Moving homes is a challenging process, and it can feel even more challenging if you’re trying to do to it while reducing your impact on the planet.
Between going to college, moving down to work at Disney, going home, moving after my job, and then changing apartments once I got to know my city and where I wanted to live, I’ve moved ELEVEN times in the past 6 years. I won’t bore you with a recipe-style introduction about my childhood, though, let’s get to the details on how you can move sustainably!
Disclaimer: my tips aren’t perfect. All of my moves have created some waste, but hopefully the lessons I’ve learned along the way will help you get on track with how to make your home move eco-friendly.
Tip #1: Pack in what you already own
When I looked at ways to reduce my waste while moving homes, the biggest was to pack in what I owned. As you know if you follow me on Instagram, @LowWasteLottie, I used to travel for work. Because of that, I have a lot of suitcases. In my most recent move to my new apartment, I packed all of my books in a suitcase to reduce unnecessary packaging. My partner packed all of his clothes into suitcases, too, so we didn’t need to use boxes since we already had empty vessels.
Similarly, I had a bunch of plastic totes. All the “junk drawers” fit great into those. Reusing what you have to pack is a surefire way to not reduce waste.
If you don’t happen to own totes or suitcases, ask around! You’d be surprised by the number of them that many of us just have sitting around.
Tip #2: Reuse moving boxes more than once
I’ve been fortunate to live in apartments that come with a storage unit. If you have an extra closet, a garage, a basement, a storage unit, a… well, you get the point, keep your moving boxes and use them more than once.
I’m on my third move with the same set of boxes, and I’ve lent them to two friends along the way, too! As long as they’re kept in a dry place and you don’t rip them to shreds when you unpack them at each new place. As I’ve said, the golden rule is that the most sustainable item you have is the one you already own.
A great way to get your hands on some pre-loved moving boxes is to join a neighborhood Buy Nothing Group. I was fortunate that when I moved to Madison the company I worked for had a new employees Facebook group so you could find roommates. Someone posted in there that they had moving boxes, and I swung by to pick them up! Luckily he wasn’t a serial killer, but I’d suggest bringing a friend any time you go and get something from a stranger. Anywho, you get the point, find moving boxes in your area from people that don’t want them anymore, and make those homies feel useful.
Tip #3: If you have to buy new, buy sustainable
If you can’t join a Buy Nothing group, if you don’t have a friend to bring to a stranger-with-packaging’s home, or if you can’t get your hands on any borrowed or pre-loved packaging, it’s very likely you need to buy new moving materials to pack.
Fortunately, many places offer more environmentally friendly options when it comes to their moving offerings. I got a few boxes from Home Depot, who are actually very transparent about their environmental efforts.
By shopping carefully as a consumer, I was able to buy boxes that were made from 100% recycled paper. Even though they were “new” they were made from sustainably sourced and recycled materials!
There are some things, like tape, that you may need to buy new, and can’t really find an eco-friendly alternative for that’s sturdy enough. If that’s the case, don’t be hard on yourself. Remember that your efforts in sustainability are always good enough if you’re trying your best!
Tip #4: Pack for moving so your things won’t break
“Duh, Lottie” Well, you’d think. As I’ve said, the eco-friendliest product you can have is the one you already own. If you pack so that a bunch of things break, you’ll have to buy them all again, and that’s no fun. Here are a few ways you can pack things so that they won’t break without all of the single use materials:
- Wrap mugs and plates in paper, shirts, towels, and blankets so that they don’t break.
- If you’re using a truck, throw blankets and towels over the corners of your items so they don’t bump around too much and chip the paint or wood.
- If you’re moving things yourself, try to place plastic or paper items in between any ceramic or glass items so they’re less likely to bounce around.
I also have an Instagram post about how to move your houseplants. Happy to answer any questions about that in my DMs, too. My 48 plant babies and I traveled well together!
Tip #5: Declutter before you move
Although this is written as my last tip, it’s probably my most important one. Every time you move something you don’t need, you created more packaging waste, and more carbon emissions from transporting it.
If you want some tips on sustainably clearing out the clothes you no longer need, I have a post for that, and I also have some advice on slowly minimizing the number of products in your bathroom in my sustainable bathroom blog. Check them out and let me know what you think!
Take a long look at everything you’re planning to pack. Ask yourself what you really need, and see if it needs to make that journey with you. I’m not a minimalist by any means. I have plenty of “just in case” items around my home. Nonetheless, I try to declutter my home at least twice a year to ensure I’m not keeping anything that someone else could use if I were to donate or sell it.
I hope these tips helped! Let me know how you’ve moved homes sustainably and what advice you’d give to others trying to do the same.