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It's Easy to Get Greener: Q&A with Ed Begley, Jr.
Since the first Earth Day in 1970, actor-activist Ed Begley, Jr., has done a lot of unconventional things to spread the word on how to live a greener life. When he pedaled his bike to TV & film sets around Los Angeles and was among the first to drive his own electric car to the Academy Awards, some called him the “greenest man in Hollywood.” Now Ed’s even making toast with pedal power — as well as charging his cell phone and powering his TV to watch his new green-themed reality show “Living with Ed” on HGTV and Gaiam DVD.
We asked Ed to share some tidbits based on his green life that’s just oddball enough to be on TV — and just normal enough for millions of viewers to relate.
Q. What are the most important things everyone should do to help the environment?
A. I urge people to pick the low-hanging fruit. Start small. 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. Replace your light bulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs. Get an energy-saving thermostat. Use smart power strips to avoid “vampire power,” or get the newest technology called a “green switch” so you can flip one switch to turn off everything nonessential when you leave your home.
We show how we’ve done these things at my house in the TV show, which is like “Green Acres” for the new millennium. “I’m Eddie Albert and my wife, Rachelle, is Eva Gabor.” It’s a show about what it’s like to live with a guy who rides a bicycle to make toast [the bike is hooked to a battery that powers appliances — 15 minutes of hard riding toasts two slices!].
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. For example, 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?
It’s a Toyota RAV 4, pure electric. It just runs and runs.
What are your favorite green gadgets?
My little solar cell phone chargers that open up like a fan with several panels on them. I’ve had them for years. I also have a solar backpack with an even larger panel that will charge my computer. My solar oven is another favorite. I use it in my backyard to make all of my soups, beans, stews and recipes. All with free energy from the sun.
What is your next green home improvement?
It’s happening right now. I thought I had made my energy-inefficient 1936 home very energy efficient. But recently an [energy audit] team 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. The house has been hemorrhaging heat in the winter and cool in the summer, despite my best efforts. That’s being fixed as we speak. I used recycled denim as extra insulation in the attic, and I had cellulose blown into the walls. I also just got a new energy-efficient water heater and new heating and air unit.
We have a big demand for energy in my house, with a camera crew with bright lights and TV cameras here all the time — plus we run two businesses on site: my Begley’s Best nontoxic cleaning products company and my wife’s Pilates business. Add in my electric car, and even though I have solar power, I need to make sure it’s totally energy efficient.
How do you inspire people who aren’t on the green bandwagon yet?
I think people can get inspired to become part of the solution, not the problem, by watching some of the incredible films and documentaries that are being made about our planet. My new book Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life is a very good how-to guide filled with lots of tips. And I just signed on as host and spokesperson of Earth Cinema Circle; the films are fascinating. They can give you hope and meaningful ways to take action.