic bags to ban all plastic carryout bags in grocery stores, retail stores, and restaurants.
  • CALPIRG supports policies to eliminate the most unnecessary and harmful single-use plastic items, like polystyrene foam, excessive plastic packaging, and toxic plastic materials. This will help us meet the new state targets faster and clean up our communities now. 
  • CALPIRG supports policies that promote the shift to reusable foodware and packaging, so that we make less plastic in the first place. 
Bohdana Pasichniuk | iStock.com

Right to Repair

When our stuff breaks, it means more cost to consumers, and it also means more waste. California just took action to save consumers money and reduce waste by passing the Right to Repair Act, giving Californians what they need to fix electronics and appliances. California should extend those same protections to farmers in need of fixing farming equipment, hospital technicians in need of fixing medical equipment, and wheelchair owners in need of fixing their wheelchairs. 

Juanmonino | iStock.com

Designed to Last

We have a massive stuff problem. We don’t need most of it and too much of it is built to be disposable, which keeps us buying more things all the time. Designed to Last is a response to companies’ destructive efforts to keep us hooked on consuming through obsolescence. We support policies that require companies to keep supporting software rather than leaving tech to get junked and provide consumers with repair scores, so they know how fixable and durable a product is before purchasing it.

Alec Meltzer | TPIN

Waste is Out of Fashion

Around the world, a dump truck’s worth of clothing is sent to a landfill or incinerator every second. Clothing overproduction is poisoning our water, contributing to climate change, and generating enough waste to fill the Great Wall of China twice by 2050. CALPIRG supports policies that prohibit clothing overproduction and incineration, and make clothing producers responsible for the full life cycle of their products. We support SB 707, the Responsible Textile Recovery Act, which creates a textile recycling program in the state and requires clothing companies to pay fees to fund it.

Shutterstock | Shutterstock.com

Tackling Food Waste 

The U.S. throws away roughly 35% of its total food supply each year.  Wasted food means wasted resources, a source of avoidable global warming emissions, and wasted opportunities to feed those who don’t have enough to eat. Confusion around date labels on our food products is an absurd contributor to the problem of food waste in the state. CALPIRG supports AB 660, which requires uniform food labeling. 

Government entity via FDA, | Public Domain

Safe and Healthy Homes 

Burning fossil fuels in our homes and businesses is responsible for at least 9% of all US emissions and can pollute the air we breathe inside and outside of our buildings. A recent study found that around 20% of childhood asthma in California can be attributed to gas stove use.  Despite the threat this poses to our planet and our health, three out of every four American homes still directly burn fossil fuels for heating, hot water or to run appliances.

  • CALPIRG supports policies to inform and protect consumers from the health and safety risks of gas stoves, including appliance standards, ventilation requirements and warning labels.
  • CALPIRG supports incentives to help families electrify their homes. 
Gas stove burners
Raw Pixel | Public Domain

Clean, efficient energy use

California’s reliance on polluting fuels puts our health and safety at risk. We support policies to increase clean, efficient energy use.

  • CALPIRG supports policies that help us meet and accelerate our commitment to 100% clean, renewable electricity, including incentivizing more solar and storage, going big on offshore wind and transformative energy conservation and efficiency measures.
  • CALPIRG supports robust funding for zero emission vehicles and infrastructure, including EV charging stations and funding to help schools transition to 100% electric school buses. 
Roschetzky-Photography | Shutterstock.com

Utility Watchdog

CALPIRG advocates are constantly on the lookout for utility abuses against consumers, bad energy investments, and unfair rate hikes that harm the public. 

  • CALPIRG opposes proposed high fixed charges on utility bills currently before the Public Utilities Commission, which would increase bills for millions of Californians, and punish energy conservation. 
  • CALPIRG supports prohibiting ratepayer money from being used for political lobbying. 
Varistor60 | CC-BY-4.0

Get the Lead Out

Lead contamination of drinking water at schools and child care centers is a widespread threat to our children’s’ health. California should immediately start addressing this threat by requiring water utilities to fully replace all lead plumbing. CALPIRG also supports policies that require schools and childcare centers to replace old fountains with lead-filtering water bottle stations and install filters certified to remove lead at all other taps used for cooking and drinking.  

Lisa F Young | Shutterstock.com

Stop Toxic PFAS

We are exposed to PFAS “forever” chemicals, which are linked to cancer and other illnesses, in water, food, and consumer products. We support policies that ban the use of PFAS in consumer products, clean up contamination in our water and communities, and hold industry accountable for damage they have caused.

Anya Ivanova | Shutterstock.com

Make Polluters Pay

CALPIRG supports state and federal programs that ensure polluters pay to clean up toxic sites that threaten our air, water and soil. 

  • As California transitions to clean energy sources and the state’s fossil fuel industry declines, we must ensure that Californians are protected from oil and gas wells that stop producing in the years to come. Idle and orphan oil wells pose an increasing risk to California’s environment, public health, and finances. It’s not enough that these wells be plugged in a timely manner. The oil and gas industry should be responsible for funding these critical cleanup efforts. 
Gary Kavanagh | iStock.com

High Value Health Care

We live in a country with some of the best hospitals, doctors and medical technology in the world. But the simple truth is that Americans pay too much for health care, and don’t get enough value in return. We need to get control of healthcare costs by stopping practices that drive up costs.

  • Health market consolidation can have an adverse effect on networks, and makes it harder than ever for our insurers to negotiate fair rates. When communities are faced with essentially one hospital system, they’re held hostage to the high prices those systems charge. CALPIRG supports closer scrutiny of mergers before they happen to make sure patients aren’t harmed by higher costs or lower quality.
Health care worker
S_L via Shutterstock | Shutterstock.com

Protecting consumers 

Too many products, practices and technologies put consumers’ health, safety or well-being at risk. CALPIRG supports policies that protect consumers from unsafe products, unfair practices, or exploitative policies that leave us vulnerable in the marketplace.

  • CALPIRG supports price transparency in the marketplace, especially in the increasingly expensive ticket industry. 
  • CALPIRG supports fairness in credit reports, including removing medical debt from credit reports. 
  • CALPIRG supports better regulation of financial technology companies to ensure consumers are protected from data breaches, scammers, and rip offs.
  • From counterfeit toys to recalled cars, CALPIRG supports actions to get unsafe products off our shelves.
Hand typing on a laptop. Other hand holding a credit cards.
Rupixen.com | Unsplash.com
Medical credit cards are not a solution to high health care bills.

Privacy and Data Protection

Almost every company we interact with collects data on us – like what we buy and when. Companies often sell this data to other parties, increasing the risk that our personal information will be a part of a data breach, fall into the hands of scammers, or be used for invasive targeted advertising. Some companies even harvest, store, sell and use our data to train AI models, keeping information about us for way longer than necessary. We support policies that prohibit companies from collecting and using our data for purposes other than delivering the service we’re expecting to get. 

A young boy holding a tablet is bathed in green light.
PxHere, CC0 | Public Domain
Technology is a big part of our children's lives - but it can put them and their data at risk.

Jenn Engstrom

State Director, CALPIRG

Jenn directs CALPIRG’s advocacy efforts, and is a leading voice in Sacramento and across the state on protecting public health, consumer protections and defending our democracy. Jenn has served on the CALPIRG board for the past two years before stepping into her current role. Most recently, as the deputy national director for the Student PIRGs, she helped run our national effort to mobilize hundreds of thousands of students to vote. She led CALPIRG’s organizing team for years and managed our citizen outreach offices across the state, running campaigns to ban single-use plastic bags, stop the overuse of antibiotics, and go 100% renewable energy. Jenn lives in Los Angeles, where she enjoys spending time at the beach and visiting the many amazing restaurants in her city.