Perryville Library's Reviews > Living Like Ed: One Man's Guide to Living an Environmentally Friendly Life

Living Like Ed by Ed Begley Jr.
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's review
Dec 10, 2008

bookshelves: angela, nonfiction

Have you noticed that lately it’s “in” to be “green”? It seems like nearly every product has jumped on the bandwagon, advertising itself as having some vague benefit for the environment, whether or not it is truly beneficial. (This reminds me of the syrup I had in the refrigerator years ago which proudly announced that it contained “real artificial chocolate flavor!”)

Ed Begley, Jr., the actor, is not interested in bandwagons. He got involved with the environmental movement back in 1970, the year the first Earth Day was held, and has faithfully practiced what he preaches for nearly 40 years. It’s not often you find someone as passionate about the environment as Ed. In the beginning he began recycling, composting, buying biodegradable soaps and detergents, and bought his first electric car. Then in 1990 he bought a small, old house (built 1936) in a neighborhood in Los Angeles, and has used it to try out many different ways, large and small, to gain energy efficiency and lessen his impact on our planet. In his book Living Like Ed: A Guide to Eco-Friendly Life he shares his successes (and his failures) with us.

Ed’s book is divided into six categories: Home, Transportation, Recycling, Energy, Garden/Kitchen, and Clothing/Hair/Skin Care, plus a workbook at the end where you can track your own progress. Throughout the book Ed introduces us to vendors who manufacture some of the products he has found useful. After Ed tells us about his experiences he lets the vendors tell us about their specific products or services, which include solar and wind power, electric cars, environmentally-safe insulation, electric yard tools, and others. The book is packed with suggestions, and for each suggestion Ed indicates whether it is a Small, Not-So-Big, or Big change, mostly relating to cost. Many of his suggestions are free or cost very little. He is also careful to include ideas for folks in apartments or condos, who might not be able to do things on a large scale.

One of the best things about this book is the commentary from Ed’s wife, Rachelle. Let’s face it--Ed can be a little…um…obsessed about environmentalism, even for those of us who feel as he does. Rachelle gives us the viewpoint of an average person who isn’t willing to give up certain creature comforts and conveniences. As Rachelle puts it, she “married into a lifestyle”, but that doesn’t mean they can’t compromise on some things. For instance, if they both have to travel from Los Angeles to New York, Ed will drive Rachelle’s hybrid vehicle, and Rachelle will fly. He then purchases a TerraPass (see page 88) to offset the additional carbon generated by Rachelle’s flight. In Rachelle’s comments she tells it like it is. I was really laughing when she described some of her “adventures” with Ed, especially those relating to his alternative-fuel vehicles and his solar oven. Both Ed and Rachelle write as if they were sitting in your family room with you, having a conversation.

It’s nice to have the Begley’s do the experimenting, so we will know up-front what works and what doesn’t work. All the small choices you make can add up to money in your pocket and a better world for everyone. If this is a topic you’re interested in, you might also enjoy The Earth Friendly Home by Nancy Hajeski, and Green Remodeling: Your Start Toward an Eco-Friendly Home by John D. Wagner. Or ask at the Info Desk for titles on sustainable living.
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