A Key Sustainability Skill: Writing Public Comments

I’m a newbie at this but determined to learn

Deepti Kannapan

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

If you care about sustainability, you’re probably saturated on all the usual advice about recycling, composting, and the works. There is nothing wrong with doing these, but they aren’t the whole picture.

I would argue that the more important sustainability skills are about advocacy and influencing policy. Recently, I’ve been trying to get better at one advocacy skill in particular: writing public comments.

What are public comments?

When government agencies proposes a new policy, they often open a public comment period, where members of the public (hey, that’s us!) can respond to the proposal.

The agency is required to read and consider all comments it receives. They also post the letters on the agency website.

The Public Comment Project says:

In accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act, federal agencies are legally required to respond to every unique, fact-based comment. These responses are published, along with the final rule or action, in the Federal Register.

Recently, I’ve been getting calls to action from the environmental advocacy newsletters I’m on (which I will list in the next section), where they

  • let me know which policies have public comment periods open,
  • provided background information about the policies, and
  • urged me to write a comment voicing environmental concerns.

And so, I gave it a try. If you’d like to as well, here’s how. (The tips below will be US-centric since that’s where I am.)

How to find policies to comment on

If you follow the news and there’s a new climate-related policy you hear about, you can search the internet for “[policy] public comment period.”

You can also do what I did, and sign up for environmental organizations’ email lists/newsletters. They’ll send you policy updates, complete with a template comment for you to modify.

I personally like League of Conservation Voters, Green New Deal Network, 350.org

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Deepti Kannapan

Painter, occasional cartoonist, aerospace engineer. Writes about sustainable technology, creativity, and journaling.