Phillips ('08 Architecture/Landscape/Interiors) and Karlsrud ('07 Product Design) met when they were students, and started their Greenaid project, Guerrilla Gardening, shortly after graduating. “Johnny Appleseeds for the 21st Century” is how Fast Company described their seed bomb project, a grass roots campaign to raise public awareness as well as reveal and remedy issues of spatial inequity. Across Los Angeles and in Europe, Greece, Canada and Mexico, residents find repurposed gum ball machines that dispense seed bombs (a mixture of clay, compost, and seeds), for 25 cents, and toss them into derelict urban spaces such as vacant lots and median strips. Karlsrud and Phillips co-founded COMMONstudio, a design practice that has "an interdisciplinary approach to objects, systems, tools, and spaces, with an emphasis on urban ecology, social enterprise, and adaptive reuse."
They returned to Otis to teach “Design for Social Impact,” in which students sourced local materials and industrial scraps, conducted lifecycle analyses, and creatively employed the ethics and aesthetics of “doing more with less.” Site partners included TOMS Shoes and the Boys and Girls Club in East L.A. As Karlsrud explains, “It’s no longer about designers going into third world countries and working with craft communities to make $3,000 coffee mugs.” Instead, students used reclaimed materials from the garment district or bike shop inner tubes, and transformed them functionally and aesthetically.
In 2011, they collaborated with classmate Aaron Maninang ('07 Fashion Design), a designer at Brooklyn Industries, to create the Seed Dress and Seed Bracelet for Earth Day. They received a Core 77 award for their Educational Initiative D3 (Dream It, Design it, Do It) at Nightingale Middle School, Cypress Park, L.A.