Having the opportunity to meet Ed Begley, Jr., author of Living Like Ed, a Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life, and co-host with Rachelle his wife of the popular television series “Living with Ed” was indeed a pleasure.
Many of us are familiar with and fans of Ed Begley through his work in films and on television over the past four decades. However only recently have we become acquainted with his dedication to living and promoting the imperatives to preserving our environment through an eco-conscious lifestyle.
The following is a synopsis of our discussion and excerpts from the introduction to his excellent Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life which reinforces the imperative for each of us to become proactive in committing to save and reclaim our environment today.
TH: Ed, welcome, its a pleasure to have you share your commitment for an eco-friendly environment with us.
EB: Thank you.
TH: In the introduction to your book you state, “A big environmental bandwagon has been rolling through town lately, and a lot of folks inside and outside of Hollywood have hopped on. And I couldn’t be happier! Though sadly it’s taken some dire environmental predictions to focus everyone’s attention on the harm we are doing to the planet. I believe the message is finally being heard and that more people every day are looking around to see what they can do to live in a more eco-friendly, responsible way. Fortunately, there’s a lot that every single one of us can do. In a nutshell, I believe we need to live simply so that others can simply live. And I’m here to show you how.” When did you first become involved with environmental issues?
EB: I became involved with the environment in 1970, the year the first Earth Day was held. I started recycling, composting, and buying biodegradable soaps and detergents, and I bought my first electric car.
TH: Ed, please share with the reader what modifications you made to your lifestyle to incorporate all of the changes you have made since buying that electric car?
EB: I didn’t have a lot of money when I bought that electric car. I was a struggling actor on a limited budget. I bought that cheap electric car for $900. I just did it to help the environment. What I didn’t count on was that I was saving money. It was cheaper even in 1970 to buy the kilowatt-hours that would give me 50 miles of distance than the gasoline that would give me 50 miles worth of distance. More importantly the greater savings was the service. On a regular car I had a tune up, oil change, fan belt, radiator flush, and a smog check. With the electric car I didn’t have any maintenance. It was just very simple to maintain. What I learned was while I was doing all of this for the environment I was also saving money. So I stayed with it. I did more stuff and saved more money. And pretty soon I could afford solar panels and then a wind turbine. So I built slowly.
In 1990 I bought a little house that had been built in 1936, long before the phrase energy efficiency was common parlance. I thought, “I’ve been a quote/ unquote environmentalist for 20 years now. It’s time for me to go a little further.” I had a book, 50 Simple Ways to Save the Earth. I thought, “Let me try all 50,” figuring maybe half of them would work.
Well, guess what? They all worked. Every last one. Some of the results were subtle, but most were not. I saved energy, and I saved dollars.
It’s been nearly 40 years since I took those first small steps. And now I’m ready to share what I’ve learned with you. I’ll start with some of the easy things you can do in your home. Some of these changes are simple. They just require you to establish a new habit. Others involve making a purchase, such as drapes or even a new dishwasher. You may want to make a few of the changes or, like I did, try to implement them all. Either way, I promise you the results will be concrete and they will be worth the effort, both to the environment and to your bottom line. And if that’s the case, where is the downside, right?
Of course I don’t expect you to make all these changes right off the bat. It’s really a process. I’ve gone pretty far with this stuff, but you might want to start out small. Either way, I’ll show you a lot of things you can do, from changing the kind of light bulbs you buy or shopping for organic produce at your local farmers’ market to purchasing a new appliance or vehicle. The simple fact is you don’t climb Mount Everest in a single day. First you climb up to base camp. Then you stop there and you get acclimated for a while. After you’ve adjusted to the altitude, then you take the next step and climb a little higher. And then you stop again and get acclimated. And you only climb as high as you are able at each stage.
Becoming environmentally aware— and adjusting your lifestyle to reflect your beliefs and your values—is the same kind of process. You take a small step and you prove to yourself that you can do it. You compare your electric bills and you see that the change you made was good for your wallet. You see how much money you saved and you see how little it affected the quality of your life. In fact, I’ll bet you barely even notice the difference. When you feel more confident and more comfortable—better acclimated, if you will—you make one or two more changes, and so on and so on.
Since I first started down this path, I’ve made much change in my life. Actually, I’ve used myself as a guinea pig a lot of the time. I’ve tried things like producing solar electricity for my home, driving an electric car, and cooking in a solar oven. I’ve found ways to reduce the amount of trash I produce, ways to reduce the amount of electricity and water that I use, and ways to grow my own food.
My book is designed to help you learn from my experience. After years of doing this, I know what works. I know what saves energy, what saves water—and what saves money! So maybe you can use my life as an example of one way to take this journey.
My goal is to help individuals understand the choices they can make to simplify their lives to help the environment, to save energy, and to save money. In my book I’ll offer suggestions for all six of the areas in our lives where we can be more efficient:
- garden and kitchen
- clothing and hair and skin care
Anyone who takes a step toward helping the environment makes me happy. I see people—even big businesses—making progress all the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s Wal-Mart or McDonald’s or one of my friends or neighbors. In the 10K or life, when a runner who seems to have been lagging behind sprints ahead, he deserves a pat on the back and assistance in the race.
TH: What are the five actions a person can take to begin living green when they go home and walk into their average American home tonight? Actions that initiate the eco-friendly lifestyle you present.
EB: The following are all inexpensive and easy things, which don’t require much money at all.
- Energy efficient light bulbs—right away.
- Ride a bike whenever possible.
- Take public transportation if it is available.
- Do some home gardening if you have some dirt in your front or back yard.
- Home composting. If you don’t have your own dirt become part of a community garden.
Í Recycle everything you can. Don’t throw anything away until you’re positive it can’t be recycled.
TH: How about when you are trying to heat and power your home? Not necessarily for someone who has solar, wind or geothermal.
EB: First I would recommend you have adequate ventilation in your home. Double pane windows if possible, nontoxic wall insulation can be helpful. However you can also save a good deal of energy and money with an energy savings thermostat. Keeping your temperature in the summer at 78 and winter at 68 can be both comfortable and part of your ecofriendly lifestyle.
TH: If you are building your own home, can you plan these features as an imperative to achieving your eco-friendly goals?
EB: Absolutely. Then all those things become very inexpensive. If you design the right kind of insulation, check walls, building materials, and windows it is obviously much less expensive than retrofitting your existing home. Also if you put in solar when you build your home, that price is amortized over a 30-year loan. Not only do you save o sn your electric bills from day one, in some instances there are government tax incentives for efficient power alternatives.TH: Thank you, Ed. We salute you for your personal commitment and example. Living Like Ed is an excellent resource guide to saving our environment. And your popular HGTV reality green show, “Living With Ed,” co-hosted with Rachelle is entertaining and educational. We look forward to the continuing success of your commitment to an eco-friendly society.