Maybe you remember him from the 80's TV show St. Elsewhere, but chances are Ed Begley Jr.'s floppy California charm has infiltrated your consciousness as "that environmentalist actor guy." He's no greeny-come-lately. Begley started driving an electric car in the 1970s and was using solar power long before it was vaguely chic, much less tax deductible.
Now he's espousing the green way through a reality show on HGTV, "Living with Ed." In its second season, it follows his struggles with his less stringently eco wife Rachelle over things like a gigantic red rain barrel. He puts up solar Christmas lights, "audits" his celebrity friends' homes for their green factor, and rides a bike to power his toaster. And now he's spreading the message further with a book out in February 2008, "Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life."
Begley recently chatted with Beliefnet from his Los Angeles home about the importance of silence, not rushing into tranquility, and how we can all be gentler on the earth without roughing up our wallets.
Listen to Ed Begley, Jr.:
What was the first moment you recall wanting to do something for the environment?
It was 1970. It was the first Earth Day and I wanted to get involved. Everything about itseemed right immediately.
Was there some particular moment that you remember on that day?
Well, there were things that led up to it. I was in Cub Scouts and then Boy Scouts—scouting was the good influence. The bad influence was living in smoggy L.A. And finally by 1970, I'd had a bellyful of growing up in the '50s and '60s in smoggy L.A. I bought my first electric car. I started recycling. I started composting, buying all biodegradable soaps and detergents and changed my diet. I became a vegetarian.
How has this show shifted your ability to reach people?
The show came at a good time, with all this interest in environmental matters. I notice now that people write and they really want to do something. Half of the mail that I get at EdBegley.com is from Red State Republicans and that's great. I'm very happy with that.
They say, "Oh, I may not always agree with you politically, mister. I'm a Republican, but I want to get a rain barrel like you got. I want to get a recycled glass counter top or solar panel." So, that's good news.
I saw you speak at a conference recently, and you said it was important to have silence and be still to be a good activist.
|Center Yourself in Worthy Efforts|
Why is that?
|You Can't Plan for Everything|
Well, the first flight from L.A. was late. And he got there just as they were closing the jetway to the connecting flight to the Philippines. When he finally landed from the next flight, he just missed the merchant marine vessel. He couldn't get another one for a week. And then he was stuck in Indonesia and it was monsoon season. He had to take a sand pan to this little dock. He ran from this little boat to get in a rickshaw and he actually said to the driver, "The Temple of Tranquility and step on it!" And that's what we do sometimes.We can kind of lose our mind, with the best of intentions, trying to do something very worthy—try to get to the Temple of Tranquility and step on it.
How do you stay centered?
|Driving Can Be Meditative|
Do you have other spiritual practices?
I try to find some serenity in my life in every way. I'm much better the older I get at letting things go—realizing what's important and what is not. I've gotten better at that.