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I Found My Energy Role Model

August 24, 2009 - 5:00am


Last week, while home on a rare weekday afternoon, I happened to catch an episode of Oprah. One of her guests on this particular day was the actor Ed Begley, Jr. The episode caught my attention because it wasn't focused on his acting, but on his quest to make his home and life as environmentally friendly and energy efficient as possible.

I had heard of Mr. Begley's efforts in this arena in the past (apparently he has a reality TV show), but I didn't know the details, so I tuned in. To be honest, I wasn't expecting to learn much or even be very impressed. After all, the guy is a famous actor and presumably has financial resources that most of us don't; of COURSE he can install a few solar panels, right?

My first surprise was that Mr. Begley doesn't live in a typical Hollywood mansion. From what I could see, his house is fairly modest, and he has taken incremental steps to make it as green as possible—just like the rest of us have to do.

Throughout the interview, I was alternately amused and impressed. Mr. Begley does seem a bit eccentric (unless you consider hopping on your stationary bike to power the toaster "normal" behavior; I guess there's nothing wrong with a little exercise before breakfast!). His wife seems to lovingly endure his eccentricities but is sometimes driven to eye rolls (and irritation, when he starts timing her showers).

Nonetheless, behind all of this seems to be a true dedication to the earth and a desire to use his fame to educate others. What really impressed me, though, was his emphasis on energy efficiency.

Mr. Begley certainly does use more expensive technologies like solar panels, but to get the most out of these and other technologies, he constantly works to improve the efficiency of his home. As Elizabeth wrote in this blog back in January, "it's not very useful to add renewable energy to an energy inefficient home." Mr. Begley knows this, and he regularly does energy audits. He installs additional insulation. He works to decrease the family's electricity use.

These are things we all can do—we don't need a Hollywood salary or our own television show to make them affordable and worth the investment. While the flashy technologies and nifty gadgets (he sometimes uses a solar oven to cook in his yard) are the easiest things to "ooh" and "ahh" over, none of those innovations would be worth the effort without energy efficiency as the foundation. In this way, Mr. Begley may actually be a celebrity worth holding up as a role model. I know the next time I watch him in the irresistible movie Best in Show, I'll remember and feel inspired by his other—sometimes oddball, but worthwhile—pursuits.

How about you—do you have any environmental or energy efficient role models? What steps will you take to be more energy efficient? Are you going to try powering your toaster with your stationary bike? Do you love Best in Show as much as I do? Share in the comments!