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In the wake of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21), the world continues to focus on global climate change. Nations continue to contemplate ways to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, and that means that carbon from energy will have to be part of the discussion. But what does that mean to everyday life?

To help answer that, the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) has developed the Household Energy and Carbon Footprint Web site aimed at helping households become familiar with the energy integrated into their daily lives, including 1) where energy comes from, 2) how they use it, and 3) how it affects their household “carbon footprint.”

Visitors can navigate through the energy pathway from source through processing, delivery and, finally, to private homes. Visitors are then invited to calculate their own carbon footprint and consider actions. Video clips and tool tips help convey the story. The Web site is funded in part by the North Dakota Department of Commerce Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.

It was developed for North Dakota households, but the site’s calculators and basic information apply to households across the United States.

“It’s important for people to know where their energy comes from and what that means with respect to carbon emissions,” said Dan Daly, EERC Senior Geologist and the Web site project manager.  

The Web site is built around the fact that energy currently comes to our homes in three forms for three primary purposes:

Each form of energy creates a different carbon trail as it travels to and through the home. The carbon trail and the amount of energy used in a home determine the household’s carbon footprint. 

“There are more than 300,000 households in North Dakota and over 100 million in the United States. In most cases, those homes are attached to electrical and home fuel services, and there’s a fueling station nearby for their vehicles. In today’s world, that means most households produce a carbon footprint,” said Daly.

“Still,” he added, “when my folks would ask me to turn off the light or shut the front door, they were concerned about the cost to their pocketbook. Now we know that the environment is part of that too. Households can be careful in their energy use and wise in their choices. This Web site is designed to help.”