On Earth Day, Tell Congress to Be Green -- and Save Green

What better time than Earth Day to focus on individual actions we can take today to ensure a cleaner, more livable tomorrow?

Here are five things you and your neighbors can do to celebrate the planet and put some energy cost savings back into your local economy.

1. Reduce your energy use.

A recent survey in Connecticut showed that energy use of the average homeowner has spiked 10 percent since the early 2000s. That's big money on utility bills -- money your family could be saving for college, a vacation, paying non-energy bills, or supporting local businesses. Learn about how to reduce your energy use with great free online tools such as Climate Culture.

2. Switch out 10 incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Compact fluorescent bulbs are four to six times as efficient as traditional incandescent bulbs, and this quick, affordable change can save you an average of $100 per year on your electricity bills. Focus on bulbs that illuminate high-traffic areas of your home and are more likely to be switched on for lengthy periods of time. And don't be scared away by detractors who claim CFLs cast ugly, sterile glows. In fact, CFL technology has advanced significantly, generating bulbs that mimic the warm tones of your favorite traditional bulbs. Learn more at Popular Mechanics.

3. If your utility offers a clean energy option, check that box!

Many utilities offer a green power option, by which you can elect to pay a few extra dollars a month for the utility to put enough energy from wind, solar or other renewable sources into the grid to cover your home's entire energy usage. Considering the astronomical prices at the gas pump these days -- and the amount of money many of us spend without thinking on things like clothes, restaurants and entertainment -- it's a paltry price to pay for filling the grid with renewable and cleanly sourced energy.

4. If you live in a city, join a car-sharing club.

Why pay for the gas insurance and maintenance on a car if you live within walking distance of public transportation and car-share vehicles? For short or infrequent trips, a Zipcar membership could be just what you need. Besides, a life free of car ownership will encourage you to think twice before getting behind the wheel. And you'll save some serious green. See if Zipcar is in your neighborhood: www.zipcar.com.

5. Tell the Republican Congress and President Obama that they need to support a nationwide marketing campaign on clean energy, based on research-tested messages that work.

If we're going to get to the clean energy future that President Obama wants for America, we need to change the way we talk about energy with the American people. It's not just about the environment! It's about jobs, growing the economy and helping regular people save money. Today at 4:30 p.m., Nancy Sutley, Obama's Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, and Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, will host a special "Open for Questions" event live from the South Lawn of the White House. You can submit your questions via Facebook chat during the event or submit them in advance via the White House website. Either way, let the administration know that you want clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency to remain a high, actionable priority on President Obama's agenda. While you're at it, let Speaker Boehner and the rest of Congress know that this is a priority for all of us!

Those are just five simple things each one of us can do today. But there are plenty of other things we can do tomorrow, and next week, and into the future. If we want to truly celebrate Earth Day, let's do it the best way we can. Let's get energy smart!

Brian Keane is the President of SmartPower, a non-profit marketing organization funded by private foundations to help build the clean energy marketplace by helping the American public become smarter about their energy use.