Written by Nick Adler
You care about the environment — you turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, recycle what you can, bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store, and try to buy organic produce. As you prepare to move house, you may be wondering: how can I be environmentally conscious while moving, too?
The good news is that there are lots of steps you can take for an eco-friendly move. The even better news is that they’ll help you save money on your move, too!
This is the number one way to reduce the environmental impact of your move — and reduce moving costs! Every item you move requires packing material and burns energy to move. It also costs you money. Downsizing your personal belongings will reduce the ecological impact and make your move cheaper. What better excuse to bring a little Marie Kondo philosophy into your life? Ask yourself if each of the items in your house is necessary or genuinely “sparks joy.” And if it doesn’t…
Here’s where your ecological ambitions could really pay off. Once you’ve decided you don’t really need the old barbecue or that exercise bike you never really used, it’s a great time to offset the cost of your move by selling them. Weekend yard sales are a classic for liquidating smaller items. We recommend also listing bigger-ticket items online using websites such as Craigslist (great for larger or more expensive items) or Ebay (for valuables or collectibles). Your neighborhood may also have a social network (check Facebook or Nextdoor for starters) where you can list items or publicize a yard sale. Starting this process a few months ahead of your move will increase your chances of success.
Still have some old clothes, toys, or household goods in good condition that didn’t move in your yard sale, or canned food you’d rather not pay to move to the new house? Give these items a second life by donating them. Many charity organizations can even schedule a pickup, saving you the time and fuel of dropping the items off.
You probably still have some old sheets and towels or stacks of newspapers left at this point. Before you get rid of them, ask yourself what you can use for repurposed packing material. Got any cardboard boxes you can reuse? What about suitcases and duffel bags? Crumpled newspaper, magazine paper or junk mail can fill extra space in your boxes, and egg crates work well to protect small items. Buying new bubble wrap isn’t very eco-friendly, but you can reuse any that has arrived at your house in the months before your move, and some post offices or recycling centers save it for reuse. Borrow some and return it after the move for others to use. Or consider zero-waste options instead: bulky clothing like sweaters, scarves, and thick socks make great padding for fragile pieces, and pillows, blankets and towels make a great eco-friendly bubble wrap alternative. Doing your own packing and getting creative with what you already have will help you save money on packing materials and expensive packing services.
There are likely to be a few things left that can’t be sold or given away. In the flurry of moving, you’ll be tempted to dump them all in a garbage bag and be on your way, but you can do better! For a more eco-friendly move, take the time to:
Your moving company can often do a lot to help you cut costs, reduce waste, and follow moving best practices. They may be able to offer reused boxes and packing materials from previous moves, as well as picking up your used moving boxes for recycling when you are finished.* They will be able to advise you on the cheapest dates and times to do your move based on what else they have scheduled. For long-distance moves, they may be able to combine your load with another customer’s — reducing both cost and carbon footprint. Your mover can offer other special insights as well: for example, they will be able to tell you if you’re just barely over the limit of what will fit in a single truck. If donating that extra box of old stuff will save you the difference in cost between a two-truck move versus a one-truck move, we bet you’ll be extra motivated to let go of it! Talk to your mover up front about your financial and environmental goals for the relocation, leave yourself enough time to be flexible, and you may be surprised at what a difference it makes.
*Note: as an extra precaution during the Covid-19 pandemic, we are temporarily recommending that boxes and packing materials not be reused between customers.
Moving green and saving money are both admirable goals, but false economy can hurt you more than it helps you. Repurposing cardboard boxes from other sources can reduce waste and save you from buying new ones, but if they are wildly different in size, it will be difficult to pack a truck quickly and efficiently, which can cost you more in moving fees or truck rentals. Doing your own packing can allow you to get creative about no-cost/no-waste packing materials, but if you cut too many corners, things are more likely to break in transit. Broken belongings mean more junk in the landfill and the cost of buying new replacements (likely much costlier than a few cardboard boxes would have been!). Your mover can provide you with specialty boxes for moving dishes, glassware, and other fragile valuables. When it comes to moving your grandmother’s bone china, we recommend going with the professional option rather than risking it with your old sweaters — and then see if you can return the packing materials to the mover so they can use them again.
Don’t forget your eco-friendly aspirations now that you’re settled into your new place. Use environmentally friendly cleaning supplies as you tidy up after the move. Take the opportunity to switch old light bulbs for new energy-conserving models and check for cracks around doors and windows to improve energy efficiency. Use thermal curtains to keep the home cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Turn off lights and appliances when not in use. Follow these guidelines to reduce your ongoing environmental impact and keep saving money long past your move-in date.