You have a lot of things to keep in mind when moving. You also have to make multiple decisions. Who will you choose for your moving company? Would it be better to DIY? How many days will you realistically need to reach your destination and get settled? What should you do with your pets while in transit?
With all your myriad concerns, you might not consider your carbon footprint. However, everything humans do impacts the planet. Your decisions determine whether your relocation treads softly on the Earth or creates an environmental catastrophe.
What are some easy ways to go greener while relocating, without causing yourself undue headaches? Here are seven simple steps to stay sustainable while moving.
1. Protect Your Valuables Without Peanuts
If you head to your nearest truck rental location to stock up on moving supplies, you’ll find endless cardboard boxes in every shape and size and packing peanuts galore. However, these may not represent your best—or most sustainable—choices while moving. Those polystyrene foam buffers have nowhere to go when you reach your destination. Many places won’t recycle them because of contamination and density.
Fortunately, you can find solutions that do double-duty when protecting your valuables and keeping the planet cleaner. For example, using sealed, reusable plastic bins instead of cardboard prevents rats from making nests or insects from crawling all over your china. They also resist crushing, even if your movers don’t take your carefully printed “fragile” label seriously.
You can save space and waste by using household items as packing materials. For example, why not wrap your plates in towels? You need to take both, and the soft cloth prevents your china from being chipped or scratched more effectively than newspaper or peanuts. Instead of wrapping your furniture in plastic to avoid damage, use your bedsheets and pillowcases. You’ll take up less room in the truck and use no nonrenewable resources to buffer your valuables.
Moving also means a lot of cleaning. However, many commercial products contain toxic chemicals that contaminate the air or harm your skin and airways. According to research published by the National Institutes for Health, up to 75% of such products contain irritating, caustic or corrosive substances.
Fortunately, it’s a snap to whip up natural cleaners using inexpensive ingredients you can pick up anywhere. You’ll save money and feel better about your toddler placing their cookie on the countertop you just wiped. Try some of these recipes from The Pioneer Woman’s Cory Fernandez when sprucing up your old abode or doing a move-in cleaning on your new place.
- Glass cleaner: Blend ½ cup white vinegar with ½ cup rubbing alcohol and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
- All-purpose cleaner: Mix one part white vinegar with one part water and a lemon or other citrus rind.
- Bathroom cleaner: Combine equal parts vinegar, rubbing alcohol and water with ½ cup of castile soap and a few drops of essential oil.
- Degreaser: Add a tablespoon of castile soap and a teaspoon of baking soda to a spray bottle. Top it with water.
- Carpet cleaner: Stir ½ cup white vinegar, ½ cup hydrogen peroxide and 1 teaspoon clear dishwashing liquid. Add to your carpet steamer.
Strapping tape. Sharpies. You never notice all the things you need until it’s 10 p.m. and you find yourself pulling on your coat for yet another store run. All those needless errands waste time and create countless carbon emissions.
Instead, take an organized approach. Download a moving checklist and make a shopping list before heading to the store.
Moving also entails multiple appointments—you might have to visit your doctor for records, switch your driver’s license if going out of state or make arrangements with utility companies. Plot a course to hit most of your spots in one trip, reducing your time on the road and the concurrent emissions.
It would be nice to have unlimited time to move, but most people can’t afford this luxury. Following an organized plan will reduce your carbon footprint and keep more of your hair on your head where it belongs—no more sacrifices to the frustration gods.
The more weight you have to transport, the bigger the truck you need. If you have four or five bedrooms worth of furniture, you could produce considerable emissions getting your items from point A to point B.
However, you have choices—namely, alternative fuel vehicles. Are you planning to DIY your move? If so, U-Haul recently released a fleet of propane autogas moving trucks in LA county. This fuel isn’t the same stuff you use to barbecue. However, it has extensive infrastructure, with around 2,500 refueling stations in various states.
If you aren’t fortunate enough to live in the pilot program area, you can still save on emissions by selecting the smallest possible truck for your needs. You’ll also minimize costs with this method. Are you using a full-service company for your move? Ensure they do an in-person walkthrough of your home instead of randomly assigning you a vehicle based on your number of bedrooms. You might need less space if you have minimal furniture.
How can you reduce the weight on your moving truck even further? Now is the time to embrace minimalism if you haven’t done so already. You don’t need to purge every item, but take a few tips from Marie Kondo. Get mindful, keeping only those items that spark joy and letting go of the rest with gratitude—you’re lucky enough to have more than you need.
For example, is your garage or basement full of random furniture that you picked up at yard sales with good intentions of refinishing? Give someone else a chance if you haven’t gotten to those projects yet. Habitat for Humanity and Goodwill both accept donations of large items, and your extra furniture could bring joy to someone in need.
Give your closet a thorough cleaning and donate unworn items to a thrift store. Are you still holding onto your old wedding dress? Think of the smile it could bring to some other bride’s face and leave it behind with well-wishes for the next wearer.
In years past, people survived moving by using paper plates and plastic silverware for dining once the china was packed away. However, doing so creates tons of unnecessary waste. While more sustainable bamboo alternatives exist, your best bet is to rinse and reuse.
Why not invest in a reusable picnic set? You could also keep one plate, fork and spoon free for each family member. A pretty basket holds everything together and gives you a handy tool for taking your family on a park outing once you reach your destination.
Your decision-making process doesn’t end once you’ve packed the moving truck. You still have many choices to make while in transit, so go for the greenest options.
For example, consider the packaging restaurants use when ordering takeout. Recycling a pizza box is simple enough, but many facilities don’t accept styrofoam or plastic containers. Say no to the plastic bag and obligatory silverware when ordering.
If you must stop overnight while in transit, choose a hotel with sustainable features. Look for onsite recycling, large soap and shampoo dispensers instead of tiny plastic bottles and rooms with sensors that automatically turn off the lights and TV when you leave.
Moving entails a lot of mental strength and energy. With all you have to remember, you might forget about the environmental impact of your activity.
Fortunately, you can make your relocation greener. Follow the simple steps above to stay sustainable while moving.