Meet the Flipsters

Conversations on the Bridge

A Conversation with Ed Begley, Jr.
(The complete Flip interview, with only minor edits, not found in the book)

Inspired by the work of his Academy Award-winning father, Ed Begley, Jr. ( became an actor. He first came to audiences’ attention for his portrayal of Dr. Victor Ehrlich on the long-running hit television series St. Elsewhere, for which he received six Emmy nominations. Since then, Begley has moved easily among feature, television and theater projects.

Turning up at Hollywood events on his bicycle, Ed has been considered an environmental leader in the Hollywood community for many years. He has served as chairman of the Environmental Media Association, and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. He still serves on those boards, as well as the Thoreau Institute, the Earth Communications Office, Tree People, Friends of the Earth, and many others.

His work in the environmental community has earned him a number of awards from some of the most prestigious environmental groups in the nation, including the California League of Conservative Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Coalition for Clean Air, Heal the Bay, and the Santa Monica Baykeeper.

Not surprisingly, Ed’s flip into an eco-friendly lifestyle began years ago, when the summers he spent as a youth in Los Angeles brought the problem of air pollution up close and personal. “My father had a house in the San Fernando Valley and the smog was horrible. There was choking smog in the ‘50s, ‘60s and through much of the ‘70s. It just got worse every year. You could not run a half block as a young person without wheezing and having to catch your breath. By 1970, I’d had a bellyful. I decided I didn’t want to be part of the problem anymore. So I bought my first electric car in 1970. I started recycling in 1970, I started using biodegradable soaps and detergents, I started reading David Browers works, and soon encountered ‘crackpot’ theories about global climate change and ozone depletion that few people took seriously at the time.

“We’ve come a long way since then. 1970 was the year of the first Earth Day. And that electric car was really just a golf cart with a windshield wiper and a horn… and some canvas around it, to protect you from the rain. It had a tiller instead of a steering wheel. I bought it for $950 from a fellow named ‘Dutch’ who sold them mostly to people who lived in retirement communities. But you could get them licensed for the road. I drove it for awhile, until I moved up the transportation ladder to a bicycle… which went further and faster. The range of that car was only fifteen miles, and its top speed was fifteen miles per hour!”

We wondered if Ed’s success in entertainment made it difficult to keep his lifestyle ecologically sound. “Let me say the smartest thing I ever did with my career had nothing to do with my acting or anything I’ve done since St. Elsewhere. It’s the lifestyle choice that I made to live simply. That is to say, I don’t need a lot of money to support some big mansion on a hill somewhere. I live in a 1700 square foot house, about the same size house that I was raised in. So I can always pay those bills, and keep in mind, I don’t have a lot of bills. I don’t have an electric bill to speak of because I have solar panels in my roof. Unfortunately, my house is not out in the middle of a field somewhere with a full day’s sun on the panels. There are trees around, and other houses, so it’s impossible to run my home completely on solar. I still have to use the grid near winter solstice, and sometimes in the evenings. But I only buy off-peak, after 8 p.m. or before 10 a.m., when it’s less expensive for me and also less costly from an environmental standpoint, because it’s not as taxing on the grid.”

Not the lifestyle one has traditionally equated with fame and fortune. And yet, Ed recounted, “Robin Leach of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous called me and said, ‘Ed, it’s Robin Leach. I want to come and do a bit on your home.’ I said, ‘Robin, I live in a 1700 square foot home in Studio City. I know you don’t want to come here and film this. It’s got a little tiny front yard, a little tiny back yard.’ He said, ‘That’s exactly what I want to come and film.’ He wanted to film my solar panels, my compact fluorescent bulbs, my bicycle that I rode to generate power for the battery system that ran the house, all these crazy things. He wasn’t looking for any huge spas or vaulted ceilings.

“As I get to be older, I don’t work as much as I did in the St. Elsewhere days. When you’re in your forties you work less than in your thirties, in your fifties you work less than in your forties. That’s just the way it is in any business. But I work enough to make ends meet and the point I’m making is, it doesn’t take a lot to make those ends meet. There’s not a lot of coal required to shove in the boiler for the S.S. Begley. Indeed, it’s quite literally wind-powered; I own a wind turbine. It’s part of an investment in a wind farm in the California desert. I get money from that every year, certainly enough to pay my property taxes. That’s an investment I made in the ‘80s instead of buying Exxon stock. I really didn’t think it would be such a good investment financially.

“I was just trying to ‘do the right thing,’ same as a lot of people who invested in socially responsible funds during the early ‘90s. But you know what? When the dot com bubble burst, these investors weren’t just unaffected; their funds grew. They did incredibly. There’s been no burst at companies like Whole Foods. Nobody is going broke farming organically. There are no wind-power crises. Sales of compact fluorescent bulbs and energy saving thermostats, double pane windows, insulation… these are all booming, growth industries.”

Does Ed think we’ll make it, ecologically speaking? “I’m very hopeful on every front, I really am. I think that most people get it. Why do I think that? Because I see a six month waiting list for the Prius that has been in effect for years now. People get the connection between smog and our consumption of oil. People get the connection between our pocketbooks and our consumption of oil. People get the connection between 9/11 and our consumption of oil. When you remember that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers had Saudi passports, you just have to follow the money. Where does that money come from if fifteen hijackers had Saudi passports? Well, it comes from oil! What is the very best thing we could do for national security… and the planet… and ourselves right now? Lessen and ideally eliminate our dependence on Mideast oil. I happen to think that’s possible. It’s not just limited to my little fiefdom here in Studio City. We all have the ability to make a difference.”



The Flip, by Jared Rosen and David Rippe, illuminates a clear path to a vibrant enlightened world where millions of people already live and thrive. It describes in vivid detail and real examples evidence of an upside down world in decay and a Right Side Up world of authentic beings bright with possibility.
The Flip is an owner’s manual for the twenty-first century full of insights, conversations with recognized experts, thought leaders, and visionaries, and actionable exercises and tips you can use to begin your own personal flip.

To read more about The Flip and additional interviews from other luminaries, experts and bestselling authors, please visit

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