Take advantage of Energy Star appliances and other technologies coming online this decade

"Energy efficiency" may not be a sexy catchphrase like 'renewables' or 'solar,' but there's a lot of innovation in an area that has more or less been lagging around for 30-some years: low-flow shower heads, triple-pane windows, fuel-efficient cars and smart meters, to name a few.

Sure, you're starting to see your neighbor drive around a Prius because it's hip and environmentally-friendly, but there are dozens of less visible ways to accomplish efficiency in our daily lives, and this is the decade where you'll see everyone hankering for these minor changes.

A common misconception about energy efficiency is that it's about "using less." But that is totally missing the point. In reality, it's about "doing more while using less" - not having to burden your way of life to save a few kilowatts here or a tank of gas there. People who install efficient appliances don't have to use them less - an Energy Star refrigerator will cool your veggies and milk just the same, but it will do it at less of a monthly cost to you and to the environment.

So I call on everyone to discover new ways to be efficient without sacrificing; to look into Whirlpool dishwashers or Johns Manville insulation or Best Buy electronics with that Energy Star label, and see how much you save. Up front costs may be more, but in the not-so-long-term, you'll get those costs back in the form of lower energy bills.

We may have a ways to go before "energy efficiency" is a sexy catchphrase, but at least we can make it relevant and factor it into our daily lives.

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