Sustainability Initiative to host GVSU’s first TED event

Grand Valley State University junior Logan Short recycles a soda in The Connection.

Andrew Mills

Grand Valley State University junior Logan Short recycles a soda in The Connection.

Molly Waite

The open exchange of ideas is one of the most important parts of any liberal education. The Sustainable Community Development Initiative at Grand Valley State University has created another venue for such an exchange in GVSU’s first-ever TED event.

The event, called TEDxGrandValley, will take place Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Cook-DeWitt Center on Allendale Campus. TED began as an annual conference about Technology, Entertainment and Design, said Emily Martin, the graduate assistant with SCDI. It has grown to hold conferences with other organizations and created the TEDx program, which grants licenses to individuals to organize their own TED-like events.

Norman Christopher, executive director of SCDI, said he is very pleased they were able to obtain a license to hold a TEDx event about sustainability for GVSU’s annual Campus Sustainability Week, and he has high hopes for the success of the event.

“The TEDx event allows for more participants including faculty, staff, students and those from the local community to present their sustainability stories in a concise and conversational style that will be filmed and shared with others,” said Christopher. “I hope that the TEDx presentations and discussions will inspire others to pursue their own aspirations and feel empowered that they could make a difference in the world today. All of us who attend TEDxGrandValley can learn a great deal from others about sustainable lifestyle behaviors and trying to make the best decisions and choices both for today as well as tomorrow.”

According to the event flier, 200 to 250 attendees and speakers will take part in the event. Currently, there are 18 confirmed speakers for Tuesday.

Erik Nordman, an assistant professor in GVSU’s Natural Resources Management Program, will present ideas on alternative energy.

“Michigan residents, more so than residents of other Great Lakes states, feel a personal responsibility to protect the Great Lakes,” Nordman said. “It is important to understand how our energy choices affect the health of the Great Lakes and the vitality of coastal communities. We need to build an energy system that enhances the quality of the Great Lakes and enhances the quality of life in Michigan.”

The speakers are given an 18-minute limit, said Bart Bartels, project manager of SCDI. He said this time limit turns the event into a fast-paced, high-energy series of presentations because it forces the speakers to focus on what is most important and what they are passionate about.

Bartels said he hopes with every new presentation, there will be an “ah-ha” moment for himself and the rest of the GVSU community.

“I think it is important for the GVSU community to attend this event because it will give us a chance to hear the stories of people within our community who are doing incredible things which we may not even know about,” Martin said. “I hope that people will have a chance to discuss how sustainable values challenge us all to live differently and I hope it will challenge all of our thinking and stretch us to go a little further in our journey towards a sustainable lifestyle.”

Martin said for those who cannot attend the conference, the entire event will be streamed online and all of the talks will be posted on the TEDxGrandValley website,, following the event.

“We will bring together students, faculty and staff, along with community members, to share ideas across disciplines,” the event flier said. “Using TED’s unique format, a series of speakers will share short talks, followed by periodic breaks to facilitate conversation. Through TEDxGrandValley we hope to spark ideas that will lead to actions towards a more sustainable world.”

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