The theme for Burbank Reads '09 is "Live Green, Think Green, Read Green" and the month-long celebration got a truly inspired kickoff yesterday when actor and eco-conscious pioneer, Ed Begley, Jr. paid a visit to the Buena Vista branch library.
Ed is also the author of this year's "One City, One Book" featured read, "Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life."
The 240-page handbook offers insights about which habits and common household products contribute to pollution and energy waste, while also offering illustrated Ed-tested suggestions on how to fix these problems. Chapters cover a wide range of topics: home, transportation, recycling, energy, garden, kitchen, clothing, hair and skin care. It also includes a workbook section to help readers plan ways to be eco-friendly and measure the positive results of the changes they make in their lifestyle.
"It's a real problem," said Ed. "The media is not trying to scare you. It's real and so are the health problems associated with it."
Along the way, he reminded the audience of the importance of fact-checking and building a good working knowledge of environmental issues, calling libraries "sacred places" of learning.
"Anything I talk about here today, you can get more information on in this library through books, internet and other materials," he said.
Ed's journey into a life dedicated to environmental activism began at age 20, in 1970, when pollution in Los Angeles was at it's peak. Fed up with the dirty air that left him out of breath, he finally said to himself, "Enough! I'm done. I want to do something to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem."
"The most important thing I want to stress, if you hear nothing else, is that at the time I was a struggling actor. I was broke. I didn't have money to buy anything expensive. An expensive car, expensive solar panels, expensive anything," he explained.
Lack of funds didn't deter him. He started with "the small stuff" like recycling, composting, changing his diet, turning down the thermostat because "it was cheap and easy." Along the way he never went into debt, remaining fiscally responsible each step of the way and only investing in technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines and double-paned windows, once he could afford them.
He got rid of his gas-powered car and bought his first electric vehicle in 1970 for $950, a reasonable expense in that day and age. Describing himself as "a crazy 20-year-old wanting to buy an electric car," much to his surprise and delight he found that there was "someone even crazier" out there, a guy named Dutch in Reseda, who had one to sell for the cash he had on hand.
The second most important thing he said that he learned from his earliest experiences was that he began to save money from his lifestyle changes.
"Everything I did, I did on a modest budget and in less than a year I was into profit," said Ed. Besides saving money on utility bills by cutting down and making money recycling, he found huge savings with his electric car because it didn't require the usual expensive maintenance and electricity was cheaper than gas.
While the smog and polluted water were negative influences that changed his living habits, Ed credits his dad for being a positive one.
"My father, (Academy Award-winning actor, Ed Begley Sr.) was a conservative who liked to conserve, he was a great man," said Ed. "He lived through the Depression, a son of Irish immigrants, and although he never used the word environmentalist, he was an environmentalist. He turned off the lights, turned off the water, all that stuff and he instilled all that in me. He also got me involved in scouting. I was a Boy Scout where I saw nature up close and personal."
To honor his father, who died a few days before the first Earth Day in 1970, Ed chose that day to begin living life anew in a way that would benefit the environment and reflect his dad's values.
"He was the kind of guy who would say, 'Eddie, never tell somebody what you're going to do: Someday I'm gonna buy me an electric car, one day I'm going to start recycling. Tell them what you've done after you've done it.' In other words, walk the walk don't just talk the talk," he recalled with fondness.
It turned out that heat and air were leaking from his house through expanses in the walls, curves going going up into the ceiling and out cracks in the floor large enough for a butter knife to fit through that went down to the crawl space.
The biggest problem they found was an overhang from an add-on from previous ownership. Although no light or rain was getting in, air was getting out. "I would have never seen this without this new testing equipment," said Ed. . Sealing up the overhang with $10 worth of recycled insulation resulted in his already-low energy costs being cut in half.
"Think of what we can do as a nation with these kind of home energy audits for everyone who wants one," Ed said, pointing to economic stimulus package monies from Washington as being a wise investment for such funds.
For more information on home energy audits, Ed suggested contacting Residential Energy Assessment Services (REAS) for a referral to certified auditor in your area, or to visit his website at EdBegley.com.
Today's visit with Ed Begley, Jr. was not only one of the most informative and entertaining events I've attended at the Burbank Library, it was quite inspirational. I've already read most of his book and have had several compact flourescent light bulb moments about how I can be more pro-eco with each turn of the page.
Thanks to the Burbank Library for Going Green this year, and to Ed for being a eco-leader who "walks the walk" every day, bringing us messages of hope (with humor!) about how easy and inexpensive it can be to take better care of Mother Earth.
Start Living Like Ed!
Check one out at the library
or get your own copy here
~ Remembering A Son's Inspiration ~
San Fernando Mission Cemetery
~ Photo by Lisa Burks, 6/1/2008 ~