Calculating your carbon emissions from commuting

April 24, 2023

Find out how bad daily commutes are for the planet.

Infographic: Carbon calculator for commuting

The single largest emissions source in the U.S. is transportation. And commuting accounts for about 30% of all miles driven in the U.S. While business travel may be easier to document, employee commuting typically falls through the cracks.

While employee commuting emissions might seem like the individual’s responsibility, the emissions are part of a company’s scope 3 emissions profile. If that has you frazzled, fear not—below, we detail everything you need to know about how to measure those emissions.

If you can think back to a time before the coronavirus pandemic, commuting was likely one of your work week displeasures. On average, the U.S. Census says it ate almost an hour of our day.  

Time-suck aside, an internal study done at Sun Microsystems in 2008 found that daily commutes accounted for more than 98% of employees’ work-related carbon footprint. While your company’s mileage may vary (pun intended)—especially with the shift to remote and hybrid work—many employees still create GHG emissions from their commuting behaviors, which contribute to climate change.  

Why should you track your commuting emissions?

Commuting emissions typically come from car and other vehicle exhaust but can also come from the electricity used to charge an electric vehicle or power your city’s metro system. And whether you have a fully remote, hybrid, or traditional workforce, you should consider how much your employees travel to get to work so you can help do it more efficiently.

If you’re able to track or at least estimate how your employees commute—both the transportation mode and distance—it means you can calculate commuting-related emissions (more on how to do that below).

And understanding your company’s CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions from employee commutes means you can then decide how to reduce those emissions. For example, encourage employees to trade carbon-intensive modes of transportation (here’s looking at you combustion engines) for active, carbon-free, and low-carbon alternatives that eliminate thousands of pounds of carbon emissions and improve air quality. In short, by measuring and tracking your commuting emissions, mitigation strategies become apparent.


Track commuting and business travel (e.g., air travel for business trips and meetings) and separately. Read how to calculate business travel emissions.

What emissions scope is employee commuting?

Commuting emissions are scope 3 because they’re created indirectly by your company. Again, while your business doesn’t directly create these emissions, the people supporting it do.  

If you’re curious to learn more about emissions scopes (you’ve probably heard about scopes 1, 2, and 3) and why you should care about them, this three-minute video will get you off on the right foot.  

Calculate your commuting emissions

Plus, get access to other carbon calculators to measure and manage your GHG emissions.

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What’s next?

After you see how much employee commutes contribute to your company’s carbon footprint, you can get to work reducing those emissions. That will look different for everyone. For some, it might be creating a bike-to-work program or incentives for carpooling and rideshares or taking public transportation. You could even dovetail your efforts to reduce your electricity use by formalizing a work from home plan.

And if you’re still stuck when it comes to reducing your commuting emissions, Sustain.Life’s carbon accounting platform includes over 100 step-by-step guides to help you reduce your carbon footprint.

Editorial statement
At Sustain.Life, our goal is to provide the most up-to-date, objective, and research-based information to help readers make informed decisions. Written by practitioners and experts, articles are grounded in research and experience-based practices. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by our team of sustainability professionals to ensure content is accurate and aligns with current industry standards. Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.
Sustain.Life Team
Sustain.Life’s teams of sustainability practitioners and experts often collaborate on articles, videos, and other content.
Alyssa Rade
Alyssa Rade is the chief sustainability officer at Sustain.Life. She has over ten years of corporate sustainability experience and guides Sustain.Life’s platform features.
The takeaway

What to include: Employee travel between home and the workplace via personal vehicle, public transit, and other vehicles (e.g., motorcycle, electric scooter).

Why measure: Transportation is the most significant contributing sector to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Understanding your employee commuting behaviors will inform company policies to reduce emissions from daily travel.

Emissions scope: Scope 3

How often: Annually, quarterly, or monthly

What to do next: Calculate your roundtrip commuting emissions with Sustain.Life’s carbon calculator, then decide how to curb those emissions with work from home policies and transit benefit programs.