Advocacy, research, organizing: The three ingredients of public interest social change work

At OSPIRG, we combine the three ingredients of advocacy, organizing, and research to create public interest-minded social change.

Beyond plastic

staff | TPIN

There are many variations of methods of making sugar cookies for the holidays. But almost every recipe will have three key ingredients: sugar, flour, and butter.

At OSPIRG, we combine the three ingredients of advocacy, organizing, and research to create public interest-minded social change. With the new year upon us, I wanted to share some highlights from 2023.


We spend most of our advocacy work in the state legislature in Salem. This year was a “long session,” meaning the legislature started business in early February and adjourned in late June. Here are a couple highlights:

Reducing plastic pollution 

Every day, people throw away tons of plastic “stuff” — cups, plates, bags, containers, forks, knives, straws, spoons and more. All of this waste not only clogs our landfills, trashes our parks, and litters our streets, but it also washes into our rivers and oceans, where it can harm wildlife. 

In 2023, we helped pass a bill banning polystyrene takeout containers and cups to reduce one of the most egregious single-use plastics, more commonly known as Styrofoam. 

Protecting data privacy

Almost every company we interact with collects some amount of data on us.  Sometimes it’s information the company needs to know to provide their service, but too often companies gather a lot more information about you than they really need to, and use it in ways that have nothing to do with delivering the service you’re expecting to get. 

In 2023, we helped pass a bill that gives Oregonians control over their data, including the right to opt-out of the sale of their data to third-parties, the right to have their information corrected or deleted, and a right to know with whom their data has been shared. 

High value health care

The cost of health care continues to rise in Oregon, consuming more of the resources of consumers, businesses, and the public every year. 

This year, we helped pass a bill that will improve the experience for consumers purchasing health insurance on Oregon’s Health Care Marketplace. We also helped to pass a bill that will prevent hospitals from overcharging patients who qualify for financial assistance due to their income. 

For more of our legislative successes, check out our full legislative session recap.

Office of Sen. Sollman | Used by permission
Sen. Janeen Sollman and OSPIRG Director Charlie Fisher knocking on doors in support of right to repair


While we had a successful legislative session, one of our priority bills – Right to Repair – didn’t pass. Right to repair would reduce waste, protect consumers, and save families money but by requiring electronics and appliance manufacturers to make available parts, tools, and manuals needed to fix their products. We know that big changes take time, so we spent the summer building more public support for the bill by knocking on thousands of doors across the state about the issue. And we even got the chance to join Sen. Janeen Sollman, the sponsor of the Right to Repair Act, as she talked to constituents about the bill. 

Additionally, we’ve spent the year leading a strong coalition including environmental groups, recyclers, small businesses, organizations dedicated to closing the digital divide, and more. We’re confident coupling this organizing work with the advocacy we’ll do in the upcoming legislative session in the new year will mean Oregon will be added to the list of states where people are more easily able to fix what they own. 


In addition to the organizing and advocacy work we do, we always want to make sure the facts are on our side and the public and lawmakers have the information they need to make informed decisions. To that end, we released numerous reports during the year. Just a couple highlights: 

Highway Boondoggles

In November, OSPIRG released a report highlighting that the misleadingly-dubbed Interstate Bridge Replacement (IBR) is, in fact, not simply the replacement of a bridge, but rather a major freeway expansion that would almost double the size of the existing bridge while also rebuilding several freeway interchanges in the city of Vancouver and the city of Portland. 

We called decision-makers to reexamine this project in light of the damage that new or expanded highways do to the communities around them. If this boondoggles proceeds, it will waste billions of taxpayer dollars, increase air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and disrupt communities – while at the same time failing to reduce congestion.

How to Curb Health Care Spending

Amidst increasing health care costs around the state, an OSPIRG report from January found that hospitals often charge much more than is needed to cover their expenses, with people who pay insurance premiums ultimately paying the price. Information on how much commercial insurance companies paid to Oregon hospitals in 2018 and 2019 reveals hospitals received amounts well above their “break-even amount” — the amount needed to cover the cost of providing care to commercially insured patients. 

If hospitals charged an amount closer to the cost of providing care, total health care spending could be lower, which would enable a reduction in premiums for commercial insurance and decrease financial pressures on consumers.

Fixed for the Holidays

To help with holiday shopping, OSPIRG released a guide for consumers to find great deals on used electronics, getting something that’s like-new, but for a sizable discount. The difference between a used and new item can be negligible — some were returned without being opened.

Buying used gifts is also better for the environment. Most of the environmental damage from our electronics comes from the manufacturing process. Buying refurbished reduces the environmental impact of giving a new smartphone between 77% and 91%. It also prevents the extraction of 180 lbs. of resources and the emission of 50 lbs of climate change pollutants.  

Putting it all together

Just like a sugar cookie, one of these ingredients without the others just wouldn’t work. I’m grateful to our members across the state who support our work and allow us to combine research, organizing, and advocacy to create meaningful public interest social change in Oregon. 

Find Out More