LOOK: Guerilla Gardening with Pocket Change

When Daniel Phillips and Kim Karlsrud inherited five old cherry red candy machines, they considered filling them with sweets and placing them...

When Daniel Phillips and Kim Karlsrud inherited five old cherry red candy machines, they considered filling them with sweets and placing them outside for neighborhood passersby.

“My dad was giving up vending and hoisted some machines on us and we didn’t know what to do with them,” says Karlsrud. But the recent Otis grads and Project H collaborators decided on a different solution. They filled the machines with seed bombs: balls of dirt packed with native wildflower seeds ready to land in unsuspecting sidewalk cracks, vacant lots, and parking medians. “For anyone who has spent time in a city that actually has functional open public space, the lack of open green space in LA is shocking,” says Phillips.

It’s not that Los Angeles doesn’t have green space. It does. The city is home to the largest municipal park in the country and big back yards are common even in the heart of the city. The problem is that most of it comes at a price and the city’s lower-income communities have some of the lowest green space per capita in the country. Trying to solve for the inequitable distribution of green space between the wealthiest and poorest residents is no easy task, as many city officials would insist.

But Project Green Aid is less a cure for that urban ailment than it is a public awareness campaign—a kind of casual activism. “The beauty of the vending part of this is that it’s so easy and fun,” says Phillips. “It helps people realize ‘wow I have more the power to do more’ and people can begin to think about ways they can engage on a larger scale.”

In the last year the duo has managed to install eight machines throughout Los Angeles and several others in places as nearby as Fresno and as far as Vienna, Austria. Coming off a $10,000 Kickstarter win they now have funding to bring the machines to even more “grey” areas.

“The hope is that seedbombs can be a fun first step, a gateway drug, in getting folks to better understand and re-evaluate their daily environment,” says Phillips. “And become more active in making it a better place through individual, small scale action.”

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