06/07/2013 04:46 pm ET Updated Aug 07, 2013

I Got Religion: And It's Energy Efficiency!

Consider this - practically everyone reading these words right now lives in a home that is more energy efficient than the home you grew up in. It's just a fact of life - your refrigerator is more efficient; doors and windows are tighter. Even if you're living in the same home you grew up in - it's more efficient today than it was simply by the fact that you've had to replace an appliance or two over the years.

But now consider this - each of us, even though we are living in more energy-efficient homes - are using more energy today than we did way back when. That's right - today we are using energy (literally) 24 hours each day - even when we don't know it. That flat screen TV? It uses more energy than your refrigerator - when it's off. That's right - you click it "off" with the remote - and it's still on. Still drawing power and still costing you money. Your microwave oven? The most power it uses is simply to power the clock! That's right - that clock is on 24 hours a day/365 days a year. And you cook in your microwave, what, a couple of hours collectively a year?

Indeed this power we're using when we don't even know we're using it is called "phantom load." And phantom load is really at the root of a new program we just launched in Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Energy Challenge: Find Your Four! Is challenging Rhode Island residents to take 4 energy actions in their home to reduce energy use. This first of its kind statewide effort is designed to supercharge the Home Energy Reports that National Grid is sending to their customers with the help of Opower.

So now, working community to community we are engaging and energizing people to look around their homes and "Find Your Four!"

• Flat screen TV's - put 'em on a power strip.
• Desk top computer - turn it off. How about the printer?
• Cell phone chargers plugged into the wall- but not connected to your smart phone? Unplug them!
• How about a bathroom light that can be flipped out for a CFL?

The point is, our homes are sucking energy constantly and we can start reducing that energy without any negative repercussions to our lives. We're not talking about living in cold, dark homes wearing sweaters. We're talking about making yourselves and your homes energy smart!

When we launched the Rhode Island Energy Challenge: Find Your Four! we had local community leaders and businesses talk about the importance of smart energy use, how much energy they had saved in their own organizations, and their commitment to participating in the Challenge.

But it was Rev. Anita Schell-Lambert, President of The Rhode Island Interfaith Power & Light who seemed to put Find Your Four! into perfect context.

She admitted up front that when a minister sees a podium there is bound to be a sermon, and she gave us one. One that was sorely needed. She reminded all of us of the real importance of these energy reductions and there is something bigger and more significant at stake.

"What we do and say at the local community level can have profound effect at a national level, from the legislature we advocate and enact, to the prayers we offer, to the energy choices we make. The choice is before us: to care for the Earth or to participate in the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life."
"Toward the end of her career, Helen Keller was speaking at a Midwestern college when a student asked Keller, who was blind and deaf from early childhood, "Miss Keller, is there anything that could have been worse than losing your sight?" Helen Keller replied: "Yes, I could have lost my vision."

"May such vision be our inspiration to make our collective voices heard in our religious communities, in our courts and government, in our schools and in our workplaces, in our local businesses, in short, in all that we hold near and dear for the future of this planet. The sense of how blessed we are by the life we share in this amazing universe is a reality that we must never lose sight of. Each of us, individually and collectively, has an invaluable role to play in the healing of our world. Each has distinctive gifts to share. The future of all life, including our own, depends on our vital gifts, our clear vision and our mindful steps. Find Your Four is one such big mindful step. Please join me in Finding Your Four!"

I found religion that day, and its called energy efficiency.

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