On Thursday June 12th, Ed Begley Jr., the award-winning actor and environmental leader, spoke on energy conservation strategies at the Carl A. Fields Center on Princeton Campus. The event was sponsored by NJHEPS (New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability) and hosted by the Office of Sustainability at Princeton University. For over 40 years, Ed Begley Jr. has been fascinated with energy conservation and in ways to protect the environment. His advice: Do what you can afford now (including turning off lights), and with that extra money in your pocket you can buy a medium-ticket item, such as a solar thermal oven, a plastic fence made of recycled milk jugs, or a solar panel array—all things Begley has put to use and that have saved him money. He reiterated that he did the cheap and easy things in the early 70s, and didn’t go broke buying solar panels. He never tells people to buy something they can’t afford.
“Recycling is like hitting it out of the bleachers, but why stop at second base?”he said. In other words, complete the cycle by buying recycled products. And for those ready to invest in solar, he shared an additional benefit: Solar customers keep paying today’s prices, even while electricity prices continue to rise.
Naturally, he recognizes that environmental protection is an evolving process that must overcome resistance to changing personal habits. In 2008, two of Begley’s friends, who are “green real estate agents,”said they were doing home energy audits –Would he (Begley) consider sending their information to all of his friends? Also, the agents wanted to audit Ed's home too. Begley thought he was the last person who needed one –he thought he would be the smiling, muscular man in the “after”picture rather than the environmental weakling in the “before”picture. In 1988, Begley had a comparatively simple "clipboard audit" done. His friends persisted, and they employed the current advanced techniques—including the duct blaster, blower door, and home imaging—to perform the audit. Instead of an “A”grade, Begley’s house got a “C-.” Despite the good performance of original audit and Begley’s thorough weather stripping, there were leaks all over the house. But Begley takes it in stride, and realizes, “If we can make those kinds of changes with today's technology, then what if everyone…”followed suit and did a home energy audit now.
Begley is optimistic about the future, and believes that these cumulative strategies can build a positive outcome. As for winning support for climate science, Begley’s approach is inclusive and non-combative –he pointed out some of the disparate and often atypical sources that recognize the growing threat of global warming: insurance companies, NASA, National Geographic, and the Pentagon. With a “critical mass of right-minded people,”Begley suggested, there will be a greater shift toward renewable energies and energy conservation.
He closed by restating his three main goals: Protect clean air and water, lessen dependence on foreign oil, and put money back in our pockets.
Contributed by Ned Higgins, local editor and writer.