As cities become the pre-eminent human habitat, new questions are emerging about how we can better empower urban dwellers to feel more connected to their everyday surroundings.  A growing movement known as “guerilla gardening” hopes to spark these larger shifts in consciousness and action, and a tiny but powerful tool known as the “seedbomb” has been used by guerilla gardeners for decades to transform the forgotten niches of the urban landscape.  Made from a mixture of clay, compost and seeds, these green “pixels” can be thrown or planted virtually anywhere, creating more vibrant places worth caring for.  Greenaid is Commonstudio’s multi-year initiative focused on making seedbombs more accessible to the general public by channeling the power of social enterprise.  

What we asked:

By researching the trends and technologies of the global guerilla gardening movement, we wanted to understand the typical barriers to entry, the regional ecological implications, and the potential for local economic impact.

What we discovered:

People of all ages needed more casual ways to get involved in guerilla gardening on personal level.  Responding to this need, we identified an opportunity to appropriate the existing technology of the coin-operated gumball machine.  By scaling the seedbomb down and refining their composition for the vending machine, we could make seedbombing easier, widely-accessible, and more fun.  This also opened their potential for economic-viability as a powerful green product.

What we did:

In 2010, Commonstudio began the initiative by placing a series of prototype seedbomb vending machines in the Los Angeles area.  For just fifty cents, the Greenaid machine offered instant access to the tools of the guerilla gardener in a variety of native wildflower mixes.  The idea was infectious, and soon Greenaid blossomed into a fully operational social enterprise. Working in partnership with Chrysalis, a local non-profit, Greenaid offered long term employment opportunities to formerly homeless and low income men and women from the Los Angeles area.   In addition to paying a living wage for hand making and packaging the seedbombs, Greenaid employees were encouraged to operate their own vending machines to earn extra income every month.  Commonstudio managed this non-profit partnership, and the expansion of Greenaid into a national brand through a range of new packaging, seedmixes, social media campaigns, and retail partnerships.  

What else:

Venice Design Biennale 2012