October 12, 2010

Ted’s comes to Boulder—spotting Waylon’s Hero.

Kabillionaire, mega-philanthropist, media pioneer & environmental activist Ted Turner visited Boulder (in an un-eco limo?) to open his new Ted’s Montana Grill just last week. (ed.)

I was fortunate to be there.

Here’s what vegetarians & bison eaters want to know! ~ Bud Wilson

The single largest land owner (over 2 million acres) in the United States was recently in Boulder to celebrate the opening of his new business on Pearl Street. A man who has done very well while doing lots of good. Bold and brash are understatements. Controversial doesn’t do justice. Dynamic and courageous come closer. Audaciously entrepreneurial seals the deal.

It’s difficult to find a person who doesn’t have an opinion of Ted Turner. In addition to being elephant editor and Walk the Talk Show host Waylon’s avowed hero, Mr. Turner is an extraordinary philanthropist. He shows up and he cares—he puts his money where his mouth is.

Back in 1986, when I was fortunate to work with him during the Windstar Foundation Choices for the Future Symposium, he once complained that the conservative elements of our society were always accusing those “damn liberal do-gooders” of messing up their agenda. To which Ted replied:

“Tell me this, what’s wrong with doin’ good?”

Now his restaurant chain, Ted’s, touts the slogan: “Eat Great, Do Good”. His main concerns are Global Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons proliferation.  Here is what he had to say on the Charlie Rose show:

Big personalities attract both supporters and detractors, if you formulate your own opinion, you’ll discover that Ted has done plenty of good in his life, way more than most!  His list of accomplishments is extraordinary, not the least of which is energizing the recent challenge to fellow billionaires to give away half their fortunes during their lifetimes.  He set the standard back in 1997 when he donated $ 1 Billion to establish the United Nations Foundation—basically because he was upset that the Reagan/Bush era snubbed the UN and withheld paying our dues. Initially, he was so angry he wanted to sue the United States Government for being negligent, until Tim Wirth reminded him a private citizen can’t sue the government.

Back to the Gala Grand Opening…have you ever felt like Forest Gump II? I often find myself in pictures with VIPs and wonder what I’m supposed to do about it.  Here Ted Turner is asking Bruce Benson, President of the University of Colorado about the challenges of higher education.

Grand Opening Ted's Montana Grill photo credit: www.atomjohnson.com

Ted Turner is no stranger to education. 20 years ago, he launched the Captain Planet cartoon for TV, and 15 years ago created the Captain Planet Foundation to educate young people and support environmental causes. He was inspired to direct Barbara Pyle, his Corporate Vice President for Environmental Affairs at Turner Broadcasting, to produce this program after he participated in the 1986 Windstar “State of Our Planet” presentation right here in Colorado. How do I know Ted confirmed it and Barbara told me so, over a beer at the Woody Creek Tavern. You never can tell what might inspire someone to step up to the proverbial plate and hit one out of the park.

Captain Planet demonstrates gender balance, ethnic and racial diversity while promoting ecological awareness. The show empowers environmental action, even transcending geo-political boundaries during the last throws of the cold war. A courageous departure from Saturday morning cartoons. Gaia, one of the main characters, represents the power and spirit of the Earth, she works side by side with Captain Planet. Here’s a glimpse of the first prophetic episode.


Just a few days ago, Ted Turner came to Colorado for the second time this summer.  His first visit was to speak at the American Renewable Energy Day in Aspen.

Most recently, he gave his time, energy and personal passion to protect the environment, as a contribution to support the Colorado Conservation Voter’s annual fund raising luncheon in Denver. Check out their “Environmental Scorecard” it will help you vote wisely in this next critical election! If you’re reading this article, and you’re not in Colorado check out the National Environmental Scorecard and vote to protect our precious environment. The fact that Ted Turner came to Colorado to support CCV speaks for itself: he’s committed, for real.

Ted followed up his rousing talk with Governor Ritter at the luncheon by coming up to Boulder for the private, grand opening party of Ted’s Montana Grill. He founded this 56 restaurant chain after he jokingly refers to being “laid off by Time Warner”.

Anything with Montana in its name gets my attention—my childhood memories are instantly awakened. From the age of six, I spent summer vacations at Flathead Lake Lodge, enjoying many visits to Kehoe’s agate shop in Bigfork. Thanks, Ted, for giving me a great excuse to wear my Montana Jasper belt buckle. I’ve had this prized possession since 7th grade.

Montana Jasper Belt Buckle - Kehoe's Agate Shop

The official environmental statement printed on Ted’s recycled paper menus says:

“We believe in doing our part to preserve the natural world around us”.

With over 2 million acres of ranch land (one ranch in northern New Mexico is a huge wind farm) and over 45,000 head of bison, he’s doing a lot to preserve open spaces. They do tell their customers they use compost friendly cornstarch to-go cups and natural building materials in the construction of their restaurants. Every little bit of information raises the awareness of their patrons. Teds restaurants are, apparently, 99% plastic free and they have reintroduced paper straws to the restaurant industry nationwide. Ted’s Grill is making incremental changes that are timely and welcome.

Every year, tens of billions of BPA-laden plastic drinking straws are thrown away in the USA. As of late this summer, five states have bills in play to ban BPA in plastic products used in restaurants.

Nobody’s perfect and undoubtedly there will be reactions to a steak house replacing the beloved organic Sunflower on Pearl Street.

Bringing Buffalo back from the Brink

As “manifest destiny” swept across the frontier and American settlers “conquered” the west, there were many tragic impacts. The relationship between our Native American ancestors and the Sacred Buffalo is well known.  The telegraph lines, the iron horse, barbed wire fences and other insults to an ancient way of life dramatically changed a thousand years of balance and harmony between humans and Wild Nature.

Manifest Destiny and the demise of the American Bison

I have profound respect for the compassionate and appealing principles espoused by vegans and vegetarians. Boulder’s own Lisa Shapiro is calling for a peaceful, sustainable world with her new venture, All Things Vegan.

Another friend and Boulder hero, Bill Stewart, advocates and builds supply chains to bring natural, organic and vegetarian fare to restaurants for nearly 20 years: check out his National Sustainable Sales organization!  I also bow, in deference, to the nakedly militant, clearly provocative, entertaining strategies of PETA, often unabashedly revealing the horror of industrial meat production. I’m blessed with another friend and PETA advocate, Johanna McCloy, who has been passionately introducing vegan and vegetarian choices in major sports arena’s around the country through her Soy Happy project! Being a baseball fan, she’s delighted with the Giants being in the playoffs—both San Francisco and the Phillies have ballparks that sell veggie dogs!

Another provocative ad from PETA - remember, all animals have the same body parts

These are tough issues, for some, totally black and white…and there are always other perspectives. Perhaps a word or two from the Tao Te Ching would be helpful for my kind readers. This teaching from Sacred Passage and John P. Milton has opened me to a more expansive view of the many paradoxes modern society relentlessly thrusts upon us.

Empty yourself of everything.

Let the mind rest at peace.

The ten thousand things rise and fall

while the self watches their return.

They grow and flourish

and then return to the source.

Returning to the source is stillness,

which is the way of Nature.

The way of Nature is unchanging.

Lao Tsu

It may not be as sexy as PETA ads, but many believe, especially those in the Native American Community, that making Buffalo a commercially viable “product” will insure the resurgence of these iconic, symbolic animals of the great American West, once the target of the U.S. Government for complete extermination. The ecological benefits of Bison to the restoration of the prairies are well documented.

The American Bison $50 Gold Coin first minted in 2006, a variation of James Earle Fraser's 1913 Buffalo Nickle

For now, I’ll leave the controversy of eating buffalo meat vs. seeing buffalo and their prairies go extinct to the passionate advocates on both sides of this health and environmental issue—although I do encourage our Elephant Journal readers to seriously consider the issues raised in John Robbin’s Pulitzer Prize winning Diet For a New America. Take a listen to his gentle, healing comments. His well-researched message conveys a powerful argument. Warning, it gets a little gruesome toward the end – a dose of reality. It’s a good thing Buffalo are WAY less fat than cattle.


This video takes me back to a nostalgic pioneering time in the late 80’s, during a Windstar Choices for the Future symposium. Some of you might recognize the Aspen Music Festival tent. Clearly, he’s a visionary advocate for a way of living and eating that is difficult to fault.

For now, I leave you with a romantic image of an earlier time on the great American Prairie.

Can Ted Turner's Montana Grill bring back the health of our prairies?

Our eating habits are individual decisions that have loads of implications for the well-being of ourselves and our planet. They are more than just “personal” decisions, when one considers the truth that we are all interdependent, living in a world where our choices have an impact on all of life.

If the delicious hormone-free, antibiotic-free, grass fed tenderloin isn’t your thing, order a crisp salad, followed by “Josie’s” vegetable plate, topped off with a fabulous hot apple crisp! Those are actual “choices” on the menu. The more veggie orders, the more choices will show up. Maybe with enough customer requests in Boulder, they’ll go 100% organic and offer a raw food selection too. Imagine dairy free Coconut Milk Ice Cream for that Apple Crisp.

It wasn’t easy getting the city to approve a heat saving revolving front door either, but the owner of the building fought for it!

Real change rarely appears to come easily.

Onward with courage.

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