Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fostering the Johnny Appleseeds of the 21st Century... GREENAID

the Common Studio is an emerging design practice engaging in interdisciplinary approaches to objects, systems tools and spaces.  With an emphasis on issues of urban ecology, social enterprise and adaptive reuse, Daniel Phillips and Kim Karlsrud have begun a revolution.  Daniel Phillips is an environmental designer and writer currently living in LA. He graduated from Otis College of Art and Design with a degree in Architecture/Landscapes/Interiors and has traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and elsewhere pursuing his interest in the contemporary issues of the built environment. His partner, Kim Karlsrud grew up in New England before relocating to west coast where she earned a degree in Product Design from Otis College in LA. Underlying a multi-disciplinary approach to design are her interests in sustainability, social responsibility, and world travel. She is currently working and teaching in LA and operates as a project leader for Project H's Los Angeles initiatives.

The first of two projects the pair have going is (C)urban Ecology. This is a modular micro-remediation infrastructure that integrates seamlessly within our existing streets, supplanting the mundane utilitarian curb-and-gutter system to offer new levels of amenity. A versatile and performative design provides opportunities for water permeation and street vegetation, while sequestering small scale debris before it reaches the urban watershed. Identifying the typical urban street as both the source of the problem as well as the site of the solution, (C)urban Ecology targets the issues of polluted urban drainage at the most feasible scale of intervention, and achieves maximum positive impact on the built and natural environment with minimal material and energy inputs. Because it can be deployed and aggregated at various intensities, (C)urban Ecology can be effective from the scale of a single unit installed near a storm drain, to an array of 100 units that fringe the sidewalks of an entire city block.

The second project is Greenaid. Greenaid is an intiative that is fostering the green thumbs and Johnny Appleseeds in us all. 
Their solgan is "Change for Change."
"Change for change" innocently declares a bright green vending machine, but this design intervention delivers more bang for your buck than the typical candy dispenser. The latest initiative from the non-profit Project H Design is a series of vending machines that swap gumballs for greenery: Deposit two quarters and GreenAid delivers a Jawbreaker-sized seed bomb into the palm of your hand. Project H has placed about eight machines across L.A. (including one that lives on the Coolhaus ice cream sandwich truck)
 one at the 360SEE gallery in Chicago, and the newest,
at the Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco.

Made from a mixture of clay, compost, and seeds, "seedbombs" are becoming an increasingly popular means combating the many forgotten grey spaces we all encounter everyday-from sidewalk cracks to vacant lots and parking medians. The "seedbombs" can be thrown anonymously into these derelict urban sites to temporarily reclaim and transform them into places worth looking at and caring for. The Greenaid dispensary simply makes these guerilla gardening efforts more accessible to all by appropriating the existing distribution system of the quarter operated candy machine. Using just the loose coins in your pocket, you can make a small but meaningful contribution to the beautification of your city!
It's fun, profitable, educational, sustainable, and interactive.
 Greenaid is equally an interactive public awareness campaign,
 a lucrative fundraising tool, and a beacon for small scale grass roots
 action that engages directly yet casually with local residents to
 both reveal and remedy issues of spatial inequity in their community.
Whether you're a business owner, educator, or just a concerned
 citizen Greenaid would like to work with you to get Greenaid
 in your community. You can purchase or rent a machine
 (or two, or ten...) directly from them and they will develop
 a seed mix as well as a strategic neighborhood intervention
 plan in response to the unique ecologies of your area.
 You then simply place the machine at your local bar, business,
 school, park, or anywhere that you think it can have the most
 impact. Greenaid will then supply you with all the seedbombs
 you need to support the continued success of the initiative.
Where are the vacant grey spaces in your community?

"L.A. is one of the grayest cities in the U.S, which makes it a prime candidate for an initiative like Greenaid," says Daniel, who with Kim
 are also the chapter heads of Project H. While most vending locations
 are currently located on L.A.'s Westside, or in sustainably-minded
 stores and galleries, Project H is hoping to expand their reach into
 more corners of L.A. that need it, hence a current Kickstarter campaign
 to raise more funds. "We'd really like to start focusing our efforts
 on more underserved communities in need-based areas like Compton, Watts, and other areas of downtown," says Phillips.
Project H relies on its community to not only disseminate the wildflower seeds, but also to help track and expand the network.
A Google map application allows guerrilla gardeners to report
 on where they deploy their bombs and highlight areas that are
 in need of bombing. A Facebook page allows fans to tell
theCommonstudio where they think new vending machines should be placed. Bombs can also be purchased directly from theCommonstudio
 and the Greenaid Kickstarter page offers several more options
 for supporting the cause, from buying a starter kit
(which includes a slingshot-fun!)
to a unique model for owning your very
 own Greenaid franchise.

Seed bombs contain a regionally-appropriate wildflower mix.
  The seed bombs themselves are handmade from a mixture of clay, compost, and wildflower seeds, which are curated for each
 region—the Southern California mix includes White Yarrow,
 California Poppy, Lupine, and Blue Flax. This mix is hand-rolled
 into balls by Commonstudio at their studio in Culver City, where
 they often throw seed bomb making parties that begin with wine
 and end with a big, happy mess. To create the Greenaid stations,
 Project H works with an American company called Northwestern
 that has been making candy machines since 1909. "We liked them
 because they were able to do a vibrant green color for us,"
says Phillips, "but we do all the other modifications to the
 machines ourselves." Even though L.A. might be blessed
 with an overabundance of concrete, Project H sees their
 methods as part of a growing movement of greening effort
s that are afoot in the city. "There are a lot of guerrilla
 gardens around L.A.'s Chinatown, which is where we incidentally
 placed our first prototype machine," says Phillips. He even has
 his own favorite place to drop bombs. "We love to throw
 themnear the L.A. River actually, which is such an interesting
 mix of natural and artificial ecology."

So gather up your loose change and let the bombing begin!

To find out more about Greenaid, (C)urban Ecology or theCommonStudio,

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