We’re canvassing to move California beyond plastic

One door at a time, our staff are building a grassroots movement to tackle the plastic pollution problem in our state.

This past month, we relaunched CALPIRGs’ door-to-door canvassing offices, with a full set of health precautions in place to keep our staff and members of the public safe.

This summer, our staff are visiting neighborhoods across California to build support for major reforms that will reduce single-use plastic packaging, and plastic utensils, and require all packaging and throwaway foodware to be recyclable or compostable.

I’m excited to share our plans with you and let you know how you can add your voice to this grassroots movement.

Canvassing is in our DNA

Canvassing—going door-to-door—has been a core part of our work at CALPIRGs since the early 1980s. We canvass to educate the public about the problems facing our community, build grassroots support for solutions, and raise money to fund our campaigns.

Many of our senior staff got their start working on the canvass or helped direct one of our canvassing offices early in their careers. 

I remember showing up on my first day as a canvasser in CALPIRG’s Sacramento canvass office in May 2007. I was both nervous and excited to learn grassroots organizing skills and make an impact on issues I cared about. Within just a few weeks, I was part of our leadership team that recruited and trained dozens of staff to work with us, and by the end of the summer we had recruited thousands of people to join our campaign to increase state funding for transportation. 


After that success first summer, I decided to come back every summer of my college career and came onto full-time staff when I graduated.  For the next ten years, I managed door-to-door outreach offices for CALPIRG and our sister organizations across the West. During my time as Field Director for CALPIRG, we reached out to more than 200,000 Californians about the problems we’re working to solve, from stopping the overuse of antibiotics to reducing needless plastic waste, and signed up 10,000 new members for CALPIRG.   

One of the biggest reasons we’re excited to relaunch our canvass offices is to recruit the next generation of young people to join the public interest movement. This summer we’re helping college students and recent graduates develop a passion for social change, and maybe even launch a career working to create a healthier, safer, and more secure world. 

How we’ll move our state beyond plastic 

So much of our plastic waste comes from single use containers, foodware, packaging and the other plastic “stuff” we know we could easily live without. And because it can take hundreds of years to degrade, all of that plastic waste is still out there in some form, clogging landfills, littering our streets, polluting our oceans. 

CALPIRG is working to pass laws to ban foam and other plastic takeout containers, and eliminate non-recyclable packaging.

There are several plastic waste reduction bills under consideration this year, and a major plastic reduction ballot measure was just qualified for the 2022 ballot, so we have a real opportunity for action if we can demonstrate the public is behind these reforms. 

It won’t be easy.  The plastics industry has funded efforts to defeat plastic reduction laws several years in a row. 

That’s why we’re going door-to-door in communities across California. We’ll build grassroots support to convince state leaders that now is the time for major reforms to reduce plastic pollution. If enough of their constituents call for action, we can win.  


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.

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