If your resolution for 2013 was to curb your carbon footprint, you might find it a challenge when there’s an impending move: the dozens of cardboard boxes, rolls of packing tape, the white ocean of Styrofoam packing peanuts, reams of plastic bubble wrap. Then there’s the moving truck that’ll haul thousands of pounds of your household goods to the other side of the city, or—cringe—across the state or country.
However, if you’re moving, there’s a way to fulfill your resolution, celebrate April as Earth Month and take part in a popular trend: green moving. It’s household moving with a conscious effort to choose the most environmentally-friendly packing materials, share and reuse supplies, and reduce carbon emissions during transport.
Read our tips for making your move green, as well as interesting statistics about how moving affects the environment. Also, find out what you need to do to make your household energy-efficient and start things off right in your new digs.
Get Smart about Supplies
The average move uses 60 cardboard boxes—that’s the equivalent of a half-ton tree. If you consider that an American moves 11 times in his or her lifetime, that’s 660 boxes, or 5 1/2 tons of wood, per person. Reusing a friend’s cardboard boxes is a good first step. Depending on quality, a cardboard box can withstand three to 10 uses, at which point it will likely need to be recycled.
But there are some more eco-friendly alternatives to cardboard boxes, as well as other traditional packing materials.
Recycled plastic bins. Ask your mover if they offer reusable bins made out of recycled plastic. Plastic bins can be used up to 400 times. They are typically stacked and wheeled into your place on a dolly, left there for you to fill, packed by the mover, and then left at your new place for a week or two for unpacking. The provider then collects the bins, and there’s no worry on your part about collapsing, recycling or donating cardboard boxes. If your mover doesn’t offer bins, there are plenty who do: RentAGreenBox.com, EZBins, EcoBox.com and Zippgo are just some examples. Prices range from $2.50 to $5 per 4-cubic-foot box, per week. (U-Haul charges $3 for a 4.5-cubic-foot box).
Biodegradable replacements. There are green alternatives to plastic bubble wrap, packing peanuts and foam wrap. Often, the alternatives are literally green in color, to alert you to the difference. As effective as their polystyrene forebears, green packing peanuts are made from bioplastics, a form of plastic derived from renewable sources like vegetable oils or corn starch. A 12-cubic-foot bag of green peanuts costs $19 at Uline. Geami wrap, a die-cut recycled paper split by a machine to form protective packaging, is another alternative to bubble wrap.
Getting creative with what you have. Perhaps the most resourceful way to securely pack your fragile belongings is to wrap them with towels, bedding and clothing you already have lying around the house. It’s a two-fer because you need to pack these items anyway. Check out this visual tutorial on how one woman used her scarf collection to pack breakable picture frames.
Know Your Shipping and Fuel Options
Whether you’re moving locally or long-distance will greatly affect the amount of gas your moving truck uses and the carbon dioxide it emits. How much stuff you have, the size of truck you use, and the way you drive will also make a difference—a small truck gets about 9 mpg while a large truck gets roughly 5 mpg. According to carbon dioxide calculations from the Environmental Protection Agency, and based on average truck sizes from national carriers, a short-distance move under 10 miles using a small truck will emit 22 pounds of CO2; the same move with a large truck will emit 40 pounds. Conversely, a cross-country move of 3,000 miles in a small truck will emit roughly 6,500 pounds of CO2, while the same move in a large truck will emit almost twice that at 11,760 pounds.
Whether you’re staying in the neighborhood or accepting a job offer on the other side of the country, you can look for greener options.
Biodiesel fuel. Some moving companies have converted their trucks to run on biodiesel fuel. Ask each mover who gives you an estimate—you should get an estimate from at least three different companies—if they’ve made the upgrade.
Declutter and donate. Lighten the load. The less stuff you have to ship, the smaller truck you can use and the less waste you’ll pump into the atmosphere.
Start New Habits in Your New Home
Once you’re in your new home, get into a habit of saving energy, creating less waste and recycling. Here’s a checklist for getting started.
Replace incandescent light bulbs around the house with CFLs (compact fluorescent lights), or, better yet, LEDs (light-emitting diodes). CFLs require less energy than incandescents, but LEDs blow the CFLs away in terms of efficiency, and, unlike CFLs, they don’t contain mercury.
Stop air leaks under doorways, window panes and out of the roof. Get a professional to inspect these areas and give you recommendations for how to fix them.
Unplug appliances, electronics and phone chargers when not in use. Buy power strips to make unplugging several electronics at once a one-switch process.
Everyone knows to recycle. Need a new hobby? Start composting your organic refuse.
Upgrade to ENERGY STAR appliances, which have met energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA
Generate renewable energy by installing solar panels on your roof. Solar panels may require a large investment up front, but eventually they offer clean, renewable energy sans the electricity bills.
Cheers to Mother Nature!
Carolyn McKibbin leads the MyMove.com editorial team. Her raison d’être is to make moving easier by providing insightful and time-saving advice in articles, videos and blog posts. She loves to share moving stories and photos on our Facebook and Twitter pages.