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Greenaid Fosters Johnny Appleseeds for the 21st-Centrury

A young duo in L.A. have created a clever urban hack, that encourages people to replant their neighborhoods.

Greenaid

If you live or work in a city, odds are, you passed a vacant lot or an ugly, barren strip of soil at some point today. Now imagine if that eyesore were transformed into a wild garden. But how?

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Greenaid, a project by two recent grads of Otis College of Art and Design in L.A., Kim Karlsrud and Daniel Phillips, and local urban planner David Fletcher, is a plan to distribute candy machines loaded with “seedbombs”–seeds packed in nuggets of nutrient clay, which anyone can then throw onto a strip of land. Within a week or so, up come green shoots.

The project, like countless other small-business ideas bubbling up around the country, might never have been born without the recession. Soon after graduation, Phillips was laid off from his job at an architecture firm; Karlsrud similarly has found that the weak job market has left her with stretches of free time between freelance gigs. (Both also teach at their alma mater.) “We wanted to bring together the realms of doing well and doing good,” Phillips says.

Greenaid

Karlsrud happened to inherit a collection of old candy machines, collected by her father. At first, she thought to fill them up with candy and turn them into cash. No one was interested. “We thought there had to be something more interesting you could do with these things,” she says. Both of them happened to be involved with the LA Guerrilla Gardeners, who use seed bombs like taggers use graffiti. (Guerilla gardening, which began in New York, is spreading quickly to other cities.)

Their first model, which is currently located in L.A.’s Chinatown, is loaded with indigenous species identified by Fletcher, who has for years advocated turning the L.A. River (presently a concrete channel) into greenspace.

Each machine costs about $500 to outfit and send out (though if the project takes off, the price will fall). In a year, Karlsrud and Phillips think they’d reasonably generate $1,000 per machine while transforming the surrounding area.

They’re currently hoping to partner with parks and botanical gardens, offering machines so that visitors could take home sees of the plants on display, and spread them. They’re also trying to partner with a local skateshop. “It actually ties in well with skate culture,” says Phillips. “Skaters know how to find opportunities in the cityscape.”

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About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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