Ed Begley, Jr., America's Favorite Environmentalist, is Moving

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Nov 13, 2013

TOKYO—When actor Ed Begley, Jr. moves, it’s no small thing. This is, after all, one of the greenest men on the planet, and for 25 years he has made his modest home in Studio City, California a showplace for environmentally friendly technology—as seen on his three-year TV show Living With Ed, and elsewhere.

Ed Begley at Panasonic's Smart House in Tokyo--now he's building his own new smart house. (Dan Unger photo)
Ed Begley at Panasonic's Smart House in Tokyo--now he's building his own new smart house. (Dan Unger photo)

Begley was in Tokyo this week to tour some of Panasonic’s sustainable operations, including Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, an ultra-green solar-driven community going up an hour south of the capital. And he was more than willing to talk about his upcoming move—it’s only one mile to another part of Studio City, but it’s also a big leap of faith for someone so entrenched in his home.
“Studio City is not just a name,” Begley said. “I moved to town because St. Elsewhere was going through its six-season run at a studio there, and it meant I could do the right thing and walk to work.”
Back in 1971, Ed (who’s been inspired by his naturally frugal actor dad) moved to Boulder, Colorado “with an eye to getting back to the land.” But after learning of the horrors of a Colorado winter spent in a rustic cabin, and meeting a fellow homesteader who’d lost a finger to a chainsaw, he decided that instead he’d be an urban pioneer back in the San Fernando Valley. His first Studio City house was small, but it responded well to a green makeover.
At the old house, built in 1936, a six-kilowatt solar array provides power for his Toyota RAV4 electric (his actor friends Michelle Pfeiffer and Tom Hanks also have them), and a workout bike is hooked in to add another 200 watts. He has a year-round garden, irrigated with rain and grey water from the house, energy-efficient lighting and insulation, and tons more. And now he’s moving. Here's a video about it:

“I said I would never leave, but my wife Rachelle—who wanted a bigger house with more bathrooms, worked on me for years,” Begley said. “She told me I could have more gardens, a larger solar array, more rainwater collection. She finally wore me down.” Ed and Rachelle are going from 1,600 square feet to 3,800, but the new place will if anything be greener than the first one. Take a look here for the web series about the house, On Begley Street.
“The house is fully framed, the plumbing is done, the electricity is going in, and the roof should be finished as we speak,” said Begley. “With a 10-kilowatt solar array from Panasonic, I should be net zero in energy. I’m having a 10,000-gallon rainwater system (replacing the 600-gallon system at the old house) manufactured and delivered. In the new garden, I’ll be growing corn, tomatoes, kale and lettuce, and have 10 to 12 fruit trees.”
Is there angst? You bet, since the new house—steel framed, and in a French Mediterranean style—is over-budget and over-due, swallowing up much of the Begleys' savings in the process. What started out as a simple remodeling job turned into a completely new house, with the old one carefully dismantled and recycled. But the never-ending job is finally winding down, occupancy should occur around May or June 2014, and Ed and Rachelle are still married.
If he could afford it, after sinking all his money into the new house—and maybe if he got another TV series—Begley would trade in that 2002 RAV4, now with more than 115,000 miles on it, for a new Tesla Model S. But that’s not happening anytime soon. He’s thinking maybe if he does get a new car, it will be a Nissan Leaf—available for a $199 lease. And he also likes the looks of the new electric RAV4, this time a collaboration with Tesla.
Begley is impressed with all the EV choices now. This is, after all, a man who for many years drove makeshift home conversions because they were the only electric available—including a Subaru and a VW Rabbit. He’s also the former proud lease-holder of a General Motors EV-1—before the company took that groundbreaking electric car back and crushed it.
All in all, Begley would probably prefer riding his bike, walking or taking public transit to driving any car, but a Tesla Model S would look great in his new carport. And it would also look great on TV, if another network brings its cameras around.   

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