Spotlight on Sustainability

TAMPA, Fla. (Updated Oct. 9, 2009) – Actor and activist Ed Begley Jr. was green long before being green was trendy.


In the 1970s when Begley was still a struggling, young actor he became alarmed with Los Angeles growing smog problem and pollution which among other things had caused the Cuyahoga River in Ohio to catch on fire. Another concern: his own pocketbook and the expense of living in the expansive and expensive city.


So Begley got himself an electric car, started recycling, composting and growing his own food and thinking about the way his lifestyle impacted the environment, he told a crowd of more than 200 during his keynote address at USF for the 4th annual Campus & Community Sustainability Conference. Now, Begley is the star of the show “Living with Ed” and the author of several books on eco-conscious living green.


With his electric and water bills minimized due to energy-efficient practices and water recycling at his California home, Begley said bit by bit over decades he has incorporated sustainable practices into his life. In the mid-1980s, he invested in a wind turbine in the California desert.


“Ask me if I am carbon-neutral,” he urged the USF crowd. “I am carbon-negative since 1985. Everything I have done has been good for the environment had also been good for my bottom line.”


Begley believes the same can be true for the economy – that jobs developing and implementing alternative energy can put people to work. He again points to his home in California, where the advent of catalytic converters and other anti-smog measures has allowed the state to cut smog levels in half since the 1970s, even though there are four times as many vehicles.


And he said he remains hopeful that it is not too late to reverse some of the damage done to the planet given proper regulatory action to control pollution. He pointed to ozone-depletion measures implemented in the late 1980s which has helped reduce the hole in the ozone.


“We’ve turned something as big as ozone depletion around in less than 20 years,” he said. “If we do it right, we do it smart, do with the very technology we have on that showroom floor, we can do it.”


Begley’s talk came on the final day of USF hosting the Campus & Community Sustainability Conference and at the opening of the Going Green Tampa Bay Expo. The events drew advocates, students, and industry and government leaders interested in exploring new policies, programs, and practices for creating sustainable communities.


The Going Green Tampa Bay Expo, which will showcase products and services as well as information about creating a more sustainable Tampa Bay area. The EXPO is a partnership between USF and the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission.


The Expo, which is free and runs through Saturday, Oct. 10, features new local efforts and practices to reduce our impact on the environment, as well as numerous workshops conducted by local experts on topics such as composting, water conservation, and “greening” businesses. More than 80 exhibits will be on hand.


More than 3,000 visitors came to the first Expo at USF in 2008. Complete information on the 2009 Expo can be found here.