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How to go green Hollywood style

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Ed Begley Jr shows us around his environmentally friendly home

By Claire Bolderson
BBC News, Los Angeles

From President Barack Obama down, American politicians are talking about green jobs as the future for the struggling US economy.

They have the full support of Hollywood actor Ed Begley Jr who has been striving to lead the most environmentally friendly life possible for nearly 40 years.

Ed Begley has been in numerous TV shows and had roles in films including Best in Show, Batman Forever and The Accidental Tourist.

He is also in the latest Woody Allen movie, but it is as environmental champion and star of his own "green" reality TV show, Living with Ed, that he would probably most like to be known.

Ed Begley Jr
You have to complete the circle and actually use recycled products for it to make sense
Ed Begley Jr

That is because the actor is an environmental evangelist.

He thinks he can show by example how achievable a low carbon, energy efficient life is.

"You have to make it seamless for people," he says as he takes the BBC on a tour of his family home in Los Angeles.

His single-storey home with its solar panels, energy efficient appliances, extra wall cavity insulation and many other adaptations is his co-star in Living with Ed.

"You have to be able to say to people, look I'm still going to give you a cool beverage and a warm shower, I'm just going to do it more efficiently," he says.

Green in action

As the 59-year-old actor strides through the house and surrounding garden he gives a rapid-fire summary of all the eco friendly gadgets he has installed.

He started "going green" in 1970, long before recycling and composting were fashionable: "I was a broke struggling actor," he says, "I just did what I could afford at the time".

But as work picked up he didn't move out of the cosy house in the Studio City neighbourhood of Los Angeles to a bigger, grander home.

Nor did he install a pool, buy an SUV or any of the other more obvious luxuries of LA life.

Instead, he put in solar panels and numerous energy saving devices.

As he moves from house to garden, Begley talks with passion about the grey water recycling system that takes water from the bath, shower and washing machine and recycles it through a series of filters at the back of the house.

Begley uses the water on the fig trees, tomato plants, herbs and other foods he grows in a backyard packed with lush plants - there is even a small patch of maize.

The pale green kitchen counter tops are made of recycled coke bottles.

The white picket fence that rings the property is not quite as traditional as it looks - it too is made of recycled materials.

"You have to complete the circle and actually use recycled products for it to make sense," he says.

Job creation

It is not just about doing his bit to combat climate change.

Begley believes that green living can help the economy too by creating jobs in a country that has been losing them fast - California's unemployment rate is nearly 12%.

It's not jobs or the environment
Ed Begley Jr

Last month, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger came to Los Angeles to announce the creation of the Clean Energy Workforce Training Programme.

Seventy-five million dollars (£45.8m) from government stimulus funds, public-private partnerships and state and local funding will be used to train more than 20,000 workers for the renewable energy sector.

There are also plans for jobs related to climate change reduction and clean transport.

"It's not jobs or the environment," Begley says.

He believes California can lead the way on both and is adamant that green jobs can help pull the US out of recession.

He reels off the various technology and products that would have to be made, from electric cars to solar panels and recycled products if more people lived as he does.

But what about the vast majority with a lot less money than a Hollywood actor? Is it realistic to ask them to follow his example?

Begley says he understands he is in a position of some privilege and has the time and money to make environmental living work.

But he urges others to do what he did all those years ago - start slowly and go green bit by bit: "Don't get into debt doing it," he warns.

As the home tour finishes, Ed Begley picks a juicy fig straight from the tree in the garden and pops it in his mouth.

Green living to his standards requires quite a commitment, but it does have its rewards.



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