From the moment he attended his first Earth Day event in 1970, actor Ed Begley, Jr., has worked tirelessly to protect the environment and spread the word on how to live a green life. Driving his electric car to the Academy Awards and pedaling his bike to TV and film sets around Los Angeles have earned him the title of “Greenest man in Hollywood.” Today his passion for our planet is a living testament to what we can all do to lead the greenest possible life.
Not only does he power his energy efficient home with solar panels, he also has his exercise/stationary bike hooked up to a solar battery array so that while he is working out he is capturing the energy for later use. Ed has calculated that 15 minutes of hard riding is the equivalent amount of generating 12V of power…the amount required to make two pieces of toast. Talk about multitasking! We recently caught up with Ed to discuss his latest ventures, Earth Cinema Circle and his HGTV reality show, “Living Wth Ed.”
You have recently joined the Earth Cinema Circle (www.earthcinemacircle.com) as the host and spokesman. Why do you think movies can make a difference for the planet?
Ed Begley Jr.: Films have influenced popular culture for many years, and
historically people have been very well informed by documentaries. Now with
a DVD club like Earth Cinema Circle, people can be inspired to become part
of the solution, not the problem by watching these educational and entertaining
What do you think are five important things everyone should do to help the environment?
EB: I urge people to pick the low-hanging fruit. Start small. Ride a bike if weather and fitness permit. Get an energy saving thermostat. Grow some vegetables or fruit. If you don’t have your own piece of dirt, join a community garden. Replace your light bulbs. Use power strips to avoid “vampire power” or get the newest technology called a “green switch” so you can turn off one switch to turn off everything non-essential when you leave your home. And of course, if you can afford it, get solar panels and an electric or hybrid car.
What do you feel is most important for the environment: recycling, energy conservation, or green building?
EB: That’s like asking which is your favorite child. It’s hard to pick. Buildings are big energy users and last a long time. It you build them right, they can use a fraction of the energy. Transportation is just as big an issue. You have to get out of your car as much as possible. Bike, walk, use public transportation if you can. Make sure your car is fuel and energy efficient.
What are some of your favorite green gadgets or tools?
EB: My favorite green gadget is my little solar chargers. I’ve had them for years. They open up like a fan with several panels on them and will actually charge your cell phone. I also have a solar backpack with an even larger panel that will charge my computer. My solar oven is my number one favorite green tool. I use it in my back yard to make all of my soups, beans, stews and recipes. All with free energy from the sun!
What is your next green home improvement?
EB: It’s happening right now. I took my 1936 energy inefficient home and thought I had made it very energy efficient. Recently some people came to my home with an infrared gun and I was able to see all the gaps in my home, especially with the crawlspace under the house. I’ve been hemorrhaging heat in the winter and cool in the summer, despite my best efforts. That’s now being fixed as we speak. I also just got a new 95 percent energy efficient water heater and new heating and air unit, both from AO Smith.
Tell us about the “special” insulation in your home.
EB: I have recycled denim in the attic and had them blow cellulose into the walls. We have a big demand for energy in my house, since we run two businesses on site. I have “Begley’s Best,” my non-toxic cleaning products, which Gaiam and Real Goods is kind to enough to carry, and my wife has a Pilates business. Plus, we have a camera crew with bright lights shooting at the house all the time. Add in my electric car, and even though I have a solar house I need to make sure it’s totally energy efficient.
What is your reality show, “Living With Ed,” about?
EB: It’s on HGTV and the first season is available on DVD from Gaiam. It’s “Green Acres” for the new millennium. I’m Eddie Albert and my wife, Rachelle, is Eva Gabor. It’s a show about my poor beleaguered wife and what it’s like to live with a guy who rides a bicycle to make toast. I am interested in things working well and being practical. She is more interested in the aesthetics. We find a way to meet in the middle. We’ve learned we can have a drought tolerant garden that is not only practical, but it also looks good.
What kind of car do you drive?
EB: It’s a Toyota RAV 4, pure electric. It just runs and runs.
What films and books about living green do you suggest?
EB: I am going to be unabashedly self-serving here. My book, Living With Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life, has just been published by Clarkson Potter. It’s a very good how-to book filled with lots of tips. I also tell people to look in the Gaiam and Real Goods catalogues to see all the wonderful books about solar, wind power and things like straw bale houses.
You serve on the Boards of many important organizations. What do you like best about the role you play?
EB: It allows me to be a megaphone, to spread the word. I’m fortunate that my acting work puts me into the public spotlight so I can bring attention to these important issues.
In the current Earth Cinema Circle collection there is a documentary called A Life Among Whales. Why is this an important film?
EB: This film tells the story of whale biologist Dr. Roger Payne and the work he has done detailing the intelligence of whales and the near-extinction of the species. It also includes the groundbreaking work he did in observing and recording whales singing. His work was instrumental in creating a ban on whaling that, unfortunately, is now being dismantled. This film will bring attention to the importance of funding the efforts of Paul Watson (founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservancy) and our friends at Greenpeace. Also on this volume are two films about food. One film is an animated piece from Sierra Club called The True Cost of Food and the other is an incredibly inspiring film called How to Save the World about a New Zealand biodynamic farmer. I want to encourage people to join Earth Cinema Circle and watch these films and then look and see what small things they can begin to do today to make a difference.
For more information, please visit www.edbegley.com.