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Ed Begley, Jr. on Living Green

Ed Begley Jr.Editor's Note: We recently started offeringBegley's Best, a natural cleaning solution from the greenest guy in Hollywood, Ed Begley, Jr. Known to show up at Hollywood events on a bicycle, Ed has been an environmental activist since 1970. If you've seen Living with Ed on HGTV, then you know that he takes environmentalism very seriously.

The following story illustrates Ed's commitment to the environment: After we received our first shipment of Begley's Best, our warehouse manager Kevin walked into the office holding a piece of wrinkled Christmas wrapping paper.

"Begley's Best came in today, and it was packed in garbage," he said, slightly confused.

Then he found a note from Ed. The note reads: "All packing materials are recycled! Do not discard! Please do as I've done: Save them, then pass them on again." (The note was printed on recycled paper, of course.)

If everyone shared Ed's enthusiasm about saving the environment, then the world would be a much better place for all of us - and for allergy sufferers in particular. To learn why, see Environmentalism, Allergies & Asthma.

And now, here's Ed Begley, Jr. on living green:

You're a successful Hollywood actor and TV star. Why did you decide to develop a natural, non-toxic cleaning product?

I've been looking for non-toxic products to launch Begley's Best. I want to do what Paul Newman did with Newman's own: offer good products and give away a lot of money to charity... I started selling it in just one store to begin with, and now it's in well over 100 stores. There are no employees. It's just me. That's why I can give so much to charity.

What is green living?

Green living, I think, is living sustainably. We get to be here right now today because people have lived fairly sustainably. There have been gold rushes and extractive industries, and people lived kind of wild for a while when they thought the Wild West was endless and the resources in other parts of the globe were endless. However, mostly, over our history, people lived within their means. More often than not, people lived with some sense of environmental stewardship. Indigenous people did, many European cultures did and still do, and so I think that we really need to live green more than ever now that there are six billion of us. It's fine to flail around and have a big party when you've got room to do so, but suddenly when you're in a very crowded room and there are six billion of us, there has to be a certain amount of etiquette: 'I'm sorry, I need to move over there right now, would you mind stepping aside? Thank you. I'd like to get some water. Would you hand me that?' People have got to cooperate or nothing is going to work. That's where we're at now. We have six billion people on the planet; we all have to cooperate or it's just not going to work.

Will green living make me healthier?

I really think that green living will make you healthier. If you have a non-toxic home, it's going to be better for you. If you eat well, it's going to be better for you. I eat a diet that is mostly plant-based material, nearly exclusively, and it's a good way to eat. I feel healthy. I'm nearly 57-years-old, and I feel great all the time. I think eating healthy and avoiding hazardous chemicals is essential to our long-term well-being.

Why is the world opening up to environmental activism?

There are so many reasons. We have kind of a perfect storm - 'perfect storm' being a very apt metaphor because of Hurricane Katrina and other weather related situations that have occurred. It's gotten people's attention that there might be something to global climate change. People are starting to listen to the people who have PhDs and who are quite knowledgeable in this arena, people who know about climate science. And nearly all of them agree that global climate change is occurring and, most importantly, that man has a big impact on it. So if we have a big impact to the negative, we can certainly have an impact to the positive... And then Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth came at just the right time, within a relatively short period of time after Hurricane Katrina. There's more and more science coming out all the time - Science magazine, Nature magazine, prestigious peer-reviewed studies in journals. People are starting to wake up and see that maybe there is something to this.

Why are so many individuals starting to live green?

I think at the root of all these environmental problems, as we describe them, I think there's something beneath that, and that has been this quest for more and more stuff, this orgy of consumerism that we've been on for a while now. And I think a lot of people are finding it lacking - like an alcoholic who's bottomed out on liquor and there's just not enough liquor to get them drunk anymore. It stops satisfying them. I think there are many people bottoming out on buying more and more stuff. You know, there was a bumper sticking in the 80s that said, 'He who dies with the most toys wins.' And I laughed, and everybody did. But then I realized it wasn't a joke for a lot of people out there. They were serious. And I've never seen a hearse with a luggage rack on top, so I don't know what this idea of dying with the most toys means. I don't see what's in it for anyone. I think we all need to live simply so that others can simply live.

What is the most important thing I can do to help the environment?

If I had to sum it up to not just a sentence, but distill it to a phrase, it would be: Drive less! And there are ways to do that. Use public transportation if it's available where you live. Ride a bike if weather and fitness permit. Drive less! You're going to put money in your pocket, lessen our dependence on Mideast oil, and combat global climate change. It's good any way you slice it.

Can my actions really make a difference on the environment?

People ask all the time, 'Can my actions make a difference?' And I say a resounding, 'Yes!' Look at what we've done so far. We had this big ozone hole over Antarctica - over the Northern hemisphere as well, but it was quite pronounced over the Southern hemisphere and getting worse. And now it has not gotten bigger; it has not stayed the same; it has gotten smaller because we banned CFCs. Look what we did with the air in LA. It was much, much worse in 1970. We have four times the number of cars we had in 1970, yet we have half the ozone. We should all get a medal. We've done a lot. And not only the air in LA, but the air in all the cities because of measures we put in place in California: California clean air standards, which became the standard for the nation. We can do this. We can deal with global climate change, and it's not going to break anybody.

See more details about Begley's Best Non-Toxic Cleaning Products