Moving house the green way

During my misspent youth, I moved dozens of times. It wasn’t so bad then as I often had little more than a couple of bags. When I became a “responsible adult”, suddenly I started to accumulate stuff at a frightening rate and each move became more expensive and time consuming.

There’s not only the time and financial cost, but also an environmental price in moving house. At any given time, millions are on the move; sometimes just across the street or across the country and world. Millions of movers means millions of miles, and then there’s all the peripheral items involved such as packing materials – often used once, then thrown away.

Here’s some ideas on how to make your next move a little greener. I’d like to thank Ricardo Gonzalez from UShip for contributing some of the following tips. uShip is an online shipping marketplace that connects customers with transportation service providers to make shipping more affordable and efficient. UShip have a special section for moving house where you can pick up more general tips on moving and have removalists compete for your business.

Move less junk

A new home means a fresh start – why drag all that old junk with you! The less you need to move, the less you may have to pay a removal company or less fuel you’ll need to pay. Donate what you don’t want to charity or make a few bucks by advertising your items on CraigsList or perhaps hold a garage sale

Dispose of hazardous waste – responsibly

I have a bunch of toxic chemicals I’m still carting around – some multiple years old – old paint, pesiticides, oil etc. If you can, use the move as a golden opportunity to shed these items by dropping them off at a hazardous waste depot. They’ll ensure that the chemicals are either recycled or disposed of properly.

Packing peanuts

Traditional packing peanuts are not recyclable, but can be reused many times. You might also be able to score packing peanuts on  freecycle, or at your recycling station. Consider buying biodegradable starch-based biodegradable packing peanuts. These  will dissolve in water with practically no long-term negative environmental impact.

Alternative packing materials

Instead of going out and buying items such as bubble wrap or packing peanuts, save your cash and be a little kinder on the environment by using materials you already have on hand. For example, you could use clothing and towels to help protect your more fragile items. This can also help lessen the amount of boxes you need to shift, saving even further money and transport associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Packing boxes

Instead of buying cardboard boxes, you can ask at stores who will often give away cardboard boxes. Fraternity and Sororities who have in-house food plans will often have an excess of cardboard boxes from their food deliveries. Another option is to buy used cardboard boxes.

Rent plastic containers

An alternative to cardboard boxes is renting plastic containers for your move. Often made of recycled plastic, you can have these delivered to your home, pack up, move, and have them picked up at your destination. At the end of their usable lifespan, they can be recycled again.

Environmentally friendly moving companies

You can find quite a few environmentally friendly moving companies these days by searching around online using terms like:

house removals environment
moving house environment

 Some run hybrid trucks; some run their vehicles on post-consumer waste based biodiesel; others purchase carbon-credits to offset the environmental impact of their trucks. If these are unavailable for your move, you can purchase your own carbon credits to help offset the environmental impact of your move.

“Green” waste disposal companies

What you can’t sell or is just plain old junk will still need to be gotten rid of. You can spend a ton of time you probably don’t have separating non-recyclable items from ones that are recyclable or reusable. What people often to is to just hire a dumpster and in it all goes, then to landfill. Some dumpster/waste removal companies offer a waste sorting service – they’ll sort out the true trash from the treasure. It may cost a few bucks more, but that could likely be offset by the lesser amount of junk you may be tempted to take with you.
Use the move as a green audit

As you’ll be packing up your entire life – from cleaning fluids to clothes to electronics, you’ll be able to take stock of what you have and don’t and what you are using lots of. For example, do you really need to ever buy disposable pens again? You likely have a ton of these kicking around in drawers that you’ll be able to corral for future use.

The same goes for other items. I don’t know how often I’ve gone and bought stuff such as tools or other hardware only to find I had the item already. By doing this audit you’ll not only lighten your consumption related environmental impact, but save a bit more cash too!

Another aspect of the audit can be to look at the types of products you are using. For example, the sorts of cleaners or soap you consume. You could make a checklist to search for greener versions of these products in future as you’re packing.

The final cleanup

While on the topic of cleaners, you’ll likely be cleaning the house after it’s packed up – and here’s a good opportunity to be a little greener in your cleaning.

After the move

Once our second last move was complete, I remember saying to the removalist – “thanks for your help, I guess we won’t be seeing you again”. He just laughed and said “everyone always says that – then within a couple of years we see them again.” He was right :).

As you’re unpacking everything, consider keeping all the boxes and packing materials. You can flatten the boxes so they don’t take up so much space. If you’re sure you won’t be needing them again, take them to a recycler or perhaps offer them on a service such as FreeCycle – someone else could likely make good use of them; same goes for other materials such as bubble wrap.

Cardboard boxes are also great fodder for a worm farm and they can be easily composted.

Do you have ideas to help green the process of moving house? Please add them below!