Common measure: Environmental actions

Taking action as a result of education plays an important role in how people can impact the environment and how the environment can impact people. It is also a core part of many NOAA education programs and how they contribute to NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship. Without a common measure, there is no way to understand and communicate how much we are doing collectively to engage participants in environmental actions across our education portfolio.

This common measure is part of the Unified Data Call annual process, where Education Council members voluntarily collect and report data about their education programs. Since our programs provide opportunities for people to take a wide range of environmental actions, it is beyond the scope of this common measure to capture the results from all types of actions. What is common across education programs is people’s participation in actions. Programs interested in measuring outcomes like knowledge gain or behavior change should consider developing program-specific performance measures and conducting program evaluation studies.

Common measure

Output: Number of people participating in environmental actions through NOAA education programs


Environmental action: An activity that intentionally addresses an environmental problem, need, or hazard, either directly or indirectly. These could include changes to social or human systems, natural systems, or the built environment.

The activity types listed here are for descriptive purposes. The list is neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive. They include:

  • People change a personal practice (adopting pro-environmental behaviors, such as turning off water while brushing teeth, buying an electric vehicle, investing in a solar installation for their house, carpooling or biking to school or work).
  • People use their voices in the community to help build awareness of an issue (e.g., students conduct poster campaign, share information at farmer’s market booth).
  • People who volunteer to conduct NOAA-related outreach. This does not include outreach by NOAA employees, contractors, and affiliates as part of their paid work.
  • People take civic action that addresses issues of public concern and seek community-based solutions.
  • People participate in habitat conservation, restoration, or adaptation efforts.
  • People collect and monitor environmental data to inform environmental action.
  • People participate in projects that adapt the built environment (e.g., roads, shorelines, buildings) and social systems (e.g., health care, food systems) to climate change impacts.
  • People engage communities in an environmental decision-making process.
  • People participate in capacity-building projects (e.g., raising funds for future environmental action).
  • People participate in carbon reduction, sequestration (soil-based or wetland restoration), and mitigation efforts.
  • People participate in climate change adaptation and resilience efforts.
  • People prepare for and respond to the impact of weather hazards.

People participating in NOAA education program: Participation should be in the context of a NOAA education program, including those delivered by grantees, partners, and volunteers. The program should be the one providing the instruction or support to participants to take or lead others in the environmental action.

  • It doesn’t need to be a formalized program to be reported. It could be a NOAA employee working with a group of students or community members on an environmental project.

The people to be counted should be the ones actively completing the activity, not necessarily the audience of that activity.

  • Example: 10 students develop signs intended to inform a neighborhood of 1000 people about a local environmental problem. The number reported should be 10, not 1000 nor 1010.
  • Example: 50 people attend the first part of a workshop but only 10 stay to engage in the action project (e.g., planting seagrass), so only 10 should be reported.
  • Example: Five students engage two restaurant owners to reduce the restaurant’s use of single-use plastics. In this case, the number reported to the common measure is 7, rather than the number of organizations implementing the environmental action.

Students, youth, and adults are common types of participants in education programs that enact environmental actions. It could also be professional audiences, like educators, emergency managers, shop owners. Audience types listed here are provided for descriptive purposes and is neither an exhaustive list nor mutually exclusive. Programs may choose to collect disaggregated data by audience type.

  • Educators that receive professional development and share that information with their students should NOT be included in this measure.

Individual participants might complete multiple activities within the same program throughout the year. Individuals should be counted once per year per program, not by the number of actions completed during the year. The identity of individuals does not need to be tracked.

  • Even in situations where we can know that individuals completed multiple activities in a year they should only be counted once per year. For example, a class of 10 students work on three different projects throughout the school year. The number reported should be 10, not 30.
  • People can be counted twice if they were present at two distinct programs. They can also be counted once per year for programs that occur over multiple years.

Optional: Program-specific disaggregations

Because environmental action is a broad, catch-all term, and programs have different frameworks that match their program goals, programs may find it useful and informative to collect disaggregated data by specific types of environmental action that align with program goals. A list of example activity types are listed above for the definition of environmental action.

Disaggregations are not required and programs are welcome to collect and report on the common measure itself. For those programs choosing to collect and report using disaggregations, it is the responsibility of each program reporting into this common measure to provide a “clean” annual number for the Unified Data Call. A clean number meaning no double counting of individuals across types.

  • For example, a MWEE project might include three types of stewardship activities that 10 students participate in, let’s say Everyday Choices, Civic Action, and Restoration and Protection. The B-WET program would like to know the number of students participating in each of these activities. However B-WET should only report the number of students (10) in the project for the common measure, not the total across each subtype (30).

Data collection and reporting

Administrative Records: Each Education Council administrative unit and sub-unit is responsible for maintaining administrative records that document the number of institutions with increased educational capacity.

  • B-WET exception: National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRS) and Sea Grant can be grantees of other NOAA grant programs, including the Bay-Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Program and the Environmental Literacy Program. As a result, we acknowledge that there will likely be some double-counting of data reported.

Unified Data Call: An annual collection of output measures, disaggregations, and outyear estimates data from each Education Council member seat. Data collected in the Unified Data Call is used for both internal NOAA reporting purposes, which includes the Annual Operating Plan (AOP), and for external reporting purposes, including NOAA Education Annual Accomplishments Report and Congressional briefings.


  • FY2022: This measure was approved for collection and reporting by the Education Council. A pilot data collection for this measure was included in the FY22 Unified Data Call.
  • FY2023: First official year of implementation of this measure.