Ed Begley Jr. on Living Simply

Ed Begley Jr. talks with us about sustainable living, public transportation, living simply and Arrested Development.

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What do you call a guy who takes public transportation to work, shops at the local farmers' market, grows much of his own produce, generates most of the electricity in his home, oh, and, has been a household name for more than 40 years? Ed Begley Jr. That's what.  

The son of Academy Award-winning Ed Begley Sr. has been living “green” since 1970, and he’s joining dozens of other speakers at the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Wash. June 1 and 2 to share his story. “I find a lot of likeminded people [at the fairs],” he says. His presentation will include solutions to living sustainably on a budget – things as simple as using energy-efficient lightbulbs, weather stripping doors and windows, and plugging electronics into power strips, so they can be turned off at night and when you’re not home.

Sustainable isn’t a word often associated with Hollywood, but Begley says it’s further along than you might think. “A lot [of celebrities] have done it.” From forgoing limousines to purchasing CO2 offsets for plane flights, residents of Tinseltown are becoming, well, less tinsely. He and Bill Nye even have a running competition to out-green each other.

Begley serves on the board of the Environmental Media Association where TV shows, movies, actors, singers, and others in the entertainment industry are awarded based on their efforts to make their sets, stages, etc. as environmentally friendly as possible. The organization’s mission is to “act as a liaison between the environmental community and entertainment community,” Begley says. “And make sure good information gets out to the public. We can use our window to the world to promote good science. Also, we lead by example.” Last year’s winners included Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (feature film), Chasing Ice (documentary), an episode of the television show Dallas, and an episode of children’s television show Handy Manny.

Begley doesn’t simply encourage folks to minimize their environmental impact, but his life manifests everything he’ll mention at the Mother Earth News Fair. He installed solar panels on his 1936 North Hollywood home, he’s been driving an electric car since 1970 (he paid a whopping $950 for it), his home is decked out with energy-saving lightbulbs, double paned windows, thick insulation and weather stripping, just to name a few. Soon he’ll complete construction on a new home, which he hopes will be granted LEED Platinum certification, and will be independent of any supplemental electricity over a year’s time. Tune into his web series, On Begley Street, to track the progress.

So what’s lacking from his ultra-efficient lifestyle? “I wish I lived in an area that had more land so I could have a wind turbine.” He says that he probably wouldn’t mind the noise, but his neighbors might have something to say about it. Aside from generating 80 to 85 percent of his current home’s energy from solar power, some of his neighbors have taken note and installed solar panels on their own homes. “When people ask, I respond and give them information. Some just tolerate [the solar panels], but others like them.”

But what about those of us who can’t afford to install solar panels or build a house from the ground up? Begley offers five things we can do today to make a significant impact: Replace all lightbulbs with energy efficient models; put weather stripping on all doors and windows. “You can test it with a stick of incense,” he says. If you see smoke leaking out of the door or window, it’s not sealed yet; install an energy-saving thermostat; address your “phantom” or “vampire” power. These are the things you don’t use when you’re asleep or not at home. “Plug everything into power strips, and then turn them off.” TVs, lamps, phone chargers, DVD players and video game consoles are examples of electronics that suck energy even after you hit the off switch. There may be some boxes, such as the modem, that should not be turned off, as it is complicated to set them up after they’re turned back on; and finally, “get out of your car as much as you can.” Take a bike, ride public transportation, and walk to where you need to go.

At his 7thMother EarthNews Fair, you may hear about his raised bed garden, how he takes the subway to movie sets, or how he shops at the Studio City farmers’ market, but don’t expect to learn how to keep chickens from him: Mr. Begley is a vegan.

And as far as Arrested Development is concerned (you didn’t think we’d let that slip by, did you?), “the hardest part is not laughing,” he says. We believe it, Ed. We believe it.

Ed Begley Jr. will speak on Sunday, June 2 at 1:30 p.m. on the Mother Earth News stage in Puyallup, Washington. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.MotherEarthNewsFair.com.