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Ed Begley Jr. is an actor and an environmentalist.

Ed Begley Jr. has been a known name in Hollywood since the 1960s, with recent credits in Young Sheldon, Better Call Saul, and the movie Amsterdam. He’s had a stellar career onscreen, but his commitment to living an environmentally friendly life is just as impressive. Ed’s love of biking, public transit, and electric cars comes up every award season, and his family home is LEED-certified.

Ed sat down with host Jay Ruderman for a conversation spanning Ed’s career, overcoming his alcoholism, and what’s next in his environmental activism.

To learn more about Ed, click here.

TRANSCRIPTION:

Ed Begley Jr:

When everybody thought I was out of my mind, nobody thought, “Wow. Let me join Ed in this quest to save the environment.”

Jay Ruderman:

Hi, I am Jay Ruderman and welcome to All About Change, a podcast showcasing individuals who leverage the hardships that have been thrown at them to better other people’s lives.

Montage:

I say put mental health first because if you don’t-

This generation of America has already had enough.

I stand before you, not as an expert, but as a concerned citizen.

Louder. Yes we can. Louder. Yes we can.

Jay Ruderman:

Ed Begley Jr. has been around Hollywood for years. He got his start on TV shows in the 1960s and has had more recent acclaim from features in Young Sheldon, Better Call Saul and the movie Amsterdam. Though he’s played a wide range of roles, there’s one thing he’s been committed to throughout his career, his environmentalism. That hasn’t always been in his favor.

Ed Begley Jr:

I did pay a price for that. A lot of people thought I was pretty wacky. They thought I was out of my mind talking about things like climate change and ozone depletion. That was heresy back in the late ’70s and early ’80s and what have you, the Reagan era.

Jay Ruderman:

That environmentalism got its start in an unlikely place, Ed’s alcoholism.

Ed Begley Jr:

I always cared about the environment, but I didn’t see what I was doing to my own ecosystem.

Jay Ruderman:

Getting sober allowed Ed to get his career back on track and begin to truly live out his values. He credits his father with a big part of that shift.

Ed Begley Jr:

He said, “Eddie, I know you’re against the smog. I don’t like smog either, but what are you doing to make a difference? Do something positive. Don’t just curse the darkness. Light a candle and do something.”

Jay Ruderman:

Ed Begley Jr., thank you so much for being my guest on All About Change today.

Ed Begley Jr:

My pleasure, Jay. It’s great to talk to you.

Jay Ruderman:

So I figured we’d start at the very beginning. I know that your father was a huge role model in your life in a number of formative ways. Can you talk a little bit about him?

Ed Begley Jr:

Many people ask me what was it like having an Academy Award-winning father, and I always think, “Compared to what?” I just thought that was normal to be hanging out with these other actors and things like that, and it was an impediment in a way. It was ultimately a great, great gift and helped me get into the business, but I saw it as an impediment because my dad made it look so easy. I thought, “I can do that. Wake me when I’m famous. Get me a series dad. I want to be on Wagon Train. I want to be on Perry Mason. I want to be on Gunsmoke. Give me a part for God’s sake. You can pick up the phone and just get me a job, right?”

I had no idea how the business worked. I didn’t know that you had to train. I didn’t really understand, though he told me many times. I didn’t understand that my father trained as a voice actor in radio and then trained in other ways or on stage at a movies and TV shows, and he worked hard to get there. I didn’t see that part of it. I, of course, never got any work. I went on interviews and didn’t know what I was doing. So finally, when I started to train, then I began to work.

Jay Ruderman:

So did your dad encourage you take acting classes and what role did he play in your decision to become an actor?

Ed Begley Jr:

He did encourage me, but I tuned that out. I thought, “He just wants to make it harder for me. He didn’t have to work. Why should I work?” And though he made it clear what was involved, I thought I was special and different, and so I didn’t need to do that. So finally, just to shut him up or something to prove he was wrong, he signed me up for some classes and right away, most importantly, I loved the classes. Doing some form of acting, albeit for free in a class, was very exciting for me. And then, by no small coincidence, I quickly started to work. I got my first job in 1967 in a show called My Three Sons and I had just one episode, but my day job was a paper route at that point. I left my makeup on and did my paper route hoping that somebody would recognize me, Jay. That’s how tragic my thinking was. I wanted all the trappings of it and didn’t have much belly for putting in the work for quite a while.

Jay Ruderman:

So how did that develop? How did you develop the work ethic that you needed to become an actor?

Ed Begley Jr:

The way I developed most of my ethical standards, through pain and not having any success by doing it wrong. I got that first job on My three Sons, I’m sitting by the phone like this, “Okay, here we go. Sardom’s coming my way.” Cobwebs, crickets, the phone didn’t ring. And so I fought hard to do different parts in some college theater in LA Valley College and I got a bit of training doing that in spite of myself, but I didn’t work much as an actor at all.

And so I started doing more camera work. I was trained as a camera technician. For some reason, I knew you had to put work in to do that. You had to learn all the equipment, the Mitchell BNC camera, the Eclair NPR, the Arriflex 2C, the Arriflex S, all these different cameras. I could still work on them to this day because I put a lot of time, that 10,000 hours thing they talk about. I surely put in that amount of time in a few years on learning all about cameras and film and lights and sound and all of it, and I loved it. I worked in that way.

Then somehow, tap, tap on the shoulder. “What?” “Oh, there’s an episode of something called Room 222 and there’s a part you might be good for.” And I did that. And that was my acting class on camera. My acting class on stage was in these workshops that I did that my dad recommended. Then at Valley College, my training was on stage at the college in different plays, but on film, it was on the show Room 222 and I finally got relaxed in front of the camera, which presented a new problem.

Jay Ruderman:

And do you think that your father’s star power helped you get jobs in the beginning?

Ed Begley Jr:

Unquestionably. No question but that it helped me. I didn’t see it that way at all for years. I thought, “I’m not him. I’m Ed Begley Jr. There’s no mistaking it.” I thought there was something negative about it. I don’t know why I really thought that, but I did. It’s just, I think, a young man wanted to be separate from his father, a very common theme. But I quickly realized somewhere in my late 20s or 30s, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. I’m the son of Ed Begley. I go into a job interview the same way you get any kind of a job. You go into a job interview called a casting session. You go in there, number one, they’re going to remember your name. So when I finally opened my mind to it, my heart to it, it was clear that it was a big plus to be Ed Begley’s son in every way you could imagine.

Soundbite:

And the winner is Ed Begley in Sweet Bird of Youth.

Jay Ruderman:

Well, you’ve had quite a career yourself spanning many, many decades. But I wanted to talk a little bit about something that you’ve talked about very openly about your struggle with alcoholism, especially in the ’70s. Do you think that your journey through alcoholism influenced your environmental activism?

Ed Begley Jr:

It influenced everything and certainly the toxic chemicals that I was trying to get us to stop using starting in 1970, the first Earth Day, I started to fight against toxicity. And the irony doesn’t escape me that the toxicity was not at some distant hazardous waste site, it was right in my body. I was drinking toxic amount of liquor and pills and everything else you can imagine that I did back in those years. And I didn’t see the connection, but it was a challenge. I always cared about the environment, but I didn’t see what I was doing to my own ecosystem. And finally, I woke up to that and got better finally at the end of the ’70s, in 1979.

Jay Ruderman:

And how did that happen? I know you tell a famous story about John Belushi pulling you out of a bar in Mexico.

Ed Begley Jr:

Totally. He and Judy, his wife Judy, dragged me out of the El Presidente bar there in the lobby of the hotel. We were doing Goin’ South, and I was too far gone for John. John was like, “Dude, dude. I like a drink or two myself, but you’ve gone crazy, man. You’re going to kill yourself.” He dragged me out of the hotel and he and Judy took me around the town. I’d been holed up in the bar. I hadn’t seen any of Durango. We’re down in beautiful Mexico and I hadn’t seen any of the sites. It was gorgeous. So John was a great influence on me in so many ways. He was a great comic. I know he had some difficult times there near the end, but I remember him as a great, great actor, a great comic, a great friend who made a lot of people laugh and I was sure one of them.

Jay Ruderman:

Right. So how did you finally get through the alcoholism? How’d you finally become sober?

Ed Begley Jr:

You got to, as they say, bottom out. You don’t want to deprive somebody of the bottom. You want them to… There are many people in my life who catch me before I fell and hit my head in different ways, metaphorically, I’m speaking, of course, they would save me in different ways and bail me out and do this and do that. That was all fine and I’m very grateful for them. But the people who were fed up with me certainly get a lot of points for me getting sober, perhaps to my majority share. This one guy in particular, his name was Billy Boyle. I first started going to meetings, twelve-step group meetings back in 1976, and I came in and out, in and out. Each time it was something new, injured some part of the body, injured or some sort of damage. I’d be coming in crutches, come in with an arm in a sling each time.

And finally the fourth time, this guy, Billy Boyle saw me coming. He said, “Hey, Slim, how are you doing? What is this? Fifth time you come through these doors?” I said, “Yeah, Billy, I’m back. I thought you’d be happy.” He said, “Yeah, that’s great. You know you’re never going to get sober, right?” I went, “What did you just say?” He said, “You’re never going to get sober.” I said, “What a terrible thing to say, Billy. You’re supposed to help me.” He said, “No, you’re definitely not going to get sober. You know why? Aren’t you working now?” I said, “Yeah, I got a job in Battlestar Galactica. Got a nice apartment out here.” He said, “Yeah, a nice place in Hancock Park. You’re still married to Gretchen?” “Her name’s Ingrid, but yeah, we’re married. Got a kid. I got two kids, Billy.” He said, “Oh, you’re screwed.” “What are you talking about? That all sounds like good stuff to me.”

He said, “No, you haven’t lost anything. You still have a wife and a kid and a place to sleep and a job. Once you lose everything and you will, then you’ll get sober. But apparently you’re one of those guys who won’t.” And that really stuck with me. He said, “Here’s a new deal, mister.” And he’s about a foot shorter than me. He weighed about maybe 110 pounds. He said, “You’re going to call me before you drink, not after next time. You’re not going to come into this room and say you drank again. You’re going to call me beforehand. You understand? I’ve got to come over there to that nice little apartment in Hancock Park and I’m going to kick your ass. You’re going to call me before, right mister?” “Sure, Billy, okay. Don’t kick my ass, Billy. Yeah, I’ll call you before.”

So time goes by and something very negative can trigger an alcoholic to drink again. But sometimes it’s something positive. And there I was, about to embark on this wonderful project. I was in a movie with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin, about to do The In-Laws, but I’m there at the LAX Airport bar. It’s 8:00 in the morning, but they’ve opened up the bar. They’re starting to get set up, and I go and I order Bloody Mary because I can’t take the pressure of this very good thing that’s happening. I need to relax, so I order Bloody Mary. I’m just about to drink it. Oh yeah, Billy Boyle. Promised I’d call him before. Okay, so it’s 1978, go to payphone just about 20 feet away from the bar. “Hello, Billy?” “Yeah. Who the hell’s calling me this hour?” “It’s Ed Begley.” “Hey, Ed.” “You told me to call you before I drank, so I’m about to drink. So here I am. This is me calling you.”

“Oh, okay. Sounds like you’re at the airport.” “I am.” “Where you headed?” “I’m going to Cuernavaca.” He said, “Oh, I heard it’s nice there this time of year.” Again, he’s just like, nothing’s up, like I’m calling him about a travel plan. “Okay. And Billy, by the way,” I look at my boarding pass, “Yeah, I’m in first class because the Screen Actors Guild rules, they had to put me in first. So I’ll have all the drinks they can serve me on the plane too. I’m going to get good and sloshed.” “No, you give me a call when you get there, buddy.” I said, “Billy, I’m going to drink.” He said, “You’re not going to drink.” “I am going to drink.” “You’re not going to drink.” I said, “Billy, why am I not going to drink?” And he said, “Because you called me.”

And it hit me like a ton of bricks. He was right. He said, “If you didn’t want to drink, you wouldn’t have called me. If you didn’t want to drink, you wouldn’t have come into that first meeting I saw you back in 1976. You don’t want to drink is what you haven’t figured out yet, jerk. So once you land, like I said, give me a call. Have a nice time in Coronavacca.” He hung up on me. I did not have that drink in the bar. I did not have that drink in the plane. And Billy is the guy that did that.

Jay Ruderman:

And that was it.

Ed Begley Jr:

Yeah.

Jay Ruderman:

And that was it. So I want to talk about your environmentalism. You’ve been involved for decades and decades. Tell me how it impacted your career early on. I can’t imagine that it was always popular for you to be so out front as an environmentalist to ride your bike to a premiere.

Ed Begley Jr:

It was definitely crazy when I started in 1970, Jay. I had a little Taylor-Dunn electric car. When I say car, I’m being quite grand. We’re talking about a golf cart with a windshield wiper and a horn. It had a top speed of about 22 miles per hour, maybe 25 if it was flat ground, a range of maybe 20 miles. And I drove that around LA with little leather World War I pilot’s helmet. I had this leather helmet on and I just drove around and everybody thought I was out of my mind. Nobody thought, “Wow, let me join Ed in this quest to save the environment.” There was some people, some hippie friends, what have you, that cared about it as much as I. A good many people, I shouldn’t categorize. There’s many people who cared about the environment in 1970, many scholars and people and PhDs and lots of people did.

But I did it because I knew there was a problem because I’d grown up in LA in that horrible smog. So I knew there’s a problem and I knew we had to fix it. So I set about fixing it, and here’s the good news, Jay. Even though we have four times the cars in 1970, millions more people, we have a fraction of the smog because everything we hoped would work, did work. But as you suggested a moment ago, I did pay a price for that. A lot of people thought I was pretty wacky. They thought I was out of my mind talking about things like climate change or ozone depletion. That was heresy back in the late ’70s and early ’80s and what have you, the Reagan era. People just abandoned it for a while.

Soundbite: Interviewer:

You bike everywhere?

Ed Begley Jr:

I ride my bike. I take my electric car around town and I have nine kilowatts of solar on the roof of the house. So that’s enough to run the house.

Soundbite: Interviewer:

Did you bike here?

Ed Begley Jr:

I did not. I walked over here.

Jay Ruderman:

And there’s a lot of actors, celebrities, people who are famous who take on causes, but they don’t live the causes the way that you’ve lived them. What caused you early on to internalize it and in your own life become a very active environmentalist?

Ed Begley Jr:

I saw that there’s a link between my actions and the very smog that I’m complaining about, and I credit my dad with that. He was a conservative that liked to conserve, even though I’m in the other side of the aisle, I love my dad and I really respected his opinions and I’d be complaining again about the smog. He said, “Eddie, I know you’re against the smog. I don’t like smog either. But what are you doing to make a difference? Get on your bike and ride your bike if you don’t want to make smog. Take the bus if you don’t want to make smog. Go get a friend that’s handy and make an electric car or do something like that. Do something positive. Don’t just curse the darkness, light a candle and do something.”

So in 1970, my dad died within a few days of the first Earth Day, and I loved him so much, I did whatever I could afford and I couldn’t afford much. I was a broken, struggling actor. My dad had supported me and he was gone. So I did everything I could to honor him, if you will. I started recycling. I started composting. I became a vegetarian, rode my bike if weather and fitness permitted and it did in Southern California a lot, took public transportation, but I even bought that 1970 electric car for $950 and it got me around LA. So everything I did, I did to honor him as much as anything.

Jay Ruderman:

Right. Well that’s beautiful, your commitment that you had to him. But what do you think about your environmentalism made people nervous at the time?

Ed Begley Jr:

First of all, back in the ’70s and early ’80s, I think people thought it was just wacky. They didn’t quite get it, but also a lot of people felt threatened. They thought I was going to get in their face going, “You shouldn’t drive that SUV. What are you doing getting in a limo to go these awards? You’re a bad person.” I never have ever once done that. I encourage people to join me, but you don’t accomplish a lot by making people feel guilty and bad, I don’t think. It’s more like, “This is what I’m doing. You want to join me? Here’s what I’ve figured out, see if it works for you.”

And so I had a lot of success with that, but I did give people the creeps, I know, because back in that time period, my agent and manager both said, “It’s costing you work. People are afraid you’re going to make trouble on the set because they don’t have a recycling bin,” which I’d asked that they get one, that if they don’t get one, I’m not going to storm off the set. People were afraid of that kind of accusation or that kind of behavior.

Jay Ruderman:

So in light of the fact that your agent was telling you this might be costing you work, what made you stick to your guns?

Ed Begley Jr:

Well, it was again, because of all the environmental things I had done. Not only were they good for the environment, they’re good for another green thing, that thing in my pocket, my right hand pocket with a little money clip around it called cash. It was much cheaper to live the way I was living. No electric bill to speak of because of the solar, no hot water bill to speak of because of the solar hot water. I grew a lot of my food. I made my own compost. I had a bunch of fruit trees on the property, small little property, a small house. This was not a homestead somewhere in the country. This is right in the city of LA in Studio City, a little lot, 8,000 square foot lot with a 1,700 square foot house on it.

So it was a modest house, but I did everything I could. I captured my rain water coming off the roof. Everything that I did was good for the environment, but also good for my pocketbook. So if they’d cool my heels for a while, I could make it through to the next job or the next spokesperson event I could get, whatever I could get.

Jay Ruderman:

So Ed, how do you think public perception has evolved regarding environmentalism over the years?

Ed Begley Jr:

People have started to see that A, it should not be and it must not be a partisan issue. It’s something we need together. People on both sides of the aisle want to breathe clean air and they want their kids and grandkids to breathe clean air. I talk about my personal action making a change, that’s one of three things that made the change. The other important thing is good legislation and corporate responsibility. Good legislation would include the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. Both of them signed by an environmental radical by the name of Richard Nixon. Bipartisan thing. He knew that we needed to have clean air. He vetoed the clean water bill at first, but he, the second time, signed it.

So that’s the kind of thing we need today, something we have to do together. So it’s good legislation and corporate responsibility. Finally, people started to build cleaner cars with catalytic converters. Then truly different cars that ran on electricity and what have you, hybrid cars and finally fully electric cars. So those are the three pillars that support any good change. Personal action, which I was doing for years, corporate responsibility and good legislation. That’s how we clean up the air in LA, not by me riding my bike. We clean up because of that cudgel that we use, that weapon that we use, that tool that we use called the Clean Air Act, again, signed by Richard Nixon.

Jay Ruderman:

So you, no matter your financial situation at the time, were committed to being an environmentalist. Do you think that class plays a role in the environmental movement today?

Ed Begley Jr:

Yes. I think it was very much a problem back in the day. There was an ivory tower mentality. People didn’t know they were doing it. They were being very paternalistic with people in different parts of different neighborhoods in LA and different parts of the country and different parts of the world coming in and trying to be the white knight to fix things for people who are having challenges in Asia and Africa. And so finally after some bad missteps over the years, people figured out you have to work with people and give them help that they want if they want it, and give them a menu of choices to what might work for them and their culture and what have you and their history and not dictate anything. Go in there and put the shoulder to the wheel after they’ve decided which wheel they want to move in which direction.

So for a while we had it wrong. We’re going to go and show people how to do things right. We stopped doing that back in the ’90s, thank God, and started to do things right. Here we are standing, if you want a bucket brigade, we’ll start passing you buckets. You tell me where you want to get the water and where you want it to go to. And all the environmental groups I work with now, that’s what we’ve done for years. We don’t get in there and meddle in things that people don’t necessarily want that kind of help.

Jay Ruderman:

Sure, sure. Can you talk about the balance between advocating for systematic change and somewhat altering their own living habits to live a more environmentally conscious life?

Ed Begley Jr:

It comes back to those three columns that have to be balanced. If you’ve got one of the three columns that’s half the size of the others, it’s not going to be a proper arch and structure. It’s going to be lopsided and you go, “Who did that?” It’s got to be those three things of equal support and equal weight. Corporate responsibility, people making the car. Now that there’s a demand of people like me getting that first car EV1 that GM had, they go, “Okay.” Other car companies eventually went into that business and started making electric cars. Now every brand has three models of pure electric vehicles. People wanted those light bulbs. First, it was compact fluorescent bulbs that we used, they were more efficient. And finally, it got to be LEDs that are really efficient, last a lot longer, don’t have mercury in them.

So we found our way with companies trying to do the right thing in many cases, eventually getting the point where they actually did it and that good legislation and that personal action. For years, people thought, “It’s all personal action. We can change it all the way Gandhi did. We’ll stop eating sugar and we’ll stop doing this and that. We’ll overthrow the British Empire.” Didn’t quite work like that. There were many things at play, and it’s the same with the environmental movement. Has to be corporate responsibility, good legislation and personal action altogether because otherwise you lose one of the three, nobody did any personal action, you go, “Why should I do that? You talk about electric cars, nobody’s driving them. I never met anybody that drove one. Why should we build electric cars?”

You had people that are making, like my first electric car in recent memory, and the more recent part of my life was a ’73 Subaru converted to electric that I drove around LA. And there were many other people that had them, many being a few 100 back then in the state of California if that. But that built to the GM EV1 because then they figured there’d be a few 1,000 people who would want that car. And they were correct. They did. And that car, they finally crushed them all. There’s a line in Shakespeare, “To condemn with faint praise,” I think that’s basically what they did. They talked about their new electric car, but nobody knew where to buy it. Nobody knew it was at a Saturn dealer.

Moreover, when you go to try to get an EV1 electric car in the years that they offered them, the guy at the dealership would say, “You don’t want one of those cars. I heard they don’t go so far. Come over here and look at this car.” They would actually try to sell them another car when they went into the showroom. This happened to people that I know. So there was that, and also I think GM resented being forced to do it. They were forced to do it by the ZEV mandate. That’s the Zero Emission Vehicle, Z-E-V mandate. So when you have to dictate by law to somebody do something, they can really dig in their heels and not want to do it. That’s why they leased the cars only and never sold them to me or Jay Leno or anybody. Bill Nye, none of us were allowed to keep our car because we didn’t own it. It was lease only because they knew all along they’re going to pull them back at some point.

And when they asked Wagoner, that guy who was top guy at GM for years, “What’s your biggest failure?” He said, “Crushing the electric car. We had a good car. We shouldn’t have done that. We should have stuck with it and got it just right. Made a four-door so more people, families could buy them. We had the better mousetrap with the engine and the controller. We shouldn’t have crushed the electric car.” That’s what he said was his biggest mistake.

Jay Ruderman:

So what advice would you give to a listener who can’t afford to put solar panels on their home or can’t afford an expensive electric vehicle?

Ed Begley Jr:

I would advise them to do it exactly the way I did it. My dad died in 1970. I didn’t have a meal ticket anymore. I was waiting for the next acting job or camera assistant job to come my way. I was broke, so I had to do all the cheap stuff. Broke guy, cheap and easy stuff that I can afford. Eating lower in the food chain. Even if you don’t want to become a vegetarian, just eating more plant food will be cheaper for you. Using vinegar and water to clean glass and baking soda is definitely cheap. Taking public transportation if it’s available near you is definitely cheap. Riding a bike when weather and fitness permit, cheap. Home gardening, home composting, grow a little fruit or vegetable patch in your front or backyard. If you live in an apartment, don’t have a front or backyard, get part of a community garden. You don’t have a community garden in your area, start one.

There’s always something to say “Yes” to. I know I myself got hung up on, “No, I don’t like smog,” I’d say to my dad. He said, “I know what you’re saying no to, but what do you say yes to?” Maybe there’s no public transportation near you, but can you ride a bike some of the year? Can you eat more plant food? Can you put an energy saving thermostat on? Can you afford that? Can you put up an energy efficient light bulb or two? I would advise people who have few resources to do exactly that stuff that’s cheap because you get a payback, in some cases, in the first month with your electric bill. But many utilities give away these LED lights now and they have for years, since they were a CFL, the compact fluorescent bulbs, they’ve been giving them away because that’s cheaper to give them the light bulbs than it’s to build a new power plant.

So do that stuff. That’s going to lower your bills, that’s cheap and easy and pretty soon you’ll have extra money in the pocket. Then you can move up to the medium ticket items like a solar oven or a rain barrel to put under your downspout to collect rainwater. Pretty soon, one day you can do other things too.

Jay Ruderman:

So save money and at the same time help the environment.

Ed Begley Jr:

Exactly. That’s what I did for years before I had any success. I did exactly that.

Jay Ruderman:

So I want to talk a little bit about a recent endeavor that you’ve been pursuing about producing environmentally conscious cleaning products. Why are cleaning products a place where you’re putting your focus?

Ed Begley Jr:

Because back in 1970 when I wanted to use cleaner products in the home to keep everything tidy, all that was available to me at first was vinegar and water and baking soda. And that can clean some things, but not everything. There’s sometimes we need something more aggressive, cleaner to clean tile or to clean your pet, to clean your different things, hand soaps and what have you. So I, for a while, bought these very clean products and green products and they’re still out there. Again, I’m not that competitive with my competitors. By that I mean I support Seventh Generation totally. I support ECOS. These other people are making wonderful products. Anybody that’s out there, the hazardous waste site near their house and the worst hazardous waste site is not near your house, it’s in your house under your sink. Get rid of that stuff and start buying somebody’s green products. It could be mine, it could be theirs.

They have great products at Seventh Generation and ECOS does it well and so does my line of products called Begley’s Earth Responsible Products. We have them in Costco stores now, and they have them on Amazon too. If you want to look up where to get them, just type in your search engine Begley cleaning, it’ll come right up and you’ll see where the easiest place is to get it. I think they’re in Target too. I’m pretty sure they are.

Jay Ruderman:

And what makes a product better or worse for the environment?

Ed Begley Jr:

Well, the chemical makeup is what’s important, but it also has got a clean good. I pitched the vinegar and water and baking soda thing for a while, and that’s not going to do it for a lot of people. They want a different level of clean and that can supply. So you’ve got to get a good formula that’s not going to harm your pets or harm your kids because kids and pets are always crawling around on the floor, putting their fingers and their toes in their mouth, and you can get sick from that if you’re using something toxic with a lot of ammonia or some other chemical that’s not healthy. So I set out having something that would be clean and green but has to clean aggressively and clean very well, and ours cleans very well and it’s got a clean, clean formula made from plant-based materials and it really works good. I’ve been very impressed with it for years.

Jay Ruderman:

So how do you stay current on the best techniques to lead a low environmental impact life?

Ed Begley Jr:

I rely on my friends, people who have good resources to really study things. The NRDC is a great group and they have a lot of great information about different things we can do environmentally, as does the Union of Concerned Scientists. More than half the living Nobel laureates are part of that great group and so, often when I’ve had a question about electric vehicle battery disposal, I thought, “That didn’t sound right, where it’s going to be more toxic when the batteries thrown in the landfill.” Very few of those batteries are going into a landfill, very, very few, if any, because there’s a way to recondition them and use them again and again and again. And ultimately those different elements can be recycled in some facilities. There’s a facility in Arkansas, I believe. No, I’m sorry, in Alabama, that’s recycling lithium ion batteries, but there’s no toxic heap the way people are trying to represent it in landfills across the country where these old batteries are going. Very few of them wind up in a place like that. Most of them are recycled because these are very precious metals and they can be recovered.

Jay Ruderman:

So Ed, I have to ask you, are you hopeful or are you pessimistic about where we are in the world?

Ed Begley Jr:

I’m hopeful because I know we have accomplished a lot. An area as big as the LA Air Basin, four times the cars, millions more people, but a fraction of the smog, that’s a big win. The Cuyahoga River used to catch fire it’s so covered in toxic and sometimes flammable chemicals. That doesn’t happen anymore. Ozone depletion, the ozone hole is not bigger, it’s not the same, it’s smaller. These are global things that we’ve done. But again, having said all that good news, I’m not living in the dream world. We’re going to lose a lot of plant and animal species. We have already, and will it be enough for us to continue to survive ourselves in the way we have for many, many years? That’s the question. You lose that much of the coral reefs that we all depend on, that’s nature’s nursery. It’s not just something that’s pretty to look at when you’re scuba diving or snorkeling. It’s part of the ecosystem that we need.

Paul Ehrlich said years ago, “How many rivets can you lose from an airplane before it ceases to fly?” How many rivets in nature can you lose before the airplane that we’re all on ceases to fly? Before we’re successful as a species and have the web of life that we really need to require to keep things going? We need a lot of trees standing. Trees don’t begin to have value when you make something out of them, trees have value when you leave them alone, let them stand. Collecting rainwater, providing shade, providing recreational activities, taking in CO2, putting out oxygen. Trees do a lot for us, and so we have to stop seeing a hillside that has no structures on it as nothing. There’s something going on there. There’s a factory that we all get our check from, that beautiful hillside. So preserve as much of nature as we can. We’ve lost a lot, minimize our losses and save what we can and try to survive.

Jay Ruderman:

Well, Ed, I really want to thank you not only for the years of entertainment that you’ve given us, and not only for being committed as an environmentalist, but for living the life and setting the example of how to live an environmentally conscious life. So thank you so much for being my guest on All About Change. I really enjoyed our discussion and may you go from strength to strength.

Ed Begley Jr:

You too, Jay. Thank you. You’re wonderful to talk to. I hope to see you again.

Jay Ruderman:

Thanks, Ed. Appreciate it.

Ed’s commitment to living out his values is an inspiration at every turn. No matter his phase in life, his dedication to building a better world shines through. That’s it for today’s episode. Join us two weeks from today for my talk with actor Brett Gelman. Today’s episode was produced by Rebecca Chaisson with story editing by Yochai Maital and Mijon Zulu. To check out more episodes or to learn more about the show, you can visit our website allaboutchangepodcast.com. If you like our show, spread the word, tell a friend or family member or leave us a review on your favorite podcasting app. We’d really appreciate it. All About Change is produced by the Ruderman Family Foundation in partnership with PodPeople. That’s all for now. I’m Jay Ruderman and we’ll see you next time on All About Change.

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