About 10% of Americans move each year. But this year, 20% of Americans have moved or know someone who has. COVID-19 has led people to move back in with family, find a new place with more space, or look for cheaper housing. Some are even moving because staying in a major city isn’t quite as appealing when you’re confined to your apartment or home.
Whether it’s the mountains of moving boxes, driving or flying long distances, or dealing with the extra stuff in your home, moving creates a lot of waste. Here are the best ways to reduce your waste and move in a more eco-friendly way.
1. Start By Downsizing Before You Move
Moving is often the sign of a fresh start. It can be tempting to just shove everything in boxes so you can hit the road. However, doing this means you will spend lots of time organizing your stuff once you arrive and throwing away things that don’t work in your home anymore.
Downsizing before you move, though, has a lot of benefits, as does living more minimally. You have the chance to consider what still works for you, and what would be better off in the hands of a friend or neighbor. You can recycle or throw away unusable items. You can donate gently-used stuff to a local charity.
Paring down your stuff also means a lighter, more organized move. You will use less gas, less energy, and cut down on your carbon footprint by only moving what’s necessary.
It might take some extra time and effort, but you will be happy when moving into your new home with only what you really love and need.
2. Find Cardboard Boxes to Reuse
The average move requires 60+ boxes, depending on the size of your current space and the amount of stuff you need to move. That’s why finding a sustainable way to reuse and recycle standard cardboard boxes is so important.
Traditional cardboard moving boxes are designed to be used for up to four moves. They are easy to reuse but a pain to store, so try to find a neighbor who has some that they would like to pass along. Craigslist and Nextdoor are two places to start your search.
Laura found free moving boxes on Craigslist for her recent move to Seattle and now plans to pass them along to another mover. Most people will give the boxes away for free, so this is also a way to save a bit of money on your move. Buying a pallet of cardboard boxes from Home Depot or U-Haul can easily cost $200 or more, depending on your home’s size.
3. Recycle Boxes After Your Move
Cardboard boxes can be recycled up to seven times, according to the Fiber Box Association. Don’t worry if your boxes are beyond reuse—just be sure to recycle them properly in your new city.
4. Rent Reusable Boxes or Crates
Plastic crates can be reused upwards of 400 times, making them an eco-friendly option for local moves.
Usually made of sturdy plastic, reusable crates are a great option if you move to a new address in the same town or just a few towns over. Most companies drop off the boxes at your current home and then pick them back up once you’ve moved into your new place. Others require you to pick up and return the boxes to a specific location.
5. Use Eco-Friendly Packing Materials
If possible, use newsprint, kraft paper, or blankets to pad your items. Plastic bubble wrap is not recyclable and does not biodegrade. You can also avoid renting moving blankets by using sheets, duvets, towels, or other household linens to pack your boxes.
6. Buy Paper Over Plastic Tape
In addition to avoiding plastic bubble wrap, try to avoid plastic tape, too. Paper tape—including the glue—is usually biodegradable, so it’s a more planet-friendly choice.
Whatever tape you use, don’t worry too much about taking it off the boxes if you recycle them. Cardboard gets soaked in water during the recycling process. This helps any tape lift off and float to the top of the slurry, where it can be removed by machinery or pulled out by workers. As long as the box isn’t completely covered, tape won’t be an issue.
7. Check Your Car Before You Go
In our episode about sustainable summer fun, we gave some tips on how to prep your car for a road trip. This applies to moving, too—even if you are moving just an hour or two away. Get your tires filled up for the best possible fuel economy. With all of that stuff weighing down your vehicle, it’s crucial to maximize your miles per gallon.
8. Use a Sustainable Moving Vehicle
Most national moving companies have sustainability initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint. U-Haul has retrofitted its fleet with speed gauges that indicate at what speed you will get the best fuel economy. Penske limits the maximum speed on their trucks for the same reason.
Check with your moving company to make sure you are renting the most fuel-efficient vehicle for your move. And be sure to research green moving companies if your move is local, as some companies offer biodiesel trucks and sustainable packing materials.
9. Research Local Spots for Rest Stops
Being on the road for several hours or days means lots of stops for the bathroom or a bite to eat. Map out your route in advance so you can find local businesses to support along the way.
10. Be A Good Neighbor in Your New Location
Lastly, be sure to be a good citizen for your new community. You can do this by:
- Researching local politics
- Registering to vote when you update your driver’s license
- Learning about recycling and trash options in your area
- Finding a zero waste shop or bulk store to shop at near you
- Ordering from or eating at locally-owned restaurants
- Get involved in a local cause that matters to you
Remember that moving is a fresh start! It’s the perfect time to get involved, make connections, and support your new community.