Students at Rutgers University are saving the planet one signature at a time with their latest renewable energy campaign. The NJPIRG, a student-run campus organization, recently relaunched its 100 percent renewable energy initiative in response to the finalization of a university-wide climate action plan.
At the heart of this student-led movement is a petition that asks Rutgers to commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, with 100 percent of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030. The petition aims to collect 15,000 signatures from students across all three Rutgers campuses by the end of the semester. While this seems like a daunting task, NJPIRG is confident that the student body will rally behind the organization. In fact, student assembly has been the most successful way to spark change at Rutgers.
“Demonstrating student support will get [the climate task force members’] attention,” said Kate Sundberg, a campus organizer for NJPIRG. “When the first phase of the report was released, a lot of students mobilized and commented about including divestment of the endowment from fossil fuels in the plan. Over 3,000 students voted in favor of divesting.”
Paving the Way
Rutgers University is a leading research institution. As such, it should set the precedent for other New Jersey universities to switch to renewable energy, Sundberg explained. Other prominent colleges such as Boston University have recently made the commitment to a renewable energy plan; Sundberg believes it’s time Rutgers makes the pledge as well.
“Studies have shown that when universities or cities or states make a commitment to renewable energy, that actually provides the space for the transition to actually happen more quickly,” Sundberg said. “It provides that impetus…having a clear deadline is when the most technology and innovation can occur.”
A Campus-Wide Effort
If NJPIRG’s petition is unsuccessful, Sundberg is still hopeful that Rutgers will include some variation of the initiative in the final climate action plan. This will be an immense accomplishment for the organization, as the campaign has been an ongoing movement. Originally launched in 2017, the campaign ran for two or three semesters before hitting various roadblocks.
Amy Wang, a Rutgers alumna and former campaign coordinator for NJPIRG said troubles with the university’s former president and changing internal structures ultimately prolonged the campaign. At Rutgers, no one is certain of who has the administrative power to authorize new programs or proposals; unfortunately, many important decisions and issues are not resolved as a result.
As for the 100 percent renewable energy campaign, Wang is glad NJPIRG is finally making some headway. In her experience, a lot has to do with an organization’s agenda; if Rutgers wanted to make it part of theirs, they would.
“If an institution like Rutgers is truly organized and considers 100 percent renewable energy to be a priority, they will be [able to accomplish this goal,]” Wang commented.
Signs of Progress
The petition currently has more than 2,000 signatures from Rutgers students across the state. Sundberg and Wang encourage Rutgers students to sign the virtual 100 percent renewable energy petition. Additionally, Sundberg urges students to engage with the climate action plan and voice their concerns by leaving comments.
“Until it becomes the norm to just run on renewable energy, grassroots organizing and mobilizing the student population is one of the most effective ways [to create change] as a college student,” Sundberg said. “The university [should] serve us as students. They have a responsibility to listen to us.”
To learn more about NJPIRG’s 100 percent renewable energy campaign or its overall mission, visit the organization’s website.
Main image by Aditya Vyas.