For many people, moving will be a necessary part of their lives, and a frequent activity for others. It is often necessary to improve quality of life, however, it does come with its downsides. In addition to the excessive amount of work and stress that moves cause, they require a relatively large carbon footprint compared to more typical daily activities. Eco-conscious individuals may be uncomfortable with this reality, but luckily there are many ways that you can reduce your footprint as you move. 

Many of these options also have the added benefit of streamlining the efficiency and cost of moving. While some aspects of pursuing an eco-friendly move will depend on the specifics of the move and your specific situation, there are some standard steps that you can take that are typically helpful.

The Carbon Footprint of Moving

It is difficult to quantify the carbon footprint of moving to a new home because there are so many unique factors that go into each move, such as distance, resources, and the unique needs of your family. Generally speaking, however, the environmental impact of a move is more significant than average daily activities for several reasons.

Largest Contributing Factors

The contributing factors to environmental damage during the moving process include:

    • Transportation: During a move you will need to transport people and goods, creating harmful emissions. If a move requires multiple trips, for instance, then you may end up with a higher carbon footprint than if you made arrangements to consolidate and make a single trip. A single trip, possibly with a larger vehicle with a higher capacity, may ultimately reduce your total carbon output when moving. Even a relatively short move, such as one from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, can be significantly more efficient if you choose and contact moving services early in the process. 
    • Excess waste: During a move, you will need to buy and use a variety of materials, such as boxes, packing materials, and household items. Many of these items will have limited use, come in non-reusable packaging, or will prompt the need for disposal. 
  • Cleaning: As you clean your old and new home, you may use harmful chemicals that could leak into the surrounding environment. Extensive updates and repairs to your old home may generate excess waste if not conducted deliberately and with attention to sustainability as well.

For many of these problems, there is no single solution. Rather, there are a variety of ways that you can eliminate or reduce harm to the environment.

Eco-Friendly and Biodegradable Packing Materials

When you are moving you will need some basic packing supplies to transport your belongings. However, you don’t need to automatically settle for single-use and wasteful supplies to ensure your items stay safe during your move. Instead, there are plenty of eco-friendly and biodegradable options for packing materials, including: 

  • Biodegradable materials: materials made of wood pulp, corn, mushrooms, hemp, cotton, etc.;
  • Recyclable materials: materials such as simple paper, plastic, cardboard, glassware, etc.;
  • Alternative wrapping materials: newspapers, towels, blankets, t-shirts, and curtains, etc.

It can also be helpful to use highly-reusable resources such as corrugated cardboard.

Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse

However, there may be circumstances when single-use packing items may be necessary. In these instances, it’s best to follow the 3 R’s: reduce, recycle, and reuse. Ways that you can follow reduce, recycle, and reuse principles to reduce your environmental impact related to moving include:

  • Pack materials in your existing containers and items: You can reduce waste by using items you already own like tote boxes and blankets to wrap and contain materials. This is because you are likely to keep these items rather than throw them away, and you are disincentivizing the production of new materials. 
  • Rent reusable containers: By renting and returning containers so that they can be reused by a company or other people, you reduce waste. 
  • Find used containers: By finding used containers you can lengthen the length of the items and disincentivize the production of new materials. 
  • Research recycling programs in your community: Many communities offer recycling programs that can reuse items you would otherwise discard. You may also be able to find mail-in recycling services.

There are also other ways that you can lengthen the life of additional, unwanted items following a move. 

Donating and Selling

Steps that you can follow to use donation and selling to reduce your carbon footprint related to moving include:

  • Separate unwanted items;
  • Prioritize your need for various items;
  • Find donation programs and opportunities in your community;
  • Find potential commercial and private buyers.

You can further prevent damage to the environment by selling in bulk to reduce emissions related to transportation.

Eco-Friendly Cleaning and Landscaping Substances

Whether you’re cleaning up your old home or making your new one more welcoming, you should be conscious of commercial and DIY options for cleaning and landscaping that do little to no damage to the environment, including:

The biggest rule of thumb you should use when using products is to always research the brands behind these cleaning and landscaping products. If you find they participate in activities that inevitably counteract their positive environmental impact, find a brand that deserves your support instead. 

Eco-Friendly Transportation and Travel Options

Options for eco-friendly transportation and travel include:

  • Avoid unnecessary trips back and forth: By ensuring that you are transporting your family members and belongings as efficiently as possible, you can reduce your travel time, and by extension, your emissions.
  • Choose and schedule services wisely: Services such as delivery drivers and assembly personnel are often necessary. To use them as efficiently as possible, you should choose services, schedule service times, and plan out your locations carefully. For example, if you are traveling from New York to Los Angeles, you should call moving services well in advance to coordinate the move and ask about ways that you can maximize the efficiency of the process. Additionally, it would be wise to do this so that you can compare company quotes and get the most affordable rates.
  • Use efficient vehicles: Choosing vehicles that have good gas mileage or use alternatives to fossil fuels can reduce emissions. 
  • Use alternative transportation methods: Alternative transportation methods such as trains can reduce the need for additional vehicles to be in use, thus reducing emissions

It’s also easier to make your move more eco-friendly when you plan and prepare beforehand. The more you find ways to minimize your environmental impact beforehand, the easier it will be to follow through. 

Further Eco-Friendly Moving Tips

Additional ways that you can make your move more eco-friendly include:

  • Make a checklist: By staying organized while you pack, travel, and unpack, you can reduce mistakes that result in the need for extra trips, delivery options, or materials.
  • Leave out a few dishes: By leaving out a few dishes during the move, you can reduce the need for disposable dishware and takeout. 
  • Declutter mindfully: During a move, you will often need to clean and declutter your old home. It’s best to do so mindfully. Instead of mindlessly throwing out objects, think about ways you can potentially find a new use for the item or donate it. 
  • Donate extra food: Donate any food that may otherwise go bad during the move or that is too inconvenient to transport to reduce food waste.
  • Be responsible with pets: Pets can cause damage to the environment through direct damage, predation, and waste. It’s important to maintain ways of picking up waste and to keep a close eye on your pets during travel.
  • Be aware of local resources: Local resources such as recycling services can be highly beneficial to eco-conscious individuals. 
  • Communicate with your community: By communicating with your community about things like needed resources you may be able to plan better and more efficiently deal with various occurrences. 

It is also very important to research resources, best practices, and laws related to eco-friendly options. 

Resources

Additional resources that can help you move in an eco-friendly way include:

  • BoxCycle: This resource can help you find and sell used boxes.
  • Freecycle: This platform allows you to donate and reuse items within a community.
  • UsedCardboardBoxes: This organization sells used cardboard boxes of every size.
  • Recycle Finder: This search tool helps you find a recycling facility in your area. 
  • Earth911: This search tool helps you find recycling services in your area. 
  • EcoCycle: This is a list of eco-friendly recipes for cleaning substances.
  • US EPA: This resource published by the federal government offers guidance for recycling and donating electronic devices. 
  • Feeding America: This search tool allows you to find a local food bank.

Organizations

Organizations that can support eco-friendly moving efforts include:

  • US Environmental Protection Agency: This is a federal government resource that offers a wide variety of information and resources related to eco-friendly efforts.
  • National Recycling Coalition: This organization offers a platform through which individuals, organizations, and government entities can collaborate to improve the national recycling system. 
  • UN Environment Programme: This is an international resource that offers a wide variety of information and resources related to eco-friendly efforts.
  • Sustainable Travel International: This organization offers information and resources to individuals and companies about how to travel in a more eco-friendly manner. 
  • The Eco Hub: This website catalogs eco-friendly brands for a wide variety of household and personal items.