Moving can have a huge impact on your ecological footprint – all those boxes and tape and packing paper that end up in the trash. Trying to move while being aware of how to limit your contribution to waste does take a little extra planning and preparation; in the end, it can save you money and will definitely make you feel better that you’ve helped the environment – a win-win situation for everyone!
Earth-friendlier Packing Materials
Packing materials can be the major contributor to your impact, and at the same time, they are necessary to get the job done. Here are a few solutions to help you move a little greener when it comes to packing materials:
* Reusable containers: For our last move, my husband and I recruited family and friends to let us borrow plastic containers they might have. We weren’t able to pack everything we owned in reusable containers, but we were able to reduce the number of boxes we needed. Remember, boxes also require tape – something that can’t be recycled and which takes a very long time to decompose.
For our next move, I plan on purchasing plastic containers that can be easily stacked and stored, so they’re always on hand for when the moving-bug starts to bite. If you move often, this might also be a good solution for you as it not only saves trees and waste, but it also saves you time in finding enough packing boxes.
If you live in the Long Beach/Orange County area of California, there’s a great new company on the rise called Earth Friendly Moving – a company dedicated to creating greener moves. Their services include the dropping-off of plastic, reusable containers for a very small fee, then picking them up again after your move is complete. Let’s hope this kind of services catches on and goes global – I’d love not to have to stress about getting boxes and tape and worrying that the bottoms will hold. Currently, Earth Friendly Moving is looking at expanding to the rest of Southern California, so if you live in the area check out their website.
* Recycled Materials: A great way to save money and your impact on the earth is to collect used boxes from grocery stores, wine and liquor stores and other retail outlets. We do this often, especially for lighter weight and less fragile items, where the strength of the box isn’t a determining factor. And no one can deny the usefulness of wine/liquor boxes; most have the cell packs already installed which makes packing glasses, bottles and other fragiles really simple and easy. In addition, most of these boxes are re-enforced to withstand heavier loads. I highly recommend asking your neighborhood beverage outlet for their empty boxes. Just make sure you ask in advance of your move and also what day they normally receive their shipments and when the best time to drop by would be.
* Online Sources for Used Materials: the online networks are a great source for finding used packing goods at a good price. Craigslist is the first and most extensive place to shop and meet like-minded individuals who may want to swap or give-away used boxes. If you can’t find any listings for your area, post your own request.
Getting Rid of Stuff
* Donate Your Stuff: Before you throw an unwanted item in the trash, think about donating it to a local charity or even a neighbor who might find it valuable. Just make sure that what you’re donating can be used by someone. Most thrift stores and non-profit societies cannot use ripped clothing or items that are so worn that no one else would want it. Be thoughtful before you unload your stuff at a local charity.
* Do your research: Find out what the non-profit is looking for or if you have specific items, such as cat kennels (in our case), call a non-profit that specializes in a particular cause to see if they’d want the items (for cat kennels, we’d call a local animal shelter or rescue society). There are many organizations out there that also set-up homes for youth or single mothers which might take larger items from you. Again, research the options, then decide where you’d like to donate. Remember, electronics can also be donated, recycled and are greatly appreciated.
* Sell Your Stuff: If you think your things are sellable, that someone else might find them to be treasures, not trash, then you can also try to sell them online through companies such as eBay. If you’re thinking more small-scale or you don’t want to bother with shipping items to buyers, then you could also host a garage sale or place an ad in a local neighborhood newspaper advertising the items.
How to Offset Your Impact
* Purchase Carbon Offsets: If you’re hiring a company or moving yourself, find out if the moving or rental company has a “green” mantra or if they are a carbon-neutral company. Many movers and rental agencies are not, and many people don’t have the option of hiring companies who are, simply because they don’t exist in the local area. This is beginning to change, however, as more customers demand alternative options. My recommendation is to ask. It certainly doesn’t hurt and it might even stimulate thoughts around creating a greener move.
Regardless of whether your mover is green or not, you can help lower the impact of your move, in particular the gas emissions the truck will burn, by purchasing carbon offsets. We do this not only for the truck emissions, but also for our travel costs to the new home (car or plane emissions).
To find out what your emission rate would be for the US go to Bonneville Environmental Foundation, for Canada, go to Planetair, and if you’re in Europe, check out MyClimate.
In the end, if you’re planning on moving, the best course of action to follow for a greener move is to the best you can. Not all of us have the resources available to make a perfectly carbon neutral move. However, just being aware of your impact is a really good start in helping the planet.