Green Living

Living the Green Life

In Hollywood, it's suddenly hip to be eco-friendly, but Emmy-nominated actor Ed Begley Jr. has been a devoted environmentalist since the 1970s.

Living the Green Life
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A vegetarian whose weekly trash accumulation is so little it can fit into the glove compartment of his electric car, Begley is currently starring with his wife, Rachelle, in HGTV's reality show Living with Ed. The half-hour program offers a glimpse into Begley's solar-powered home complete with a fence made from recycled milk jugs and an electricity-generating exercise bike. We caught up with the activist to talk about his green leanings.


What prompted you to go green?
My father had quite an influence on me-he'd been through the Depression, so he always had us turning off lights and saving tinfoil. He also encouraged me to become a Boy Scout, so I came to share his love of nature. Then, of course, there was the fact that I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s, when the smog was even worse than it is today. By 1970, with the first Earth Day as my catalyst, I was ready to do more to help the planet. I bought my first electric car, started recycling, and began using biodegradable detergents and soaps. And like my father, I passed down these ethics to my children.


You've been living green for 37 years. How do you feel about the recent eco-friendly trend?
This is a wonderful time for the green movement. Every day there's new science about the challenges we're facing-global climate change, air pollution, the depletion of fish in the oceans, our dependence on oil-and it's exciting to see the press covering it. I think people are really starting to understand how their actions affect the health of the planet, and they want to make changes.

You're a successful Hollywood actor, yet you live in a smaller-sized ranch, you grow much of your own food, and you travel by bike. Do you have to make big sacrifices to live this way?
I've been doing these things for so long that I don't feel like I'm sacrificing. But I think that's what keeps a lot of people from changing their lifestyles-the fear that they'll have to give something up. My wife, Rachelle, thinks our yard looks like something out of The Addams Family because of the big reflective solar oven and the red rain-catcher barrels I put in. Old habits can be tough to break, too: Rachelle will turn on the TV or the curling iron and leave it on for an hour while she's in another room. To people like her, I say, don't focus on things like switching to solar energy or wind power. First do what you can: Replace your lightbulbs with more efficient ones or turn off the TV when you leave the room. These small steps can make a big difference.