Ed Begley Jr.
Guru of green, actor and activist Ed Begley Jr. turned the cameras on his passion for eco-friendly living and his wife, Rachelle, with the award-winning HGTV reality show "Living With Ed." Before that, he was known for his film role in "Spinal Tap" and the TV hit "St. Elsewhere." His new book, "Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life," is printed on 100 percent recycled paper. It's the perfect blueprint for those wishing to be environmentally accountable.

Question: You've been passionate about the environment since the 1970s. Was there something or somebody who triggered it?

A: There was somebody. My father was a conservative who liked to conserve. He got me involved in Boy Scouts, and I developed a great love of nature and the outdoors from scouting. He always taught me to turn out the lights, save electricity, save water, save string, save tin foil. He hated to throw anything away. He lived through the Depression.

Question: Have you converted any of your non-green Hollywood friends?

Answer: Yeah, there are a lot of people who have come to me for advice. ... A lot of people ask me about electric cars and solar panels. Jay Leno, for instance, credits me with having an impact on him making his garage very green. That was very kind of him to say that. Perhaps I did have a small role.

Question: The HGTV show "Living With Ed" is entertaining, mostly because of the squabbling between you and your wife, Rachelle.

Answer: I had a drought-tolerant garden. When I put it in in 1990, it was beautiful, gorgeous. But then the gardener left, moved out of town. I said, "I can do it myself." I got busy with movies, and I let it get away from me. ... It had gotten kind of ratty. Before we were married, she started describing my house as "it looks like the Addams Family yard." So I had a new landscaper come in and redo it.

Question: Have the cameras in the house caused an escalation in the tension?

Answer: Not really. They are there just a few days a week. If they were there every day, it would be a problem. When we did the pilot, we did a little 10-minute presentation for the show, and they were there 14 hours. I said, "Honey, this isn't going to work. I can't — if that's what it takes to do 10 minutes, what's it going to take to do 30 minutes of show? I don't want to do this." She was gung-ho to do this, and I was not.

Question: Your daughter Hayden doesn't think anything of it?

Answer: Oh, she loves it. She's a big ham. The only thing she doesn't like is when she's not on camera.

Question: Would you say your home is more than your castle?

Answer: I suppose it's a manifestation of my lifestyle after 38 years of doing this, you know, from the solar panels to the recycled plastic fence to the drought-tolerant garden. Rachelle knew going in, when we were just dating, that this is who I was. She, of course, feigned surprise the minute that the ring went on the finger. "What? Solar? I didn't know you did that."

Question: And you ride the bike to power the toaster.

Answer: Well, I can power the toaster without riding the bike, but if I need to exercise on a smoggy day or a rainy day, that bike goes to the same solar battery where the energy is stored. I can add energy anytime. I have a little wind turbine on the roof. That goes into the solar batteries, too. Once you have that solar system hooked up, it's very easy to add things to it. Anything with circular motion and with a generator to just further enhance the system.

Question: We are a society of mass consumers. We know how that can adversely affect the environment. Is there a way to make it work for us?

Answer: Now you are into the mother lode. I am all for solar panels and wind turbines, but at the end of the day it's just more stuff. I try to keep a minimum of things in my life. I'm not sure how good I'm doing.

Question: Do you see yourself as a leader in the environmental movement?

Answer: No, there are so many leaders that I have looked to over the years. David Brower was my inspiration. (He has passed away.) He taught me so many things. He started Friends of the Earth. He said many years ago, "Capitalism is a great idea; we ought to try it." What he meant was to figure all the different resources as part of the capitalist system. The trees, do they have a value standing? Well, of course they do. They don't just have a value when you cut them down. You don't just balance out your checking account. You also balance out your savings account. The trees are part of our savings account. You want to live off the interest and not liquidate all the capital.


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