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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Berkeley chapter.

Strolling through the sunny hills of Berkeley’s campus, a passerby is confronted with the chaos that is Sproul Plaza. Just when you think you’ve passed all the tabling clubs and the flurry of flier-distributing individuals by crossing Sather gate, you look up and make eye contact with a giant inflatable turtle taking up residence in front of Wheeler. 

This turtle belongs to the student-run organization CALPIRG. Standing for California Public Interest Research Group, this activist group has active chapters at nine universities in California, eight of which are UC schools. Founded in 1972 by Berkeley students, the organization’s website claims it offers students the resources to, “tackle climate change, protect public health, revitalize our democracy, feed the hungry and more.”

According to Paige Lieblich, Chapter Chair, “[CALPIRG] helped get the UCs to 100% clean electricity and also helped pass SB 54- a really big senate bill in California to reduce plastic waste from take-out containers.” Lieblich is a third-year student at Cal and got involved last January after learning about CALPIRG’s mission to work on various social and environmental issues. 

“I’m an environmental science major,” Lieblich comments, noting that she sees the climate issues and social justice issues she learns about in her classes play out daily in society. “I feel like working with CALPIRG is a very tangible way to make a difference,” she says, “I see things happening and I feel like I am actively taking a role and creating the world I want to see.”

So what does CALPIRG do to create this change? Lieblich describes a few campaigns they are working on, including “[the] plastic campaign — to ban plastic bags in Berkeley — and we also have our affordable textbook campaign to make textbooks free/cheaper at the UCs.”

They also perform various campaigns to promote voter registration. One of which is partnering with the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) on a new voter project to reach out to students and help them become registered voters. The goal is to promote student voices to be heard in politics, and to allow students to create change through their own votes. Beyond the environmental issues, CALPIRG works to show students that they have an active voice on the floor of politics.  

Currently, CALPIRG works with all chapters across the UC system to make changes that can be seen across California. “A lot of our work as of this year targets Berkeley as a city or the whole UC system,” Lieblich states. Lieblich believes that with the work done just through this campus, the goal is to “make Berkeley be the green environmental model that the rest of California can follow,” and with the turtle out on display to promote their message, that goal might just become a reality.

Lindsay Muangman

UC Berkeley '25

Lindsay is a current second year intending to major in Media Studies and minor in Journalism. She works for both the writing and marketing teams and has an interest in working in roles that match either position in the future. When not writing, she loves to read, spend lots of time with friends and family, and be outside as much as possible.