While individual action can spark real and reverberating change, a lot of progress—especially in regards to the environment—comes from laws and regulations. So while cutting back on plastics, adopting more mindful consumption habits, and switching over to renewable energy are all steps in the right direction, contacting your elected official is a leap there.
But from the outside looking in, the government can seem like an intimidating, impenetrable force that's hard to push in any direction. It's easy to imagine a Washington, D.C., office crammed with piles and piles of letters, chock-full voice-mailboxes, and computers flashing with unread emails. And, according to insiders, that's largely true—but there are ways to make sure your voice is heard above the chorus.
Whether you choose to write, call, or meet with your congressional representative (whom you can find here), here are some pro tips for effective engagement, from a former congressional staffer and the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group: