Students launch biochar campaign for city

Cal Lutheran project stresses water and cost savings

The students created a slogan and logo.

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – April 16, 2015) California Lutheran University students have launched a campaign to get Thousand Oaks residents to save water by using biochar.

With about $3,000 in funding provided by the city, Cal Lutheran and community members, the student-designed “Take CHARge” campaign promotes residential use of biochar, a soil amendment made from charred and shredded plant waste. Because the porous material retains water and often comes pre-infused with nutrients, biochar reduces the need for water and fertilizer while improving plant health. Thousand Oaks has established itself as a leader among cities in the use of biochar, which it credits for cutting the Civic Arts Plaza water bill in half.

In March, multiple teams of students in assistant professor of communication Jean Sandlin’s Advertising Campaigns class pitched their plans to representatives from the city and the business community. The judges selected “Take CHARge,” which was developed by Madison Leonard of Glendora, Patrick Jimenez of Whittier, Andrew Vu of Simi Valley and Alexa Cajthaml of Newbury Park. The entire class is now implementing the campaign.

Students surveyed residents about their attitudes and habits to develop a strategic approach. They are stressing the reduced need for water with biochar and the associated cost savings. They are also educating residents about the soil amendment’s environmental advantages over other synthetic fertilizers and its ease of use.

In a campaign that stretches through May 5, the students are talking to shoppers at The Oaks and visitors to the city’s April 18 Arbor/Earth Day celebration. They created a slogan and logo as well as print, online and video ads for local newspapers and movie theaters. They came up with hashtags and are using Facebook, YouTube and other social media to spread the word. They also are developing an app for mobile devices, running contests and working with biochar businesses.