Moving creates massive amounts of waste. Here are a few eco-friendly tips for packing and moving sustainably.
The days are longer, semesters are over, and change is in the air. So it makes sense that summer is the most popular time for people to move. But all that moving creates waste. Americans use about 900 million cardboard boxes for moving each year, and the majority end up in the trash.
So if you’re gearing up for a move, rethink your normal ways of doing things. Instead, reduce waste when possible and reuse where you can to make the transition to your new home as low impact and environmentally friendly as possible. Here are our eco-friendly moving tips.
Read more: Throw a Low (or No) Waste Summer Party
Most people know they are going to move a few months in advance. Use this time to make a plan for items you don’t want anymore. Purge your closet and drawers ahead of time so you don’t end up leaving clothes and other perfectly good items in a trash heap the day you drive away. In fact, don’t leave a trash heap on the curb at all — moving creates an estimated 8.4 million tons of junk each year.
Spring and summer are also garage sale seasons, so if that’s an option for you, set up a sale in the weeks before you move. If a yard sale isn’t feasible, consider selling old clothes and home goods on online marketplaces like Poshmark or eBay.
Or simply donate your items. But before you do, make sure what you’re donating is still in good shape. Thrift stores have been overrun during the pandemic, and many of their donations — particularly clothes — end up in landfills because they are stained or ripped. If you want to make certain your items go to a good home, look for local organizations that accept gently used home goods or clothing for shelters or for refugees that are getting settled. That old blazer that’s been collecting dust can also be donated to groups like Dress For Success that help women prepare for job interviews and achieve economic independence.
For large items like mattresses and furniture that you’d like to donate, look up local regulations — often thrift stores have specific days that those things can be picked up, or you might have to deliver them to a transfer station.
Nearly 63.1 million tons of food waste end up in American landfills each year, and globally, food waste accounts for eight percent of greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce your carbon footprint and avoid tossing out food that’s still edible, start strategically cooking down your pantry as soon as you have a move-out date. Limit your grocery shopping and make the items in your freezer and refrigerator first, then get to work on non-perishables — no one wants to move half-full bags of cereal and pasta from one place to another or dump milk down the drain.
However tempting, don’t buy brand new moving boxes. Instead, rent, reuse, or repurpose supplies to cut back on waste. Liquor stores often get big loads of sturdy cardboard boxes, so they’re a great resource and grocery stores are a good option, too. If everyone else beats you to it, consider renting reusable containers from places like U-Haul, Home Depot, or Rentacrate.
All that stuff you have to move? You can probably use a lot of it to pad and protect fragile items. It takes packing peanuts an average of 500 years to decompose, and you don’t need them when dish towels will easily get the job done. Place them in between plates and bowls for extra cushion. If you run out, use sheets and linens to wrap your breakables. You have to move your bedding and towels anyway, might as well make them work for you.
Most of us have chemical-laden products — like almost empty toilet bowl cleaner or old cans of used paint — that aren’t worth moving. When getting rid of something that could be harmful to the environment and your health, carefully read the label and research your community’s household hazardous waste guidelines. There’s likely a free place to dump them, and if not, they should have advice about how to dispose of these items properly.
Those recycled wine boxes and reused packing materials you gathered? Don’t let them die with you. Instead of throwing them out, send them on for another life. Make friends in your new neighborhood by offering them for free on BuyNothing or local community groups like Nextdoor.
If you’re moving locally and your move-in and move-out dates overlap by a few days, it makes sense to take a lot of small trips back and forth to break things up. But every trip uses gas, one of the main causes of climate change. So carefully pack each load to ensure you use every nook and cranny of your vehicle or skip the small trips altogether and rent a large moving truck to get the job done all at once. And if you’re hiring movers, do research to see if there are environmentally friendly companies with electric or hybrid vehicles in your area.
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