My family and I recently moved. We strive to maintain a zero waste household and we mostly do (divert 90% from landfills, incinerators and the environment that is.) We do this through a combination of using as few disposables as possible, making some food and beauty products from scratch, buying almost everything second hand, and consuming less. We tried our best to apply these principles to our move and learned a few things along the way.
Moving Crates vs Moving Boxes
Reusable Moving crates are a far more sustainable option because they prevent a huge amount of cardboard from being wasted, but are currently available for local or regional moves only. Companies like Rentacrate.com and Bungobox.com have great reviews and even claim to save you money when using their reusables boxes instead of their cardboard relatives. Across the country there are many moving companies now offering reusable moving crates so check your local listings and reviews.
For cross country moves boxes must still be used. Check your local Craigslist for used moving boxes, there are also a few companies that buy and sell used boxes mainly from manufacturers, such as usedcardboardboxes.com. Another less sustainable option (because of the energy and water it takes to recycle) is 100% recycled content boxes. One NYC manufacturer of 100% recycled content boxes is Pratt. You can buy and ship them anywhere in the country, they are made from NYC’s residential cardboard waste stream.
On the back end after your move is done rather than throwing away or even recycling your boxes, stash them away for your next move if you have space, or post the boxes on your local Craigslist available for others to pick up.
If you are using reusable crates, no tape necessary! What a beautiful thing. If you are using boxes, see if your mover will let you tape some boxes with thick paper packaging tape. Depending on your local recycling program it’s more likely that the paper tape is recyclable or compostable versus plastic tape which is almost never recyclable in municipal programs. However, there is a specialty recycle option for plastic tape, which I used for most of my plastic tape, that is a Terracycle plastic waste bin.
Terracycle accepts soft plastics and breaks it down to its original polymer and then finds buyers looking for these specific plastic polymers such as companies making plastic lumber and furniture.
Instead of buying new moving paper, pull out all the extra gift tissue paper you have (or save newspapers for a few months in advance of your move) and use it to protect your breakables in the crates or boxes. If you don’t have extra tissue paper lying around look on Craigslist for people giving away used packing paper or search on the internet for packing paper with recycled content. Once you are done with it, post it on Craigslist or stash it away to give it a second life. Most recycling programs do not accept tissue and packing paper for recycle as the fibers are too short to be made into new paper, but it can be torn up and composted in most organics programs.
Inevitably in every move some items get broken. Rather than throw them away, buy some good strong specialty glue and see if you can fix them and give them a second life. One of my china plates from my wedding was broken in our move, I purchased some china glue and thankfully was able to repair it.
De-cluttering & Donating
Moving is a great opportunity to de-clutter and purge what you no longer need. The responsible thing to do is to do a little extra due diligence in order to sell or donate your gently used items, and recycle whatever you cannot sell or donate. Many high end luxury consignment websites exist such as The Real Real who will gladly buy your valuable threads, but middle market options also exist such as ThredUP which I use regularly. Donation options vary widely depending on where you live and what you are donating. Many charities will take second hand items in good or excellent condition so do some research. For example, old computers could be donated to a school, toys and baby gear can be donated to a charity helping homeless families, and the list goes on and on.
The benefits of having a less wasteful move extend way beyond helping improve human and animal sustainability, there are more tangible benefits such as de-cluttering, more piece of mind and less guilt, and in some cases, saving money.