Campaigning for Zero Waste in Denver: The U.S. PIRG Fellowship 

Nov 20, 2019
Carrie Katan, a current U.S. PIRG fellow, at a South Platte River Clean-Up in Denver

U.S. PIRG’s mission is to advocate for the public interest—to speak out for a healthier, safer world in which we’re freer to pursue our own individual well-being and the common good. Whether it’s working to stop the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture, addressing our country’s plastic waste crisis, or alerting people to threats in the marketplace, the problems we work on aren’t progressive or conservative. They’re just problems that our country shouldn’t tolerate any longer. 

This is a one-year, full-time program, expressly designed to prepare future leaders with U.S. PIRG. The program looks for smarts, leadership experience, top-notch written and verbal skills, and an eagerness to learn. U.S. PIRG also values organizing experience, including building campus groups. The target annual compensation for this position is $27,500 in the first year. U.S. PIRG offers a competitive benefits package. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis through the deadline.

Carrie Katan, a current U.S. PIRG Fellow based in Denver, Colorado, gave us some great insights into her fellowship experience.

1. What inspired you to apply for the U.S. PIRG Fellowship? 

One of the biggest things that attracted me to this fellowship was the wide variety of work you get to do. I have known for a while that I wanted to work in politics, but there are so many subfields including lobbying, field organizing, communications, and policy research that I was still trying to find out exactly what I wanted to focus on. I chose the fellowship because it gave me a diverse range of experiences so that I could make more informed job choices in the future. 

2. Will you tell us about your role and responsibilities as you campaign for Zero Waste in Denver? 

As the Zero Waste Fellow, my job has been primarily focused on writing our second annual State of Recycling Reports and developing a campaign to take on waste in the fashion industry. My initial research has allowed me to delve into a variety of studies on recycling ranging from finding out how recycling policy works in Wisconsin to learning about Finnish textile recycling programs and every waste-related thing in between. After this year’s round of Recycling Reports come out on November 14th, the primary focus of my job will shift from research to campaign organizing. 

3. What have you enjoyed most about your fellowship so far? 

There are two things I love about this fellowship. The first is that I go to work every day with the certainty that what I do matters. The second is that my position provides a lot of autonomy and responsibility while also providing structure and training. Those things together are helping me grow as an organizer and researcher.  

4. What are the benefits of the fellowship? 

Finding entry-level political work is not easy, even if you have a degree and internship experience. From a career standpoint, this full-time fellowship is exactly what I needed to get my foot in the door. 

5. What tips would you give others applying to the U.S. PIRG Fellowship? 

Anyone interested in this fellowship should be ready to experience new things, whether that’s moving to or visiting a new part of the country, learning about an issue area you may be unfamiliar with, or developing new skills in political advocacy and organizing. This fellowship can be a pretty amazing adventure if that’s what you’re looking for!

Carrie Katan was raised in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. She studied history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass) while also working as a bus driver and as a teacher’s assistant for a quantum mechanics class. While at UMass, she started volunteering for Yes on 3, which was a ballot campaign to keep Massachutes transgender nondiscrimination protections in place. Over time, her role in the campaign increased, she became an intern, started training volunteer leaders, ran a weekly phonebank, and ran the campaigns GOTV Northampton Office. This experience got Carrie interested in working in political activism. After graduating, she worked as a fellow for Friends of the Earth, advocating for the Green New Deal in Boston before going to work for U.S. PIRG. 

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