Ed Begley Jr. was one of the estimated 20 million Americans who overran streets, parks and universities during the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. His venue of choice was Pershing Square in Los Angeles.
That was also the year when he embarked on a personal protest against environmental degradation.
Having spent the '50s in the San Fernando Valley, Begley was no stranger to smog. And trips to the Santa Monica Bay regularly refreshed his ideas about pollution.
So he turned vegetarian, began recycling and composting, purchased biodegradable soaps and detergents and hopped onto a bus or bicycle to travel across Hollywood.
"I called it 'being efficient,'" said the Studio City-based actor and director, who has driven a Toyota RAV4 EV — an electric SUV — for 11 years. His current home is also outfitted with solar panels, insulated wall panels and an energy-saving thermostat.
On Saturday, Begley, an outspoken environmentalist, will serve as the keynote speaker at the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce's Green Forum and Expo, which encourages discussions about sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyles and business practices.
"I never really prepare a speech but can promise that I'll be talking about the energy efficiency I've sought over the years," said Begley, who serves on the boards of groups including Green Wish, the Coalition For Clean Air, and the Thoreau Institute and has been active with other environmental organizations. "I've had very few failures and many more successes in all that I've implemented."
The day will begin with the city's inaugural forum, from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Shorebreak Hotel. It will feature a panel discussion with Huntington Beach Community Gardens President Annette Parsons, Harvest Club Orange County founder Jeff Lebow and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fellow Sarah Dominguez. In addition, Mayor Connie Boardman will speak and Earth Friendly Products will offer a presentation.
Attendees are then invited to walk over to Pier Plaza, where more than 45 vendors will man stalls until 3 p.m. Themes like water conservation, climate change, recycling and energy efficiency will be on display alongside live performances and Huntington Beach High School art students painting banners depicting visions of sustainability.
"The Sustainable Surf City Committee wanted to complement the expo and enhance the day with a large education source," Marilee Movius, marketing and communications director for the chamber, said about the free activities.
Movius encourages guests to bring water bottles to this plastic-free event, themed "Turning Ideas Into Action." Exhibitors from as far away as Temecula and Santa Fe Springs will check off scorecards, which will then be displayed to educate passersby about their internal practices or available products. Those who collect a signature in their "passports" from each booth will be eligible for a gift basket.
Chamber President Jerry Wheeler believes that education and dialogue can help create a balance between people's needs and those of the environment.
"From a business perspective, it is not only the right thing to do, but we can save or even make a better bottom line in the process," he said.
The inability to rethink the relationship between humans and nature, he asserted, poses a significant challenge.
"Everyone can agree that this is a beautiful place to live with a quality of life few can claim and many aspire to experience," Wheeler commented. "All that is threatened by not embracing the changes we all need to make in our lives and by not diligently working together to find and maintain the balance we need to ensure future generations those same opportunities."
In the six years since the expo's debut, Laurie Frymire, the city's community relations officer, has found that Huntington Beach has been successful in adopting a more eco-friendly way of living. Banning Styrofoam and constructing solar panels to generate electricity at city buildings count as "pretty dramatic steps" in the right direction, she said.
"We have a fragile environment, the ocean, and we need to take care of those things," she remarked.
Begley's thoughts are much the same.
He is days away from the premiere of "On Begley Street" — a web series on ev¿x Television featuring himself, his wife, Rachelle Carson-Begley, and their daughter, Hayden, as they attempt to build North America's greenest, most sustainable home in compliance with LEED Platinum Certified standards. It will be the family's new home upon completion in May 2014.
"As a country, we are spending $350 billion a year on oil," he said. "Climate change is going to cost us monetarily and by affecting our quality of life. All those things have led me to say, 'This is real, this is something we need to deal with so, yes, sign me up.'"
Today, he is not the only conservation-minded one among his friends. Having accepted that each person can be part of the solution, singer Don Henley, actor Danny DeVito, Bill Nye [the Science Guy] and Dan Castellaneta [the voice of Homer Simpson] have switched to hybrid or electric vehicles, which are recharged in their driveways or garages, often with the help of solar energy.
"They come up to me in parking lots and say, 'Hey, I have a new electric car,'" Begley said. "They don't miss the gas pump, that's for sure."
If You Go
What: Green Forum and Expo
Where: Forum: Shorebreak Hotel, 500 Pacific Coast Hwy.; Expo: Pier Plaza, Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway
When: Forum: 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday; Expo: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday
Cost: Forum tickets are $39, pre-registration is required and ticket sales end at noon Thursday; admission to the Expo is free.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun