by Michael Meador
Mostly, it depends on the event. You attend, listen to the lecture or tour, participate, and be on your merry way. Occasionally, you might get a little something extra. I’m not talking about some door prize but something a little more important. I’m talking about inspiration. You come away with some newfound perspective, with a passion to tell someone about it, with zeal to accomplish something. It may not come from just one event. The experience you received from two or three events may blend together to form this inspired idea within you. At least, that is how it happened for me.
The first was at the Tennessee Concrete Association, hosted by the US Green Building Council and Urban Green Lab. You may not think of concrete as a very interesting topic, however the tour was fascinating. Along the tour of their facility we examined a net zero building installation they developed and learned about pervious concrete. Pervious concrete sets itself apart from the type you are likely thinking of by allowing water to pass through it. Think about parking lots and sidewalks that don’t pool with water when it rains. They have also created underground cisterns and water fountains with this pervious concrete. Forget having huge water basins filled with “wishing well” coins; their little water fountain just sticks out of the slab spraying water onto the pervious concrete around it. Despite being great information to have, I had nowhere to use it.
That brings me to the second event, an ISP student tour of the Bellevue Edible Learning Lab (BELL) Garden to meet, greet, and brainstorm new projects. BELL Garden is a non-profit community garden right next to Bellevue Middle School. They have a mission, posted on their webpage, to help improve their community by “providing practical learning opportunities for residents of the community in a setting that promotes physical activity, healthy eating, environmental stewardship, and multi-cultural connections for all generations.” They thrive off of volunteers to help care for the garden. Among the raised beds, butterfly garden, and other vegetable beds, the garden is not short on variety in what they grow for the community. However, with that variety comes multiple pathways between all of the growing vegetation. All these paths create a bit of a problem. Covered with a variety of gravel, mulch, and uneven stones, these paths can be difficult to navigate in a wheelchair, with a cane, or with a wheelbarrow. The paths make it more difficult to not only volunteer but also to visit and enjoy the butterfly and World War II Victory gardens or watch the chickens that they keep.

On one hand, you have a garden that could use better pathways and are concerned at how water might pool or infiltrate into the ground.
On the other hand, you have pervious concrete that allows water to drain through it.
I think that there is an app for that: an application, that is.

Currently, BELL Garden has some grant proposals in the works to help fund and alleviate some of their problems. Not only are they looking to put in some new pathways, but they are also turning it into a research project. By installing both pervious concrete and standard concrete pathways, the garden can measure soil moisture and water usage along each of them. Doing so will allow them to educate students, the community, and other gardens on the impact and benefits of installing pervious pathways. Being able to educate others is just one more step in accomplishing their mission.

Before I committed to the ISP graduate program, I did not know much about concrete. Neither did I know anything about BELL Garden and the wonderful community relationships that they have fostered. I definitely did not know that I might play a part in improving a great community organization with concrete. That is the interesting thing about inspiration: it drives you do things that you may have never thought of before.
You can find your own inspiration, too, among some of the upcoming events the ISP is highlighting. Maybe it will be the Community Recycling and ReLeafing Nashville days or possibly the Collaborative Conversations on Race with the Tennessee Local Food Summit. I know it is cliché, but your inspiration will hit you when you least expect it. If you expected it, you wouldn’t feel inspired.
You will never know if you don’t go.

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