At this point, it's hard to tell whether Ed Begley, Jr. is more famous for his decades of acting or his decades of environmentalism. Sure, he's logged over 200 appearances on stage, film and television, including his Emmy-winning breakout role on St. Elsewhere and his priceless turn on Arrested Development. But his funniest performance is arguably his self-effacing cameo as a hardcore green activist in the classic 1999 Simpsons episode "Homer to the Max", in which he's shown driving a nonpolluting go-cart powered by his "own sense of self-satisfaction." Off screen, he's embraced this role of ardent environmentalist with an infectious positivity and seemingly tireless commitment to reducing his own impact on an increasingly injured ecosystem. The many green improvements to his largely solar powered, energy efficient home have been documented in the amusing and informative reality show Living With Ed, and now a newly published book offers a wide range of changes readers can implement to make their lifestyles more sustainable. Called Living Like Ed, it's as inspiring as it is handy, and Begley will be at the Strand bookstore at 7pm tonight for a reading and book signing organized by Environmental Defense.
Is your book manufactured in any way to make it more green? Yes, it’s on 100% post-consumer recycled paper.
Did you deliberately choose a non-chain bookstore in New York to do your signing? We’ll be doing some signing at chains but it did appeal to me to do it at The Strand; it’s a bookstore with a great reputation. It’s a mix. We’ll be doing Book Soup in L.A. but also Barnes and Noble elsewhere on the book tour.
How do you reconcile the carbon emissions caused by touring with your environmentally-conscious lifestyle? It’s been a challenge because when I’m traveling cross-country I usually take my wife’s Prius. Around L.A. I take my electric car. I drove the Prius to Florida few months ago but with this schedule on this tour I had to get on the plane, which is very hard for me. But I bought a TerraPass and tried to mitigate. You make choices and ask yourself: “What’s better? Am I going to stay home or promote this book?” I guess I chose right but they’re tough decisions.
Yeah, I guess there’s no way to completely extricate yourself from civilization if you want to participate and make a difference. For years in the ‘90s I did not fly. I would take Greyhound or Amtrak. Both burn fossil fuels but with Amtrak you get really good mileage with diesel fuel, which still pollutes, of course. And with Greyhound I watched the guys fill it up and I calculated that we were getting insanely high mileage; we were getting 400 miles a tank in the '90s when I would take Greyhound a lot. The Prius has very low emissions; it’s simply better than flying and burning kerosene at 30,000 feet, which is what jet fuel is. In this case I came by plane and did what I think is for the greater good. Time will tell if I made the right choice.