COSA Indicators Measure Agricultural Sustainability and Foster Environmental Literacy

By Rachel Bruce, COSA Volunteer

April 22, 2017, marks the 47th celebration of Earth Day. The Earth Day Network, an organization that grew out of 1970’s first Earth Day, has selected Environmental and Climate Literacy as this year’s theme. COSA’s mission to understand and accelerate sustainability is closely aligned with Earth Day’s focus.

To encourage environmental literacy, COSA has developed social, environmental, and economic indicators. These indicators are standardized ways to measure the progress of sustainable agriculture initiatives. We apply these indicators flexibly, and take cultural contexts and producers’ opinions into consideration when applying them.

Several of our environmental indicators examine a community or producer’s status regarding the following:

  1. plant and genetic biodiversity on farms
  2. methods of carbon sequestration and mitigation
  3. producers’ perceptions of their environmental situation

These three indicators shed light on a community’s understanding of how their agricultural activities impact the climate and the environment. The indicators also highlight how environmental training and direct action plans can empower agricultural communities to mitigate climate change. Engaging in discussion with producers about their opinions regarding environmental issues facilitates communication, growth, and learning among the diverse players in agricultural value chains and leads to a healthier planet for all.