Ed Begley, Jr. will discuss how to ‘live simply so others may simply live’
His friends thought Ed Begley Jr. was “whacko” when he became passionate about the environment at the age of 20 and living in the San Fernando Valley.
“I began riding my bike, recycling, composting, using public transportation, became a vegetarian and using environmentally safe cleaners,” said Mr. Begley during a phone interview from his home in Studio City.
Now 73, the well-known TV and movie actor has a passion that remains unabated.
“I continue to pick the low-hanging fruit and do things that are good for the environment and my pocketbook.”
Mr. Begley, who is being honored by the local ECO Team for going green before anyone even knew the term, will be in conversation with Barbara Greenleaf, ECO Team founder and author, at 9:45 a.m. Sunday at Congregation B’nai B’rith in Santa Barbara.
Entitled “Walking the Walk,” the conversation will trace Mr. Begley’s personal journey as a sustainable-living activist. His committed lifestyle was the subject of the reality series, “Living With Ed,” and he continues to promote earth-friendly ideas and products through his writings.
His mantra is: “Live simply so others may simply live.”
Mr. Begley will also discuss his 50-year Hollywood career from his breakout TV role as Dr. Victor Ehrlich in NBC’s “St. Elsewhere” to his recent film, “Book Club, ” with Diane Keaton and Candice Bergen.
“I am particularly flattered to be honored by the ECO Team, which encourages individuals to make small changes that help slow climate change and heal the planet with its emphasis on the carrot instead of the stick. Collectively, these little things add up to a lot,” said Mr. Begley, who was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and attended Stella Niagara Education Park, a private Catholic school in Lewiston, N.Y.
When he was 13, the family moved back to California, where he graduated from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks and from Los Angeles Valley College in North Hollywood.
Mr. Begley told the News-Press he was motivated to become environmentally conscious by two events — the first Earth Day in 1970, which was founded because of the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, the same year the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire.
“It’s a bad sign when a river catches fire, and also, the smog in the San Fernando Valley was real, and I wanted to do something about it,” he said.
Although Mr. Begley had hoped to buy a fancy electric car, he couldn’t afford one because he was still a college student, so he settled for a Taylor-Dunn electrical vehicle that cost $950.
“It was basically a golf cart with a windshield wiper and horn that was legal to drive on streets but not the freeway. I quickly learned how much cheaper it was to go the extra miles in an electric car versus the same distance in a gasoline car, not to mention the lack of cost for maintenance — no lube jobs, tune-ups, oil changes, replacing fan belts — virtually no maintenance.”
After many years as a successful movie and TV actor, Mr. Begley realized his dream in 1985 when he got solar panels and purchased a wind turbine in the desert near Palm Springs, which “feeds clean power into the electric grid.”
The father of three grown children and grandfather of three, Mr. Begley lives with his wife, Rachelle Carson in a home that is 1,585 square feet in size, using solar power, wind power and an electricity-generating bicycle used to toast bread, according to Wikipedia.
Their drought-tolerant garden is composed of native California plants.
Mr. Begley and friend Bill Nye compete to see who can have the lowest carbon footprint.
Although he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2016, Mr. Begley continues to act.
“I work all the time. Currently, I have roles in ‘Young Sheldon,’ ‘Better Call Saul’ and ‘Amsterdam,’ ” he said.
There are no plans to retire, and as for highlights during his acting career, he quickly named two — “St. Elsewhere,” the medical drama that was on TV for six seasons from 1982 to 1988, and “She-Devil,” a 1989 film starring Meryl Streep.
“St. Elsewhere had great writing and a great cast, and in ‘She-Devil’ I got to work with Meryl, which was such an honor. I played Roseanne Barr’s husband who had an affair with Meryl,” said Mr. Begley, who has fond memories of working with actor William Daniels, who played Dr. Craig, the irascible chief of surgery in “St. Elsewhere.”
“He is an actor I just thought the world of. He played these Type A personalities quite effectively, but in real life he is the sweetest guy in the world. I rode on the coattails of Bill Daniels . . . the kind of Mutt and Jeff routine of Dr. Craig looking up and berating the 6-foot–4-inch doctor Victor Ehrlich. So I owe all my success on the show to Bill Daniels,” said Mr. Begley on the Wikipedia site.
For environmental novices who want to start contributing to the well-being of our planet, the actor readily offered five tips:
— Install an energy-saving thermostat in your home or apartment.
— Replace all incandescent light bulbs with LED lights.
— Ride a bike as weather or your health permits.
— Take public transportation if it’s available near you.
— Use vinegar and water and baking soda instead of harsh cleaners.