What if bike paths could generate energy or empty shipping containers could be transformed to grow lettuce? Forward-thinking innovators find nuggets in the neglected and forgotten. They have a knack for repurposing everyday items.

Local government teamed up with Dutch companies in Amsterdam recently to complete a prototype of the world’s first solar bike path, 75 yards of solar cells in concrete covered by roughened glass to allow traction. That short stretch of path already generates more than enough energy to power two homes. While the cost was high – $3.7 million dollars – the potential is huge. The Dutch love bicycling, and the Netherlands boasts more than 22,000 miles of bike paths. And there’s tremendous synergy in crossing solar power roads with a transport medium (biking) that doesn’t demand any traditional energy.

Finding a way to put something idle to use is a powerful force. Take the 700,000 shipping containers rusting away in ports and cities. Daniel Kuenzi is connecting those idle containers with a huge need – the lack of fresh lettuce in the nation’s many urban food deserts. Kuenzi’s Local Roots Farm is working to turn derelict shipping containers into makeshift gardens by equipping them with hydrophonics and the latest in LED lighting. Lettuce is an ideal vegetable to grow locally, as it often has to travel 2,000 miles or more to the nation’s cites. And now the countless shipping containers that seemed destined to themselves become trash hold the potential of becoming fertile fields for a new, more environmentally sustainable local food source.

The next time you see something ordinary, blink, and ask yourself whether you might dream up another use.