Junk Battle

Thank you for making JUNK BATTLE! 2018 a great success! For a quick recap of JUNK BATTLE! events, watch the sizzle reel here (2 min.).  Take in UCLA design professor Rebeca Mendez’s stirring talk here.  And read Marc O’Brien’s recount of the day (and learn who went home with trash trophies) here.

JUNK BATTLE! brings the County’s design and architecture students together to focus on one of LA’s toughest challenges: what to do about mountains of waste.

“Imagine TED meets architecture-and-design studio meets hackathon meets innovation black belts,” says Creative Director John Bielenberg, “and you’ve just imagined what JUNK BATTLE! can be.”

Case study: UCLA

A UCLA case study highlights the challenge. The university purchases close to a billion dollars’ worth of goods every year, a large percentage of which winds up in area landfills. UCLA targets a zero-waste goal by 2020. But to reach it, they have to change the game.

So we’re bringing LA County’s architecture and design community together with experts on waste and recycling to take on Big Junk.

Unfolding in architecture and design programs across LA County over the first half of the year, JUNK BATTLE! culminates in a blow-out competition April 20, 2:00 –6:30, at the LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI) in the downtown Arts District. Specialist symposium follows in collaboration with UCLA.

The combination of events focuses popular attention on the problem, and convenes leading specialists to produce next-step solutions.


The showcase event includes:

  • TED-style talks.
  • JUNK BATTLE! design competition with countywide architecture and design programs.

Ted-style talks bring the County’s leading innovators and visionaries together to raise the bar on what’s possible in terms of waste and recycling and frame new inspirations.

The JUNK BATTLE! competition brings together LA County’s architecture and design schools to upcycle institutional waste in the most useful and creative ways imaginable. Professionals volunteer as project consultants. Work begins ahead of time and culminates on the day of the event with celebrity judging. Projects are displayed at key locations around the County.

We end with a blow-out, zero-waste party. “Saving the world has to be fun,” says advertising genius Alex Bogusky, “or nobody’s going to do it.”


Design Media Arts: Rebeca Mendez, instructor.

ArtCenter College of Design
Product Design: Heidrun Mumper-Drumm and Nathan Cooke, instructors.
Daisuke Yamaguchi, facilitator.

California Institute of the Arts
Design and Production: Shannon Scrofano, instructor.

Los Angeles Trade Technical College
Architecture and Environmental Design: Marcela Oliva, instructor.

Junk Battle! Support is provided by:

Pasadena City College
Industrial Design: Daisuke Yamaguchi, instructor.
Digital Fabrication Lab: Eamon Conklin, coordinator.

School of Architecture: Alice Kimm, instructor.

Judges and Speakers

Judges include:

  • Ken Bielenberg, computer animation pioneer
  • Mark Eckhardt, Chief Executive Officer of COMMON
  • David de Rothschild, Adventurer, activist
  • Kathy Schlein, entrepreneur and business leader

Speakers include:

  • Brandt Williams, Chief Change Officer, Idiota
  • Marcus Eriksen, Adventurer, environmentalist, and founder, 5 Gyres
  • Bonny Bentzin, Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer, UCLA
  • Heather Repenning, Vice President of the Board of Public Works, City of Los Angeles
  • John Bielenberg, founder of the Think Wrong Institute, Future Partners, COMMON and Project M.


The JUNK BATTLE! showcase event and specialist symposium will be a success if we:

  • Engage the County’s architecture and design communities for the common good of creating a more ecological LA.
  • Produce a buzz-worthy event that spotlights waste and how southland creativity is leading way.
  • Bring together better ideas and stronger connections for a zero-waste roadmap that can be applied countywide.

Specialist Symposium

The specialist symposium unites the energy of the JUNK BATTLE! event with some of the leading experts on procurement, waste, and recycling to focus on creating a zero waste roadmap.

The symposium is a curated event, specialist-to-specialist, focused on high-level problem solving. Date and location TBD.


Junk Battle! is a Pando Populus event presented by NCompass in collaboration with UCLA Office of Sustainability, COMMON, and What Design Can Do.

Junk Battle! is made possible by COMMON, a creative accelerator and community for social businesses and projects, and Liberty Ranch, a laboratory towards ecological civilization. With additional support from the Farbstein Family.

Major in-kind support has been provided by NCompass, producing connections between brands and people. And the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator.

Prizes are made possible by the Maryknoll Sisters of Monrovia, verynice, John Bielenberg, and Marcus Eriksen.