Do you really want your next big move to also leave a big carbon footprint?
Around 52% of America’s municipal solid waste ends up in landfills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) most recent statistics.
“What usually ends up happening when you move is that many unwanted items end up dumped into the landfill as you simply end up running out of time to either sell or dispose of the unwanted items in an environmentally-conscious manner,” says Matt Woodley, founder of moving resource website MoverFocus.
The good news is, with planning and a commitment to sustainability, which the EPA defines as “focusing on the life cycle of a product, from the time it is produced, used, reused and ultimately recycled or discarded,” you can dramatically reduce waste from a move.
Here are 15 things you can do for a sustainable move.
1. Throw a Garage Sale
Not only will you lighten your moving load and extend the life of unwanted stuff, you’ll also raise cash to go toward moving expenses, pizza for friends who help you move or a moving day celebratory dinner.
2. Sell Stuff Online
“Instead of throwing things out, I listed them for sale on apps and internally through my company,” says Alex Tran, a lifestyle blogger committed to sustainable moving practices when she moved from downtown Seattle, WA, to that city’s Queen Anne neighborhood.
3. Repurpose Items to Friends
Just because you’re tired of your old coffee table is no reason to shove it off a landfill ledge to its death. Not when you have friends and neighbors eager to add to their second-hand eclectic furnishings or repurpose a piece of furniture for a new use.
4. Give Items Away Online
Instead of throwing away items she couldn’t sell, Tran listed them as free on a Facebook Buy Nothing group where members can give away products or post in-search-of (ISO) requests. “This prevents people from buying new and throwing away things they no longer need,” says Tran. Craigslist also has a “free” section where you can post items.
5. Utilize Reusable Containers
Not only is assembling and breaking down cardboard boxes a huge time suck, if you don’t recycle, that’s a lot of cardboard going in the trash after moving to your new home. Use a moving supply company such as Rent-A-Green Box, which delivers rentable and reusable green recycled crates. After you pack and move, the company picks up the crates.
6. Use Recycled Paper Labels
Stick recycled and recyclable paper moving labels on plastic moving crates for easy contents identification.
7. Rent Moving Supplies
8. Use Eco-Friendly Packing Materials
As an alternative to packing peanuts or bubble wrap, try using a product such as Geami Greenwrap, which is made from 100% recycled content and is biodegradable and compostable. Of course, the most eco-friendly wrapping — blankets, towels and linens from your own home —is free, works just as well and doesn’t get tossed after the move.
9. Use Only Recyclable Bubble Cushioning
If you must use bubble wrap, make sure it’s recyclable. After you move, post it as free on Craigslist or another online marketplace to pass the bubble wrap along to someone else who needs it. Ask the recipient to recycle or pay forward the wrap to another needy mover.
10. Choose Eco-Friendly Packing Paper
To pack fragile items, use recyclable packing paper that’s made from recycled paper.
11. Use Green Cleaning Products
Rather than using chemical-laden cleaners for the final deep clean of your old place, sanitize with eco-friendly cleaners such as vinegar, baking soda and lemon instead. You’ll find plenty of recipes for natural cleaners online. If you’d rather buy a product, look for cleaners and soaps made from natural ingredients and recyclable packaging.
12. Clean with Reusable Cleaning Cloths
It’s easy to plow through rolls of paper towels when you’re cleaning an entire house or apartment. But just think of how much paper you could save if you used old washcloths, hand towels or the reusable cleaning cloths available at hardware and paint stores.
13. Use Recyclable or Reusable Mattress Bags
14. Move by Bike
The group Shift in Portland, OR, encourages people to reach out to volunteers on its Move by Bike Facebook group or Shift Listserv. Volunteer movers arrive on bikes on moving day with coffee and snacks before the ride and finish with beer and a meal after you move out.
15. Don’t Throw Away Food
To prevent food waste, Woodley recommends donating unopened and nonperishable goods to an organization such as Move for Hunger, which will collect unwanted food items and donate them to a local food pantry.