One of the presenters at today’s TEDxSomerville event was Lenni Armstrong.  Her presentation: “Depaving the Way” detailed the damage done by an over-abundance of pavement in our urban areas.  Run-off can cause flooding.  Paved areas don’t allow soil to do its job as a filter to clean the water, removing impurities. 

Recently I sat on a panel where the definition of innovation was discussed.  One of the panelists was militant about defining innovation — “must provide business value” was part of her definition.  You know we’re pretty loose with our definition.  (Probably unique amongst the innovation bloggers and supporters in that sense.)  We believe that innovation can be anywhere.  It can be small, tiny even.  And we might not understand the value of a particular innovation immediately.  Because someday, you may be able to combine different innovations, mix them together and come up with a truly groundbreaking innovation.

And, speaking of groundbreaking — back to Lenni.  With her words and pictures, she told the story of a backyard depaving.  Parking in Somerville is precious and so many yards, both front and back in some cases, have been turned into parking.  A team of Somervillians dig up a backyard parking area and turned it into a garden. A garden that takes rain water and lets it percolate into the ground, cleaner than when it fell.  A rain garden has a beauty of purpose as well as the physical beauty of the flowers and plants.

But not all pavement in Somerville is in the back yards.  The streets are paved…obviously.  (Not a place where dirt roads are prevalent.)  And along those roads, we see hydrants.  Fire hydrants.  You don’t park in front of them so why is the pavement needed there?  In fact, it isn’t. Lenni’s presentation showed someone’s innovation, a fire hydrant rain garden.  Take the pavement in front of a hydrant, dig it up and plant some plants.  They can get crushed and spring back if a fire truck needs access.  Simple innovation.  See a problem.  See an opportunity. Solve a problem.

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