Making sustainable transportation part of the equation

calculate emissions

Personal Use

Use the Mc3Gill App to calculate your personal travel emissions, compare travel scenarios, and offset your own footprint!

Sustainable Events

Want to make your event at McGill Sustainable-Certified? Our app partnered with the McGill Sustainable Events Team!

Carbon Offsetting

Use emissions results calculated from Mc3Gill to offset the carbon cost of your event or travel.


The Goal

Make it easy to calculate greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) associated with travel to and from McGill campuses, events and activities
Provide a hub for event organizers to register their events, gather data from participants, and produce results such as the number of travelers, proportion of travel by mode, and total emissions for travel associated with the event
Raise awareness of the impact that our travel choices – especially travel mode and distance – have on GHG emissions

The Name

The McGill Carbon Calculator, or Mc3Gill for short, is a cheeky reference to two concepts in climate change policy and science. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a landmark international treaty adopted in 1992 with the objective to stabilize global greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change. The triple Cs in the McGill Carbon Calculator is a nod to the UNFCCC and its importance to international climate governance. Our name is also a reference to the C3 carbon fixation pathway used by plants during photosynthesis, which is a key stage of the carbon cycle. Plants that survive solely on C3 fixation, known as C3 plants, make up the majority of Earth’s plant biomass.

How it works

The McGill Carbon Calculator uses best-practice GHG accounting methodology to calculate greenhouse gas emissions from your travel.

The distance traveled is calculated via Google Maps using the origin postal code you input (e.g. your home) and a destination address – either a McGill event that you choose, or the downtown campus as a default for daily commuting calculations.
Choose the primary mode of travel you used to get from your home to the event. For some modes, we apply conversion factors – such as fuel efficiency or average speed – to convert distance or time traveled into fuel consumed. Then the calculator uses emission factors specific to your travel mode to calculate emissions from each greenhouse gas produced (e.g. CO2, CH4 & N2O) from your travel distance.
Finally, we convert individual greenhouse gases (such as methane) into one standard unit – carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) – using the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report 100-year global warming potentials for each gas, to produce final emissions in CO2e.

If you travelled by personal vehicle such as a car, SUV/van or motorcycle, there is an extra step. We applied an average fuel efficiency for your vehicle type to convert your trip distance into approximate fuel consumption, since emission factors for personal vehicles are available in units per liter of fuel consumption.

If you travelled by air, you’ll have noticed a difference in the options available. If you choose one of the common routes, such as Toronto to Montreal, then the distance travelled is known and emission factors specific to haul length and flight class are applied. If your route wasn’t shown, you entered the one-way distance (in km) of your flight, and we then categorized this flight as short, medium or long haul and applied the appropriate emission factors.

We update the emission factors used in our calculator annually, once the municipal and national inventory reports that we source these factors from are released. Average fuel efficiency and speed data for relevant modes is updated periodically as new information becomes available, and the GWPs are updated as needed to align with new best practice from the IPCC reports and climate science.

Take Action

Calculating the GHG emissions from your travel is a great first step towards understanding and accounting for your impacts! We’ve outlined some other ways for you to take action here.

Understand the relationship between travel and GHG emissions

The emissions associated with different modes of transport depend on many factors such as fuel type, vehicle model and age, technology, class of travel (for air), passenger load (for public transit and carpooling), local energy grids, and distance travelled. Average “carbon intensity” factors are available and provide a useful comparison when planning a trip and deciding on a travel mode, as shown in the figures below.

Comparison of Montreal-specific Local Travel Modes (kgCO2e/passenger-km)

Comparison of Montreal-specific Local Travel Modes (kgCO2e/passenger-km)

Check out McGill’s own Sustainable Travel and Mobility Guide

Travelling sustainably requires us to each consider the environmental, social and economic impacts of our choices and actions. Becoming a truly sustainable institution relies on the participation and commitment of our entire community, especially when it comes to individual activities with a high degree of choice and a large potential footprint – like travel and mobility.

That’s why the Office of Sustainability, in partnership with Procurement Services and in consultation with members of our community, developed the Sustainable Travel and Mobility Guide. The Guide outlines key best practices for travel and mobility at McGill and provides a bunch of resources and tips specific to our community and the city of Montreal.

Go beyond travel to make your event and workplace more sustainable

It’s possible that you ended up using this calculator because you attended or helped to plan a McGill event that included travel of organizers and attendees. Calculating, communicating and offsetting travel emissions from your event is just one of the actions you can take to promote sustainable events at McGill. Check out McGill Sustainable Events to learn about the many ways you can increase the environmental, social and economic sustainability of your next event.

If you work at McGill University, you can also consider Sustainable Workplace Certification. With increasing levels of ambition from Bronze to Platinum, this program includes actions related to travel such as increasing videoconferencing, using public and active transit modes, and purchasing offsets for air travel.

Offset travel emissions from your event or team

Offsetting helps us take responsibility for unavoidable emissions that have already occurred. Offsetting returns us to a baseline, but does not reduce our emissions. This is why, at McGill, we believe that offsetting needs to go hand-in-hand with emission reductions through strategic planning, purchasing and travel decisions such as those emphasized in the Sustainable Event certification. If your team is interested, you can purchase carbon offsets from a credible, certified vendor to compensate for climate impacts using the GHG emissions calculated from Mc3Gill.

It is important that you purchase quality offset projects that can demonstrate proven additionality and permanence, and that provide social and economic co-benefits. To help event organizers and members of our community feel confident in the offset projects they are supporting, we created an “Offset Selection Committee” of faculty, staff and students who evaluated projects against these and other important criteria and selected projects that align with our values. To learn more about the selection process, our key criteria and the chosen projects – as well as access links to purchase offsets – visit the Offsetting Program page of the Office of Sustainability website.

Contact Us

The Mc3Gill team would love to hear from you! Do you need help setting up the software for your event? Would you like to know more about how it works? Or do you have comments, suggestions?

Find our office using this interactive campus map. Please note our entrance is located on Metcalfe Street. A wheelchair accessible entrance is on Sherbrooke Street West, next to the OMNI Hotel.

McGill University Office of Sustainability
1010 Sherbrooke Street West
Suite #1200
Montreal, Quebec
H3A 2R7

Drop by or send us an email!