By Nancy Zafrani
Approximately 40 million Americans move every year, and all of this moving can contribute to a huge amount of waste and pollution. While this might not be something that the average person gives much thought to when planning their move, more eco-conscious people will definitely be concerned about the potential environmental impact of moving. Luckily, there are a number of potential solutions that can ensure your move goes smoothly with as little environmental impact as possible. With this in mind, here are some eco-friendly tips you should definitely consider for your next move.
1. Use Whatever Containers You Already Have to Pack First
When planning for a move, many people simply go out and buy a bunch of cardboard moving boxes to pack all of
their things in. While it is likely that you will need some boxes, it is still always best to use whatever containers you
already have to pack in first. This means plastic totes, suitcases, etc. While this may not sound like much, doing so
can still cut back on the number of cardboard boxes you'll need.
2. Consider Used or Reusable Packing Boxes
Instead of buying new cardboard boxes for packing, it is always best to try to find used boxes. Many stores will give away all of the boxes that their merchandise comes in, and this can be a great way to limit the environmental impact of your move. Another option is to rent reusable plastic boxes instead of using cardboard. There are numerous companies that offer moving boxes that you can use during your move and simply return once you’re done with them.
3. Opt for Recyclable or Biodegradable Packing Materials
Polystyrene (Styrofoam) packing peanuts, bubble wrap and other non-biodegradable packing materials are definitely
something to avoid if you want your move to be eco-friendly. Packing peanuts is an especially big issue as
polystyrene takes more than 500 years to break down and is considered one of the least environmentally friendly
chemicals out there.
Luckily, there are many companies that produce biodegradable packing peanuts. Usually made of corn starch or
wheat, these packing peanuts break down almost instantly in water. This means that they won't take up space in
landfills, and you can even put them in your compost or simply dissolve them in water and flush down the drain.
4. Use Clothing and Linens to Wrap Your Fragile Items
Another alternative to using bubble wrap is to simply wrap up all of your fragile items using clothing or linens. Socks
are great for wrapping cups, mugs and glassware, and you can use T-shirts, pillowcases and other fabrics to protect
your dishes and other fragile items. You can even forego packing peanuts altogether and instead stuff clothing inside your boxes to protect everything during the move.
5. Think Carefully About Which Moving Company You Choose
If you’re planning on hiring a moving company to take all of your things to your new home, it is vital that you carefully consider the environmental friendliness of whichever company you choose. If you’re concerned about the environment, you’ll definitely want to avoid anyone that uses older, gas-guzzling vans or trucks. Instead, it is always best to choose a company with a fleet of new, more energy-efficient vehicles for your move.
6. Sell or Donate Non-Essential Items Before Your Move
One of the simplest ways to lessen the environmental impact of your move is to go through all of your things and think carefully about what you really need and then sell or donate whatever you don’t. This will not only greatly simplify the moving process, but it will also allow you to take fewer trips or use a smaller van or truck. If you’re moving across the country, you may even want to consider selling or giving away some of your bulkier furniture and replacing it once you get to the new location since this will save a huge amount of space and lessen the weight in the moving van or truck.
7. Use Natural or Eco-Friendly Products for the Final Cleaning
Once you are all packed up and your old place is empty, you’ll probably be required to give it a final, deep cleaning.
When it comes time for this, it is always best to choose all-natural or eco-friendly cleaning materials instead of harsh
chemicals. There are a huge number of companies that advertise their products as being green or eco-friendly.
Unfortunately, in many cases, this is simply a marketing gimmick.
For this reason, it is always best to look for products that meet the EPA’s Safer Choice Standard. Products with the EPA’s Safer Choice label have been rigorously tested to ensure that all of the chemicals they contain are non-toxic and safe for the environment. Another option is to forego chemical cleaning products altogether and simply use things like vinegar, lemon juice or baking soda for your cleaning, all of which can do just as good of a job as those toxic chemical cleaners.
8. Make Sure to Recycle or Donate Packing Materials After the Move
Once the move is done and you’ve unpacked everything into your new place, the last step is to make sure to recycle, donate or otherwise properly dispose of any packing materials you used. If you end up using cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, etc., there are numerous websites and organizations where you can donate them to other people. If you can’t find anyone that is willing to take your cardboard boxes, you can either save them for your next move or recycle them. What you definitely shouldn’t do is just toss them in the trash.
Cardboard and other paper materials account for nearly a quarter of the 300 million tons of trash produced in the US every year, and unfortunately, much of this ends up in landfills. The easiest way to avoid contributing to the huge trash problem in this country is to make sure to recycle as much as you can, and this includes all of your moving boxes and packing materials.
As you can see, there are a number of ways that you can easily reduce the environmental impact of your move.
While there is really no way to make moving 100% eco-friendly, all of these options can still have a major impact and
ensure that your move is as least harmful as possible.
Nancy Zafrani is the general manager of Oz Moving & Storage. A day-one employee of Oz, she has 30 years of experience in the moving industry. As a lifetime New Yorker, Nancy also has lots of experience dealing with small apartments and organizing. Nancy has many interests. Her hobbies include painting, hiking, and baking.