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Youth Drought Project participant Ryan views the team's handiwork in a Carpinteria yard. They had sheet-mulched the lawn and planted cuttings, transplants, and purchased plants two months before. Three new fruit trees at the far end are surrounded by a rainwater-harvesting swale to irrigate them with runoff from the roof. Rebates from both the State of California and Carpinteria Valley Water District covered part of the cost.

Brad Smith

Youth Drought Project participant Ryan views the team's handiwork in a Carpinteria yard. They had sheet-mulched the lawn and planted cuttings, transplants, and purchased plants two months before. Three new fruit trees at the far end are surrounded by a rainwater-harvesting swale to irrigate them with runoff from the roof. Rebates from both the State of California and Carpinteria Valley Water District covered part of the cost.


Local Youth Take Action on Climate Change

Lawn Removal Rebates Provide Support for Program and Community


This past year we experienced the climate crisis first hand: persistent drought, winter wildfire, the Montecito tragedy. This “perfect storm” showed us we are all in this together and that we need to build a more resilient community to collectively weather increasing climate chaos.

Few realize how serious the climate crisis is. Our civilization is like the Titanic. Most assume it unsinkable, though the tip of the iceberg looms ahead. Lest our ship be sunk by the invisible mass of the iceberg below, we must change course and steer clear.

This current drought could drag on for years: the Millennium Drought in Australia lasted 13, then drought kicked in again a few years later. Our drought, fires, and debris flows are just the beginning.

Many Santa Barbara community members and groups are making meaningful changes to address the climate crisis. But we still have far to go to ensure a livable future for our children, especially those most vulnerable in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

To truly mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis we must:

• Explore all our options

• Facilitate collaboration among all stakeholders

• Build social equity

• Drastically cut carbon emissions

• Sequester excess carbon in our soils

• Reduce water use to sustainable levels

The nonprofit Youth Drought Project employs young people making a hands-on impact on all these fronts:

• Youth Drought Project started in conjunction with a drought research project called Exploring Our Options.

• We are a multi-stakeholder collaboration of youth, non-profits, property owners, and the pubic sector.

• This is a first-job opportunity for youth from all socio-economic backgrounds.

• Employing youth and recycling materials locally minimizes transportation emissions.

• Our process sequesters carbon in the soil.

• We replace water-guzzling lawns with attractive low-water landscapes.

Santa Barbarans have cut water use admirably without diminishing the beauty of our fair city. The one exception is unwatered lawns which are turning brown again after winter rains. Those still watering big lawns have a responsibility to stop.

Fortunately it is easy and cheap to replace these lawns: Our youth will do it for you, and there are still rebates to pay for some or all of it.

YDP’s youth come from the SBCC landscaping program, local high schools, and UCSB. It is usually their first job, and they learn adult responsibilities and basic job skills. They get or stay in shape outdoors while learning and practicing water-saving landscaping skills.

The $2,000 state rebate for our work continues but probably not much longer. It ends when the funding runs out (its sister rebate ran out one and a half years ago).

The local water district rebates of $500-$1,000 continue, too. They cover half of material costs for water-saving plants, mulch, gravel, stone, and drip irrigation parts.

We kill off lawns by covering them thoroughly with cardboard and mulch, a process called sheet-mulching. The grass and weeds are smothered, the cardboard decomposes, rainwater is retained in the soil for months, and soil health is greatly enhanced.

We also install low-water plants, decorative mulches, and gravel. And we lay flagstone and decomposed granite paths and patios.

We can save even more water with rainwater harvesting: directing roof runoff to irrigate trees and plants, minimize runoff to the ocean, retain water in the soil, and recharge groundwater.

It is going to take a WWII-level climate mobilization to secure a decent future for our children. YDP’s work is an early part of that. We honor and thank all those who are doing theirs, too.

For more information about Youth Drought Project email Brad at bsmith.interplay@gmail.com or call (805) 705-5844.

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