Ed Begley Jr. Shows Us We Don’t Need to Eat Garbage to Save the World

ed begley jr.“I know what you’re thinking – what is international action star Ed Begley Jr. doing talking to his blossoming children about sex? Well as a matter of fact, I’m saving the world!”

So begins one of three new PSA videos featuring Ed Begley Jr., an actor known for his appearances on the television series “St. Elsewhere” and Christopher Guest’s series of mockumentaries like “Best in Show.” But Begley is also an avid environmentalist: he previously co-hosted the green living reality show “Living with Ed” with his wife Rachelle Carson from 2007 to 2010, and now he has teamed up with the Center for Biological Diversity to add a dose of humor to the fight to increase awareness of some serious ecological issues plaguing our planet.

The new PSA series follows a simple but amusing premise. Each begins with Begley in a strange scenario: dumpster diving, wearing night vision goggles to read in his darkened living room, or, as in the above quote, lecturing his adult children on the best ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies (he cites socks-and-sandals and fedoras as two great tips). But the funny lines don’t obscure the true message of these PSAs: that issues like energy waste, food waste, and unsustainable population growth are wreaking havoc on the environment, and that there are effective actions that people can undertake every day to be part of the solution.

The PSAs are aptly titled “Better than Ed.” While Begley offers unsustainable (or frankly odd) responses to such issues as the fact that the United States wastes 40 percent of its food supply, calling on people to dumpster dive and enjoy such delicacies as pizza with Cheerios and Goldfish and Band-Aid tacos, the PSAs also offer real-life ways that consumers can combat these problems.

“You don’t have to dumpster dive like Ed Begley Jr. to save the planet,” offers an off-screen voice, noting that people should simply be aware of what they buy and endeavor not to waste food at home.

Similarly, reading in night-vision goggles may not be the most convenient way to fight the fact that the United States uses four times as much energy per year as the global average (nor is it “some new sort of Hollywood method acting,” even if, as Begley notes, he is “saving energy and looking fleek.”) But people can, for example, speak up for cleaner, smarter energy and promote the installation of solar roof panels.

“Sometimes you have to poke fun at serious problems to draw attention to real solutions,” says Ed Begley Jr. of the new PSAs. “But you don’t have to eat garbage or be famous to help save the world.”

Adding a touch of humor to these real-life solutions helps make them more approachable and – perhaps most importantly – starts a conversation.

“Most people know that runaway growth and waste have terrible environmental consequences, but it can be tough to know how one person can make a difference,” says Stephanie Feldstein, the Center’s population and sustainability director. “These are big, complicated issues to tackle, but with Ed’s help, we hope to show that everyone has a role to play in solving them.”

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Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.