By Michelle Werts

New York City satellite dishes
New York City. Credit: Leila Carioca/Flickr

Raise your hand if you’d love to reduce your carbon footprint, but feel like you lack the information or resources to do so. In 2009, each American spent an average of $3,460 in energy expenditures according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. When this couple thousand dollars’ worth of electricity is consumed is almost impossible for the individual consumer to figure out. And, if you don’t know when you’re using your electricity the most, how can you reduce it? The White House’s Green Button hopes to change that.

Based on the Veterans Administration’s Blue Button, which allows vets to download detailed medical records to share with their doctors, the Green Button allows energy users to download their energy usage by the day, even by the hour. The program launched in January and just last week added nine new utility partners across the country, meaning that 43 million Americans can now track their energy consumption in detail. Green Button is part of the Obama administration’s Policy Framework for a 21st Century Grid, which outlines the White House’s plans to invest in clean-energy technologies and energy-grid modernization.

Los Angeles, California, home
Los Angeles, California. Credit: Laurie Avocado/Flickr

Coinciding with last week’s announcement of new utility partners with Green Button was the Department of Energy’s announcement of a new contest for $8 million in grant funding, called “Apps for Energy.” The idea is to design apps that consumers can use to better understand their energy, take action and save money. Oh, how we love our apps, and if our apps help save us money and save the environment by reducing our energy, even better.

Looking for another way you can help your energy bill and the environment? Plant trees. Properly placed trees around homes and businesses reduce energy expenses by 20-50 percent. That’s almost $700 in savings for the average American’s yearly energy expenditures. Not to mention all of the other benefits of trees, like purifying our air and water and providing homes for birds and animals. So, once you get that report from Green Button about your home’s energy use, consider how a tree could help you save even more green … of the cash and nature varieties.