L.A. was not always a hotbed of environmental change. Much of this development is due to the actions of its citizen-activists who both call for change—and live the change. And perhaps the best known is actor Ed Begley Jr.
Begley, the tall, blond actor known for his longtime role in TV's St. Elsewhere, not to mention quirky turns in movies such as This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show and A Mighty Wind, is arguably Hollywood's most visible environmentalist. He's usually spotted driving around town on his bicycle. At night he plugs in his electric car. He composts. He lives in a solar home. And he plays a major role in the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
Today, much of what Ed Begley Jr. stands for is accepted and applauded. But when he first started out, his strong beliefs were sometimes misinterpreted and got in the way of his career. In the early 1990s, his agent and manager pulled him aside and told him that his views were costing him work.
These days, it's totally different. "I go on a set now and people are better at recycling than I am,” notes Begley. “They have all sorts of bins set up and they're way ahead of me, they don't need any help from me to do the right thing environmentally."
When asked how to make a difference on a tight budget, Begley recommends people approach the challenge in practical and affordable ways. "I couldn't afford solar way back when. I bought energy-efficient light bulbs. I got a smart thermostat. I put good insulation in my home. I got a home garden so I could grow a lot of cheap food with compost that I made myself. All these things I did are very cost-effective. Taking public transportation, riding my bike to and from work, it was good exercise. I didn't have to pay for a gym because the world was my gym. It's not like I have a vast amount of money now. I'm not a millionaire—I never have been a millionaire—but I don't need a lot of money because of the decisions I made many years ago. All this stuff was good for the environment, but it was also good for my pocketbook."