Attending a TEDx event is like taking a much-needed deep breath: enriching, rejuvenating and something you might only have the opportunity to do every once in a while.

Yesterday afternoon, over 200 students, University staff members and environmental enthusiasts took the opportunity to gather in the Nichols Arboretum Amphitheater to hear a series of talks focusing on environmental sustainability and its applications in all areas of life — ranging from education, to art, to the deep-breathing practices of yoga.

TED is a nonprofit organization that began in 1984 with the mission to connect people across the realms of technology, education and design (hence the acronym). Since then, TED has evolved into a global platform for innovative thinkers to share their ideas through online videos, annual conferences and independently organized events under the title of TEDx.

“TEDxNicholsArboretum” marked the third TEDx event held at the University in the past two years. Unlike the previous conferences, no formal advertising preceded yesterday’s event in an effort to generate zero waste.

D.J. Ferguson, an English teacher at Chelsea High School, kicked off the sustainability talks by asking audience members to remember something important they learned in high school. As audience members racked their brains for an answer, Ferguson demonstrated that the most valuable lessons probably didn’t come from a textbook.

“Human beings learn through experiences,” Ferguson said in his talk. “We’re not designed to sit down. Sitting down is the most unnatural position you can be in as a human being.”

Ferguson explained his belief that the purpose of education should be to create sustainable human beings, not to plow through lesson plans or bolster standardized test scores.

“We are literally educating ourselves away from everything that is essentially human,” Ferguson said.

The second speaker, professor of physics and yogi Jasprit Singh, connected the sustainable mentality to the practice of yoga. Explaining that yoga calls for its practitioners to “build themselves coherently,” Prof. Singh outlined seven ways in which the practice promotes “good life” in much the same way as sustainability. The seven concepts that Singh listed included physical wellness, creativity, balance, loving and receiving love, freedom of expression, meditation and the ability to see oneself in others.

Shortly after his talk, Prof. Singh led the audience in a brief yoga session. Every audience member could be seen reaching his or her arms to the sky and heaving in chestfulls of warm arboretum air.

While the first half of the event focused on the individual’s role in sustainability, the second set of talks examined sustainability on a community level.

Jennifer Canvasser, an Environmental Health Organizer at the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, opened the second session by explaining how toxicology often gets overlooked when thinking about sustainability since harmful chemicals are difficult to trace.

“We don’t always know what we’re being exposed to,” Canvasser said. “Toxic chemicals are out of sight and out of mind because we just don’t see them or talk about them.”

Designer and Program in the Environment instructor Kat Superfisky gave one of the final talks of the day, describing how sustainability isn’t just about efficiency, but beauty too.

“Sustainability can and should be sexy,” Superfisky said. “If we have a beautiful world, we’re going to want to live in that world.”

At the close of the event, Business senior Poonam Dagli, one of the event’s principal organizers, said she was incredibly pleased with the audience and the feelings stirred by the talks.

“Sometimes sustainability is something that can get you down,” she said. “But right now, I feel really uplifted, like I can go out and do anything.”

That and a deep breath are exactly what TEDx is all about.

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