Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Transcript: Actor-Activist Ed Begley Jr. Lives a Sustainable Life

JIMMY SMITS: Not since perhaps Ancient Rome has one city had so much influence on the culture and collective consciousness of the world.  As the largest manufacturer of motion pictures and television, Los Angeles spreads its trendsetting vision throughout the planet. The familiar faces that appear in our living rooms and theaters are often better known to us than the neighbors next door. For such is the power of Hollywood that we would prefer the company of fictional characters than real people. Thus it is no surprise that the personal, political, and ethical views of actors extend into important issues outside their original field of expertise.

ED BEGLEY JR.: Just to be clear about my transportation hierarchy, my number one favorite way to get around is the way my friend Melanie Winter and I do in our neighborhood which is to walk.

JIMMY SMITS: Perhaps the best-known prophet in Los Angeles of the green environmentally sustainable life style is actor Ed Begley Jr.

ED BEGLEY JR.: Yeah I moved back to try to fix L.A. Rather arrogant of me I thought you know, we got involved. I sought out the notion of sustainability. Sometimes that word bothers me. I'm not sure I wanna have a sustainable marriage. I want something that's more exciting than that.

JIMMY SMITS: Son of the academy award winning character actor Ed Begley, Ed inherited more than acting skills.

ED BEGLEY JR.: That's something I got from my father. He was a conservative Republican and though I am not, he was a great man. He was a conservative who liked to conserve. The biggest gift he gave me in that general realm was that he said Eddie don't ever tell people what you're gonna do, tell them what you've done. You wanna get yourself an electric car, well go find one and get one. You wanna put solar panels on your roof, go get some solar panels, don't put em off don't oh I'm gonna do that one day, go do it. I bought my first electric car in 1970. I started recycling in 1970, I started buying all biodegradable soaps and detergents and you know I got involved. I sought out the notion of sustainability back then and it's worked pretty good the past 35 years.

JIMMY SMITS: In the past Ed's views branded him as an eccentric and he was sometimes ridiculed.

ED BEGLEY JR.: I gave people the creeps you know cause they just weren't sure about all this. They said it's costing you. People think you're a wing nut and people think you're a moonbeam and you know electric cars, people don't wanna hear about that. That's all stopped now. I go in a set now and people are better at recycling than I am sometimes. They have all sorts of bins set up and they're way ahead of me. They don't need any help from me.

JIMMY SMITS: Ed practices what he preaches.  

ED BEGLEY JR.: Renewable energy is powering these lights right here. It's running this house. It's charging my electric car. I know it's possible. That's the great thing about solar, you can't make gasoline on the roof of your house, but you can make electrons.

JIMMY SMITS: Ed is proud to show off his modest home, so that others might learn from his example.

ED BEGLEY JR.: My fence out there is all recycled plastic. Well I never have to paint a fence again the rest of my life and no termites will ever eat it. All this stuff was good for the environment, but it was also good for my pocket book. It had either a six-month payback or the longest payback would be like eight years for a lot of these things I'm talking about. So, that's a pretty good deal when you're in it for the long run which I am, aren't you?

ED BEGLEY JR.: We should have an artichoke for dinner so let's take an artichoke here.

JIMMY SMITS: A vegetarian, Ed has turned his backyard into a water efficient source of food.

ED BEGLEY JR.: What I try to do is to fill every square foot with as much edible foliage as I could and then the rest is all drought tolerant so it doesn't really need any maintenance or water to speak of. Let's put all this in the compost.

JIMMY SMITS: Nothing goes to waste in the Begley residence. All life is revered.

ED BEGLEY JR.: This is when you know you're doing a good job Hayden. Look at this, what do we got here?

HAYDEN: Wormies.

ED BEGLEY JR.: Little wormies. That dirt is, yeah, don't hurt him, they're doing a good job for us.

ED BEGLY JR.: All these things I did are very cost effective. Taking public transportation, riding my bike to and from work, to and from errands, putting a backpack on and getting that half dozen bananas or a loaf of bread. You know, it was good exercise. I realized then, hey I didn't have to pay for a gym, the world was my gym. All this stuff that I did was so good for the environment, but was also so good for my pocket book. It's not like a 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.

ED BEGLEY JR.: It's an artichoke. It may have choked Arti, but it ain't gonna choke Eddie.

HAYDEN: Ha, ha, ha. That's so funny dad!

return to slide show

Edens Lost & Found is produced by
Media & Policy Center Foundation
in association with Oregon Public Broadcasting
© 2007. All Rights Reserved. Published January 2, 2007
PBS Privacy Policy | Terms of Use