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Taking Steps Toward a Zero Waste Move

October 25th, 2017 - 1:15 PM

Eco-friendly moving

When it comes to being environmentally friendly, moving is not a perfect industry. Packing materials can be wasteful, and getting belongings to a new home can take a lot of fuel and create emissions. However, it’s possible to make a few modifications to the process to limit the impact your move has on the environment. To help us provide the best advice, we reached out to Kathryn from Going Zero Waste to get her input on how to make a move more eco-friendly. 

zero waste moving

Start with the basics​

Before we can get to the tips, we first need to understand the goal we’re trying to achieve. Kathryn summed up the goal of being zero waste as, “Drastically reducing how many resources we consume by sending nothing to a landfill, lessening our dependence on recycling, and focusing on refusing, reducing and reusing. The ultimate goal is to move to a circular economy where everything is resumed back into the system fully and there will be no trash at all.”

Because a zero-waste lifestyle may not be possible in all areas or for everyone, there are other ways to help the planet. A reduced waste lifestyle is where you simply make as many changes as possible to create less waste. This can include choosing to skip plastic bags at the grocery store, recycling more and buying products with less packaging. An environmentally conscious lifestyle is where you’re aware of common pollutants or energy drains and take steps to avoid them. For example, using biodegradable products or a programmable thermostat would fall under this category.

Whether you actively strive for less waste or just want to be sure you’re doing more good than harm, the following tips will help make moving a little greener. 

Environmentally friendly packing options

Traditional moving advice is to use plenty of packing material (like packing paper, foam wrap and more) to protect belongings. However, we understand that following a reduced-waste or zero-waste lifestyle means seeking out ways to limit the number items you use and ensure you can reuse, recycle or compost any supplies. To help accomplish this, we recommend reading our packing tips to learn the best practices for keeping items protected. After understanding these industry standards, you can substitute different methods to achieve similar results.

Here are some ideas for less waste packing:

Recycling and reusing boxes

You can pack in different containers from around your home (more on that in our tips below), but some items simply need the protection of a box. Boxes must be in good condition to keep their structure and fully protect the items inside, which is why we typically don’t recommend using found boxes. However, if you do want to move with used boxes, make sure they are still structurally sound and won’t crush under the weight of other boxes stacked on top. Pass on any boxes that seem like they’ve been used a few too many times and won’t hold up during the move. Also make sure boxes are clean and free of any bugs or dirt.

Recycling or reusing boxes is the best eco-friendly option. If you do want to buy new boxes for the best protection, you can donate them to someone else who is moving, reuse them (we have ideas for Halloween costumesorganizational projects and other unexpected uses for boxes) or recycle and/or compost them.

Zero waste moving blankets​

Packing options like packing peanuts or plastic cushioning are not great for the environment since they can’t be composted or easily recycled. A better option is to wrap furniture in alternative packing materials. You could get new moving blankets and then donate or reuse them, or use blankets from the thrift store. Be careful using blankets you use inside the home, as they could get damaged while moving (blankets can be snagged or torn, taking the brunt of damage away from your furniture). After the move, consider donating the blankets or using them for pet bedding.

Reduce and reuse packing paper​

Packing paper keeps items secure in boxes and prevents shifting during transit. It’s also recyclable! However, if you don’t want to purchase a lot of packing paper, you can use newspaper you have at home or get from a friend (and then recycle or compost it). Just be aware that the print can transfer, so don’t wrap anything that could be damaged. Another option is to use a layer of packing paper to initially cover the item and then use newsprint for filler. You can also reduce the need for fillers and packing materials by packing items in things like socks and towels, and using the smallest box possible so you don’t need extra fillers. Recycle or compost packing paper after moving.

Recyclable packing tape

Traditional packing tape is plastic and is not recyclable. While you can recycle boxes that have tape on them (the tape is removed during the recycling process), the tape itself becomes waste. We do recommend using something to keep boxes closed and packing materials in place on furniture, so the best option would be paper packing tape, which is recyclable. Many options have water-activated adhesive, so you wet the back of the tape to use it. 

Choosing an eco-friendly moving company

Any type of transportation has an environmental impact. The best choice you can make for a move is finding an option that makes the smallest carbon footprint and creates the lowest level of effect on the environment.

A great option is U-Pack®. U-Pack is a “you pack, we drive” company where belongings are placed on commercial equipment (either a moving trailer or in a moving container that then goes on a moving trailer) with commercial freight that’s going the same direction. Since you aren’t driving a large vehicle (like a rental truck) just for your belongings, there will be less environmental impact — more items moving with the same emissions and fuel mean less effect per item.

And you can rest easy knowing that ABF Freight®, our primary transportation provider, practices sustainable logistics initiatives. ABF has been an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) SmartWay partner since 2006 and has won awards for environmental performance and energy efficiency. Trucks have been upgraded for efficiency, and their optimized routes increase productivity and decrease fuel consumption. While you can’t completely have a zero-impact move, moving with U-Pack is the best choice for greener transportation.

Green moving tips

Start planning early. It may take a little longer to source packing materials rather than buying them new. So start planning and preparing early so you have plenty of time to gather boxes and other supplies.

  • Locate a place to donate items afterwards. Find an organization or thrift store in your new hometown that will take boxes and blankets after moving.
  • Declutter unwanted items. Zero waste expert Kathryn says, “Moving is a great time to declutter. There’s nothing like dragging every item you’ve purchased from every nook and cranny to make you question all of your life choices. When decluttering, make sure to make a donate pile. Take note of items not in a donate-able condition, and try to avoid bringing those items into your house again.”
  • Donate items you can’t move. There are a few things (like flammables, perishable food and paint) that are on the Do Not Ship list. While some organizations, like Goodwill, won’t accept paint, organizations that restore housing (like Habitat for Humanity) or scout troops that do projects may take these items. Food pantries would accept food, or a neighbor might use food items.
  • Pack in containers you have. Make sure drawers, suitcases and other containers are utilized when packing. We recommend placing soft items like linens or towels in these since these containers could shift in transit, but use all the free space so you don’t have to use as many boxes.
  • Lighten your load. Donate or sell any unwanted items — moving fewer things means less packing materials, and you can save money on the move since U-Pack charges are based on the space you use (and moving less would require less space).
  • Make as few trips as possible. As you prepare to move, you may need to visit your new hometown to find housing and do job interviews. Try to plan things to occur at the same time, so minimal trips are required. Talk to your realtor to see if there are virtual tour options, and ask your employer if you can complete a video interview so you don’t have to make any extra trips until the move.

Do you have other ideas for zero waste moving?

What other measures are you taking for an environmentally-friendly move? We would love to hear your plans in the comments below. If you have any questions about moving with U-Pack or green moving, please leave us a comment.