Getting ready for a move is never easy. You have to rent a truck or hire a moving company. If you’re moving items from multiple homes to a single home, you need to organize a time and place, and path for the day of the move. Hardest of all, you need to figure out what you want to keep and what you’re willing to let go of prior to the move. In this way, moving often involves a lot more waste than you might imagine, but there are a number of eco-friendly movers and waste-saving options that can help make it an easier and greener process.
What is eco-friendly moving?
Moving is not an eco-friendly process by design. Moving boxes are cardboard and are therefore recyclable, but bubble wrap sure isn’t and neither are most plastic bags. On top of that, moving trucks use a lot of gasoline. And while these things are almost certainly necessary for some heavy or long-distance moves, there are plenty of moving companies and procedures designed to cut down on environmental impact during this process.
Who are eco movers?
Eco movers are eco-friendly moving companies who aim to cut down on the more wasteful aspects of the moving process. Some things to look for when choosing a moving company is one that works to eliminate waste, take more efficient routes, and moves you in fewer trips. Green moving companies may also use trucks that run on biofuel rather than gasoline, and set up clients with reusable moving boxes so that they don’t have to worry about collecting cardboard or buying more plastic storage bins.
There are plenty of eco-friendly moving companies across the U.S. For example, Eco Movers out of Seattle uses reusable moving boxes recycled packing materials.
Gentle Giant in Somerville, Mass. reuses and recycles moving boxes and packing supplies whenever possible, uses biodegradable foam peanuts and oxo-biodegradable bubble wrap, and uses FSC-certified products.
Rabbit Movers in New York City is powered by biodiesel fuel, uses reusable bins, and wraps your fragile items in biodegradable bubble wrap.
All of these companies will help you make a reduced impact with your move while also assisting with some of the heavier lifting you otherwise might have had to rope your friends into.
What are some ways to make my move more eco-friendly?
Besides hiring a green moving company, there are a number of ways to make your individual move more eco-friendly. Some of these are as simple as making the move in fewer trips — an easy trick if you happen to rent a larger truck or if you save the bulk of your boxes for moving day. Some people might opt for more trips to save on effort, but one big trip will save you way more in gas and time than you might realize.
Packing things in recyclable cardboard boxes is a great place to start, but even these containers should only be used if you have exhausted other options. For example, you could pack quite a lot of your stuff (clothes, plates, cups, silverware, collectibles, books, and the like) in containers you already have. Perhaps you have a bunch of extra plastic storage bins you have been waiting to use, or some old suitcases, duffel bags, or reusable grocery bags. All of these items are perfect for carting things to your new place, and they won’t cost you a dime.
You can also rent reusable and durable plastic bins from national companies like U-Haul, which help reduce the need for any single-use boxes on moving day.
Cardboard boxes are still a viable option though. After all, you can’t fit everything you own in your five or six suitcases. You can get these boxes used from supermarkets, chain pharmacies, or other retail stores, and most will give you them for free just to take them off their hands. If you know you’re going to be moving ahead of time, begin collecting these boxes here and there. That way you won’t be forced to buy any when the time comes.
Polystyrene packing peanuts, bubble wrap, plastic wrapping — these things are all best avoided when it comes to wrapping your fragile items. Try to use old newspapers, paperwork you were going to get rid of, sheets, pillowcases, or clothing, instead. These items are either recyclable or washable, and they will probably protect your stuff better than that toxic polystyrene crap you get at office supply stores.
How do I know what to get rid of before a move?
Even if you’re being careful about your environmental impact, chances are good that you’ve accumulated a lot of stuff in your lifetime. Sorting through all that while you’re packing can feel a bit overwhelming for several reasons. Many keepsakes we hold onto have special meaning attached to them. Even when we try to downsize, we still like to hold onto those special knick-knacks, baubles, pieces of clothing, stuffed animals, and things that are dear to our hearts.
How do I get rid of things I don’t want to keep?
For everything you want to keep, there are bound to be tons of things you’re willing to part with. Recycle these things, donate them, do anything you can that does not end up with your old stuff rotting in a landfill somewhere. Start by dividing things into a donate pile and a recycle pile. Now, there are bound to be some things that you cannot save, cannot donate, and cannot recycle. With these, make a toss pile, but do try to make that pile as small as it can be.
Any unwanted items that are still in good condition can be donated to a variety of national organizations, as well as local thrift shops (though always check to make sure the shop doesn't landfill items that don't get sold), charities, schools, libraries, and animal shelters.
Recycling is a bit more complicated, especially when it comes to old electronics, but you can always call your local municipal sanitation or recycling center to see what items they take. If they are less than helpful, check out websites like TerraCycle to recycle typically non-recyclable items. You might find some things you were ready to trash are actually recyclable.