Ed Begley, Jr.

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Meet Hollywood's greenest environmentalist, Ed Begley, Jr. Ed doesn't just talk the talk about environmental stewardship, he walks the walk! From installing solar panels on his house, to riding his bike as much as possible, to building a white picket fence made out of recycled milk bottles, Ed strives to leave the smallest ecological footprint he can in his home and daily life.

Ed has a successful acting career in television, movies, and theater. He received six Emmy nominations for his acting in the hit television series "St. Elsewhere." You have probably seen him recently in recurring roles on popular shows like "7th Heaven," "Veronica Mars," "Arrested Development," and "Six Feet Under." Now he and his wife, Rachelle Carson, have their own reality TV show! "Living with Ed" airs on HGTV Sundays at 10pm EST. Each week camera crews follow the family around as Ed tries out new environmentally conscientious modifications to his house and lifestyle, some more outlandish than others! Though some compromises have to be made, most of his improvements work out; at the end of the day, we could all take a few tips from living with Ed!

Check out these links to learn more about Ed:

You can also read Ed's new book: Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life

Questions & Answers

Why did you become so green?

 There are two major influences that led me to be the environmentalist I am today. One good, and one bad. The good influence came from scouting. I developed a great reverence for  the outdoors as a Boy Scout- a reverence that continues to this day. The bad influence was growing up in smoggy Los Angeles. There was horrible choking smog year round in L.A. in those days, so by 1970, I set about trying to effect a change.

What has been the hardest for you to give up in adopting a green lifestyle? What was easiest (or easier than you thought)?

The hardest part was when I gave up buying gasoline in 1989. I rode my bike and took my electric car everywhere around L.A. For longer trips, I took Amtrak or Greyhound, since it was more fuel efficient than flying. This proved to be quite a challenge, but I did it for nearly the whole decade of the nineties. Now that I have a hybrid for long distances, things have gotten much easier. I also fly occasionally. For instance, if I have to be Friday in L.A. and Saturday in New York, I get on a plane like anybody else. But, happily that doesn't happen much.

What is your environmental ethic?

It simply means being as energy efficient as current off the shelf technology permits. I wanted to prove that you could still have a warm shower and a cool beverage, but you could just do it more efficiently.

If you were a college student, how would you live green in a dorm?

Some actions you can take:

  • Conserve energy by turning off lights and computers when not in use.
  • Set your heat or air conditioning lower or higher by season
  • Take shorter, cooler showers
  • Use energy efficient laundry machines when possible and air dry your clothes
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle paper products and books

How can a middle or high school student be more green?

Middle and high school students can take many of the same actions as college students. You can also be aware of your car and fuel decisions and promote green practices in your schools.

Often it is easier to convince other young adults to adopt a greener lifestyle than it is to convince parents and other adults. What suggestions do you have that could help students to encourage adults to change the ways that they live and look at the natural world?

Remind them of all the "green" you can save by living a green lifestyle. All of the things that I've done over the years have been good for the environment, but they've also been GREAT for my pocketbook!

Do you get back the money you spent on making your house green with savings on water and energy?

Yes. And, you get it back quickly in some cases. It's usually best to pick "the low hanging fruit" first. And, with the money you save from that, move up to the next level. By that I mean, start with compact fluorescent bulbs, and an energy saving thermostat. Then move up to good insulation and double pane windows. Then move up to solar hot water. And finally move up to solar electric.

Do you save more money and resources by building a new green house or by modifying an existing house to make it green?

I did a conversion of an existing structure. You'll never make an old house as energy efficient as the latest new green construction, but you can take it pretty far. And, then there's the question of where all those old materials go. There's something to be said for both.

Do you have a composting toilet?

I don't have a composting toilet, but they provide a very good way to manage one of our many "waste" issues.

Are you vegetarian? How do you eat green?

I am a vegetarian and it's a very efficient way to make use of our land and water. With six billion of us on the planet now, we must conserve at every turn.

I grow a great deal of my own food on my small property, but also buy local and buy organic, as both have tremendous benefits for the environment. Food travels great distances these days, and eating locally as much as possible is every bit as important as eating organic. If you don't have a backyard, as I do, you could also start or join a community garden. I'm also a vegetarian because of the horrible conditions in most feedlots, slaughterhouses, and stockyards.

How do you feel about events like Live Aid and people like Bono from U2? Are they helping or do they just make developed countries feel like they're helping?

I think what folks like Bono are doing, and events like Live-Aid are doing, is fantastic. All would concede that it's not the ultimate answer, but it's a great start for today.

How do we ensure environmental protection in the developing world without adverse effects on economic development?

Like wireless technology versus the old paradigm of laying a cable for a phone line, many in the developing world have the opportunity to leapfrog right to the latest breakthrough and get their power directly form the roof of their hut.

Many folks in developing countries also walk long distances to collect wood to cook with. Solar ovens are another way to give them what they need without the cost in dollars or in effort.

What actions have you seen the film and television industry take to be more green?

The entertainment industry has come a long way, but needs to go much further. At the Environmental Media Association, we have a Green Seal Production Guide. We help folks on the set and in the production office get a green certification for their show and we also give awards for those that have come the furthest.

The 2007 Academy Awards were quite green. From green limos (hybrids, bio-diesel & electric), to recycling to carbon offsets, there has never been a "greener" awards ceremony at the Oscars.

What can we do to improve the environment at an individual level? If every person made one, first change in their lifestyle, what should it be?

Do something, anything, today. Buy a light bulb. Ride a bike. Take a bus. Plant a tree. Start small and build. You don't run up Mount Everest. You get outfitted properly, then you make it up to base camp. Once you get acclimated, you go on to the next level, and so on. You take it slowly, and go as high as you can.

Is there anything else you want to do to live green? Anything else on your list?

I follow this simple rule: Live simply so that others may simply live. (Ghandi)
I find that always guides me to do the right thing.