Sustainable Cities

It is estimated that by 2050, more than 70 percent of the world's population will be living in a city. It's time for America's largest cities to adopt a sustainable and responsible vision for the future. 

Building the Cities of Tomorrow

Imagine cities that are healthy places to live, where our resources are used responsibly, where the environment is protected, and where citizens are actively engaged in their communities.

U.S. PIRG Education Fund is working to build these cities of tomorrow.

It's estimated that by 2050, more than 70 percent of the world’s population is estimated to be living in a city. More and more Americans are looking to cities to meet their needs in a way that’s sustainable, equitable and beneficial to the world. As more of us live and work in urban areas, we have the opportunity to make them leaders in sustainable development.

We envision cities:

  • With 21st century transportation options. For decades, cities have focused on moving cars, not people. It’s time to focus on getting people where they need to go by giving them more and better options to get around. These options include expanded public transit, better biking alternatives, walkable neighborhoods and high-performance intercity trains.
  • Powered by 100% clean and renewable energy. As the threat of climate change continues to grow, the best way to fight it is to keep fossil fuels in the ground and transition to 100% renewable energy. By encouraging big box stores to switch to solar power, promoting residential solar options, increasing the number of charging stations for electric vehicles, and raising energy efficiency standards for commercial and residential buildings we can easily meet this goal.
  • Where food systems are healthy, sustainable and locally-sourced. We all eat. But the choices we make with our food can help or hurt our communities and our environment. By sourcing food that is raised sustainably, responsibly and low in carbon, we can boost our local economies, move away from factory farming, and create healthier communities.
  • With clean water and responsible waste management. Communities across the country face risks from polluted water systems and waste. Aging pipes, sewage overflows and toxins that travel from roads to our water supply can harm our health and the environment. We need policymakers to make sure everyone has access to healthy water by creating strong policies to repair aging infrastructure and addressing toxins in our water supply. We can also make sure our waste is disposed of responsibly and reduce our waste whenever possible. 
  • Where citizens are involved in their government and their community. When we are active and engaged in our communities, we can push for more sustainable policies and hold elected leaders accountable. To ensure all citizens have the opportunity to participate in their community, cities should make voting as easy as possible, champion open access to government data and level the playing field for small donors.  

 

Issue updates

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

New car seats made without toxic flame-retardant chemicals

Car seats are supposed to keep our youngest children safe. But though they may protect infants and toddlers during accidents, car seats have a history of containing toxic flame-retardant chemicals.

That’s finally changing.

Today, a coalition of groups including U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Ecology Center’s “Healthy Stuff” program released test results on car seats in a new report, Hidden Hazards:Flame Retardants and PFAS in Children’s Car Seats. The authors collaborated with researchers from Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

The Marriott breach: why it’s bad and what you can do to protect yourself

Today, Marriott announced a data breach affecting up to 500 million customers of Marriott’s Starwood hotel properties. Mike Litt, consumer campaign director for the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, issued the following statement and steps consumers can take to protect themselves.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Antibiotics

Poultry giant Sanderson Farms to end preventative use of medically-important antibiotics

Today, Sanderson Farms, Inc., the third-largest chicken producer in the United States, announced that it will stop using medically-important antibiotics to prevent disease in its chickens by March 1, 2019. Instead, as recommended by medical professionals, Sanderson Farms will only use the drugs to treat sick animals or to control a disease outbreak.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Popular toys contain toxics and other hazards

This holiday season, watch out for dangerous and toxic toys. U.S. PIRG’s 33rd annual Trouble in Toyland report found toxic amounts of boron, which can cause nausea, vomiting and other health issues, in slime products as well as fining that Amazon failed to appropriately label choking hazards.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Solid Waste

It’s “America Recycles Day.” Is the United States set up for recycling success?

While a recent survey says that 94 percent of Americans support recycling and 74 percent say it should be a priority, the national average recycling rate is only 34.7 percent. Almost two-thirds of our waste ends up in landfills, incinerators, or as litter blighting the environment, often because recycling is prohibitively difficult for people with the best of intentions. Some states, however, are more recycling-friendly than others. On America Recycles Day, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and several of its state affiliates are releasing reports detailing recycling efforts at the local level.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Higher Ed

USPIRG Statement on Department of Education rule on Preemption of student loan servicing

Now that the U.S. Department of Education has said that state efforts to stop unfair and deceptive actions by federal student loan servicers are pre-empted by weaker federal law, student loan borrowers who have been misled by the financial firms servicing their student loans have lost access to strong consumer protections in the states. The Education Department's interpretation clears the path for predatory lenders and institutions to continue taking advantage of students seeking higher education. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Asbestos Found in Claire’s Kids Makeup

Makeup sold by Claire's, a preteen retail store, contains asbestos. U.S PIRG Education Fund found that makeup sold across the country is contaminated with asbestos, which causes cancer. Parents and consumers need to know about these asbestos-laden makeup products.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Argument in Case Affecting Consumers Nationwide

U.S. PIRG experts comment on a case heard before the Supreme Court Monday concerning whether American Express rules preventing merchants from steering customers to alternative lower-cost cards violate the antitrust laws. Hint: We agree with and supported several states that brought the case on behalf of their citizens. We also make the point that unless the states prevail, the practices of dominant tech platforms like Google and Amazon and Facebook will also be immunized from action.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

As electric cars revolutionize the vehicle market, new study helps cities address infrastructure and parking challenges

With electric vehicles (EVs) hitting U.S. streets in record numbers, a new study by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group highlights best practices to help local officials make their cities as EV-friendly as possible. The new report, “Plugging In: Readying America’s Cities for the Arrival of Electric Vehicles,” includes local and state data about the projected number of electric cars expected on the road in coming years, and how cities can accommodate these new EVs with enough places to park and recharge.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Consumer Guide Released for Valentine's Day: Research Shows Some Lipsticks Contain Harmful Chemicals

We should be able to trust that the products we buy are safe — especially ones our families use every day, applied directly to our lips. However, today U.S. PIRG Education Fund released a consumer guide entitled “Kiss Off,” which contains examples of lipsticks, lip balms, and children’s lip products which contain ingredients linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive problems. Popular brands such as Maybelline, L'Oréal, and ChapStick made the list.

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Report | CALPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Next Stop: California

As California moves toward construction of a new high-speed rail network, the state has much to learn from experiences abroad. High-speed rail lines have operated for more than 45 years in Japan and for three decades in Europe, providing a wealth of information about what California can expect from highspeed rail and how the state can receive the greatest possible benefits from its investment.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Budget

The Next Trillion: Fiscal Responsibility Through More Accountability

To assist the work of the  President's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, U.S. PIRG looked at existing tax code for loopholes, reviewed government reports on wasteful contracting practices and crunched the numbers. We came up with an initial list of ways the government can save the first trillion dollars by enacting common sense policies that advance the public interest.

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Report | MASSPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Out of the Shadows

This study uses data provided to us by the quasi-public agencies in response to public records requests, as well as public audits and online searches, to examine the size and scope of quasi-public agencies in Massachusetts and the extent to which their budgets and decision-making are open to the public.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

No Silver Lining

This report provides new data about the amount of BPA that could be consumed from eating canned food and drinks available in the U.S. and Canada. For No Silver Lining, we tested the food and beverage contents of 50 cans collected from 19 U.S. states and Ontario, Canada. The report reveals that BPA is a routine contaminant in canned foods. Our study details potential exposure to BPA from not just one can, but from meals prepared with canned food and drink that an ordinary North American person might consume over the course of a day.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Road Work Ahead

Across the nation, drivers face more than 90,000 miles of crumbling highways and more than 70,000 structurally deficient bridges. Neglected maintenance of roads and bridges acts as a constant drain on our economy and a scourge on our quality of life. Rough and rutted roads cause accidents, damage vehicles, trigger traffic jams that lead to countless hours of delay, and waste money Americans need for other expenses.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB seeks your views on prepaid cards, including campus cards featured in our latest report | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB wants your views on general purpose reloadable prepaid cards. Some of the campus cards featured in U.S. PIRG Education Fund's new report, the Campus Debit Card Trap, are prepaid cards, others are debit cards, and there is a difference.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB holds field hearing on prepaid cards-- all the fees, none of the protections | Ed Mierzwinski

Several members of the PIRG-backed Americans for Financial Reform are among the witnesses at a field hearing on prepaid cards that the Consumer FInancial Protection Bureau holds at noon today in Durham, NC. While reloadable prepaid cards are growing fast as an option for convenience, for the unbanked and for distribution of government and student benefits, so-called general purpose reloadable prepaid cards sold under a variety of brands have fewer consumer protections than credit cards (gold standard), debit cards (fewer protections), and payroll, government benefit and gift cards (some protections).The CFPB will announce a advance notice of proposed rulemaking to improve the situation.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

NY Investigates Banks "Forcing" Consumers To Buy Overpriced Mortgage Insurance | Ed Mierzwinski

It's called force-placed insurance for a reason. Your mortgage lender buys it for you and you are forced to pay for it, even if it isn't the best deal for you. When lenders purchase a product to "benefit" consumers, they often have numerous incentives to make the more expensive, not less-expensive, choice due to what's called reverse competition. That's a bad deal for you and a bad deal for the economy, but a good deal for the kind of sordid crony capitalism that relies on kickbacks, not better products. Fortunately, the New York Department of Financial Services (both banking and insurance) and the CFPB are both taking a deep dive into the forced-place-insurance mess.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

New York Times is running a bank fees debate, seeks comments | Ed Mierzwinski

Over at the New York Times, you can join a debate on bank fees. Meanwhile, the CFPB has extended its comment period seeking your views on overdraft fees until June 29.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB takes first step to eliminate forced arbitration and other consumer news | Ed Mierzwinski

Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took an important first step toward protecting consumers from mandatory arbitration clauses, which are boilerplate sentences in bank account and other contracts that crush consumer legal rights. ... Meanwhile, the New York Times follows up on a lawsuit by the Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson against a medical debt collector that blocks and tackles consumers trying to get through hospital emergency room doors. But it gets better. That debt collector just happens to be owned by the same hedge fund that owned a supposedly neutral (not) forced arbitration mill known as NAF and favored by the big credit card companies.   ...  Also today, the World Privacy Forum announced updates to its helpful pages on medical identity theft.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

On the 10th anniversary of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) establishment as a centerpiece of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the law passed on 21 July 2010 and the Bureau opened its doors one year later), we look at the latest results from the CFPB’s public Consumer Complaint Database. This snapshot finds that, as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on the financial situations of millions of Americans, consumer complaints to the CFPB have spiked to record levels. The CFPB must take powerful action to protect consumers in the financial marketplace.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Each month since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic swept the United States in March, a record number of American consumers have filed complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), according to an analysis released Friday by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

Blog Post

Lots of progress, but still lots left to be done

Blog Post

U.S. PIRG is calling on municipal, state and federal policymakers to mandate face masks in all indoor public spaces, as well as in outdoor locations where it’s hard for people to socially distance six feet apart.

Blog Post

As states reopen across the country and Americans begin traveling again, it's important to know which precautions airlines are taking to keep passengers safe. 

Solid Waste

New federal bill calls for U.S. to move beyond plastic

On Feb. 11, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal introduced legislation that would phase out unnecessary single-use plastics, which commonly end up clogging our landfills and polluting our environment. It also provides funding for recycling and composting infrastructure, and would shift the financial burden of managing waste and recyclables from town and city governments to the manufacturers.

 
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