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Students dole out dirt to save water

CARMEL VALLEY — Hoping to increase public awareness about the water-saving benefits of mulch, a team of ninth-graders from Canyon Crest Academy spent a recent Saturday morning distributing 2 yards of free processed compost to area residents.
“When used on greenery, mulch saves water,” 14-year-old Maggie Yang said. It prevents erosion and evaporation, improves moisture retention, reduces the need for fertilizers, suppresses soil-borne plant diseases and is less expensive than topsoil, she said.
Maggie and her fellow classmates made up one of the school’s three teams competing in the Lexus Eco Challenge, a national contest that encourages students to develop and implement environmental programs that positively impact their communities.
Open to students in grades six through 12, the program is designed to educate young people about the environment and inspire them to create a better world.
Teams may compete in one, two or three categories — land, water and air/climate. A $10,000 award is given to 16 winners in each challenge. Those teams go on to the final challenge and a chance to win up to $50,000.
Led by faculty adviser Wendy Slijk, Maggie’s team included Erin Osterlind, Sarah Ross, Rachel Duong and Jennifer Bae.
Despite the odor, the girls seemed to enjoy doling out the dirt, which was donated by the city of San Diego.
“It smells like my hamster cage,” said Sarah, who became involved in the project because she was interested in helping the environment. “I thought water conservation was a good idea especially because we live in San Diego,” she said.
A love of science attracted Erin to the project. “I watch the science channel all the time, and I’ve always been concerned with the environment,” she said. “I was amazed at all the stuff I could be doing to help. When this opportunity came up I jumped at it.”
The school’s Eco Club won the 2007 air challenge for Pump Up Your Effort, which demonstrated how proper tire pressure can increase fuel efficiency and decrease air pollution.