Ted Turner leads the way again in green restaurants

Ted Turner: The most trusted name in green restaurants.

OK, maybe I jumped the gun there, but the CNN founder has definitely opened my eyes again this year.

For better or worse, Turner gave us the 24-hour news channel. To say CNN changed the way news is done is an understatement. The evolution of the Internet and direct competitor Fox News have diminished the network, but not the immediate impact back in the 1980s.

Turner has had a major impact in the Atlanta area, most famously with TBS and the Atlanta Braves. Now, on a nationwide and literally global scale, Turner has gone green.

Earlier this month, I saw a story on USA Today's Web site about Ted's Montana Grill and Turner's push to improve the environment through the restaurant industry. It was a delightful recap of the wonderful things I saw the first time I tried TMG earlier this year.

At the Snellville store at The Avenue Webb Gin, the green effect is obvious almost from the minute you enter. The lights are dimmer than some restaurants, which you adjust to after a few minutes and hardly notice. The lights are also compact fluorescent bulbs. I mean all of them. I didn't exactly go spying in the kitchen, where there may be an incandescent bulb or two for heating purposes, but the dining room was all fluorescent.

According to TMG's Web site, the menus are on 100 percent recycled paper, the take-out containers are highly biodegradable and the to-go cups are made of biodegradable cornstarch. You cannot tell the difference between Ted's to-go cups and the cups Starbucks uses for cold drinks.

Being a person who understands the concept of pollution - we live on the Earth, let's try not to make it nasty - I always tend to notice such things. Out of sight, out of mind is an easy policy when it comes to waste, be it energy or trash. But if I even start to do the math on how much junk we throw about, my head starts spinning.

The plain truth of it is we in the United States ought to do better than our current efforts at being green. I'm glad that most restaurants stopped using styrofoam for containers many years ago. But even as a former employee, I can't tell you why Chick-fil-A still uses it in all of its cups. It's not like companies haven't developed alternatives that can still keep a beverage warm. Starbucks and RaceTrac use paper products in their cups, and I think they're doing OK at keeping beverages hot.

Turner took his green game to the National Restaurant Association, which unveiled an initiative to push its members to control energy use and waste creation, according to USA Today. Turner is quoted as saying, "Imagine the implications for global warming if we get the whole restaurant industry to go green." Indeed.

Global warming has caused a lot of water issues across the world. People in Darfur are dying over it. Locally, we obviously have a drought on our hands. I don't know that it's directly related to climate change, but keeping the planet cleaner (and cooler) certainly can't hurt. We're getting more people in the metro area, and Lake Lanier isn't getting any bigger.

Doing what's right often isn't easy. It can be hard for some people barely getting by to spend $5 on a compact fluorescent light bulb. Many recycled products also come at an extra cost. But it's the right thing to do.

In the case of fluorescent light bulbs, they actually will pay you back over time. They use about 25 percent of the power of traditional light bulbs, so do the math on the bulbs in your house over the course of a year.

It can be hard to get started down a green path, but it can become addictive. As crazy as it may sound, I enjoy the paper straws at Ted's. They're something you don't see many places, and you know it's doing a lot of people some good. Don't forget that plastic is made from oil. I think that stuff has been a little expensive lately.

By no means do you have to go out tomorrow and instantly throw away dozens of light bulbs and buy a hybrid car. Just start putting such things in the back of your mind. Look for the recycling logos on anything made of plastic you use. You might be surprised at what doesn't have to be thrown away.

As for Ted Turner, get behind some of his initiatives. Ask your favorite restaurants to take small steps to get greener. It may save a planet one day.

Michael Buckelew is a copy editor for the Gwinnett Daily Post. E-mail him at michael.buckelew@gwinnettdailypost.com.