He had personally experienced the effects of L.A.'s smog and seen the pollution in Santa Monica Bay from raw sewage. "So I knew that the problems were real," Begley says.
He got involved and made some changes. And he found benefits to using public transportation and riding his bike, turning the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer, cleaning with baking soda and vinegar products, and eating low in the food chain.
"It saved me money," he says. "All this stuff was very cheap. So I stayed with it. And it's been a series of continuous discoveries ever since."
Begley has consistently been active in environmental groups and has spoken out about his views. His activism has earned him almost as much attention as his acting, which has included roles on "St. Elsewhere" and "Six Feet Under."
Now they are launching a new online reality series, "Our Green House," on BiteSizeTV.com. The show, which officially kicks off Tuesday on Earth Day, documents the building of the Begleys' new "ultra-green" house in Studio City.
Construction for the 3,800-square-foot house, a mile from their current "warm and cozy" solar-powered home, is already underway. The house is being built of steel ("I'm always trying to find a way not to take down trees," he says). And it will be LEED-platinum certified, the highest environmental rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. One of the features of which Begley is most proud is the home's 10,000-gallon rainwater tank, already installed underground, which will be used to water the garden.
The new home, besides giving the family more bathrooms and a bigger yard for growing fruit and vegetables, also will allow them more space for hosting environmental conferences and fundraisers (at a pace acceptable to his neighbors, he adds). And so his work on behalf of the environment continues.
On Earth Day, in addition to launching their show, the Begleys will be hosting a 12-hour marathon on BiteSizeTV of live-streamed green programming, including interviews with green leaders and celebrities active in the environmental movement.
"I hope that people are paying attention about climate change," Begley says. "This is one you don't want to sit out. We're all going to be affected by it, and if we don't start doing something now, things are going to be very bad for all of us."
He sees reason for hope, citing improvements to air quality in Los Angeles in his lifetime because of environmental regulations and other changes. "I was a young boy back in the '50s and '60s, and that smog seared my lungs every day. It's a lot less now. We did that."