April 1st kicks off the start of moving season — from then until September, 80% of people who move in the U.S. will find their new home, with the majority of people making the move in May. Moving can be an exciting, albeit stressful month or few weeks in a person’s life and most of us approach it as something that just needs to get done as easily and quickly as possible. However, taking the time to be more conscious of how you move can have a great impact — between the diesel fuel used for moving trucks, endless packing supplies, and countless new items that have to be purchased, moving can actually come at a cost to the planet.
If you’re looking to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, or are already committed to one, this doesn’t mean you have to stay put. We put together our top list of sustainable swaps for your next move that are easy to achieve and can reduce the waste typically created with moving.
Instead of: Throwing out items that you won’t be bringing to your new place
Try: Donating them to charity or offering them up on community groups
Over the past year, community based marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, Depop, and Nextdoor have thrived, as people looked to redecorate their homes while in quarantine. These apps are a great option for getting rid of furniture, antiques, and art, but you might have less luck making money off dishware you no longer need, used books, or other miscellaneous items.
Instead of trashing them, offer them to your community. Search for a “Buy Nothing” group in your neighborhood on Facebook, or list them as free on Nextdoor. For items like books, food, and dry goods, research to see if your neighborhood is home to “Little Free Libraries” or a community fridge you could place items in instead. Even items that are past being usable, like dishcloths or stained clothing, can be donated to textile recycling plants.
Instead of: Buying new boxes, and plastic or foam packing materials
Try: Renting boxes, and using old t-shirts, clothes, and towels
Another use for those old clothes: use them to wrap your more fragile items, like dishware, vases, or candles. Not only will you save money on packing materials, you’ll also save space and time by packing both at once. If you need to use store bought packing materials, look for eco-friendly options like bubble wrap made from recycled materials, or reuse packing materials that you receive in the month before your move.
There’s also no need to buy new boxes that you’ll end up throwing out once your move is done. Plenty of moving companies offer high-quality boxes that you can rent and return. And friendly reminder: you don’t have to put all of your stuff in boxes. Reuse the dozens of tote bags you have in your closet, your suitcases, duffel bags, and even backpacks. Bonus: these items make it much easier to transport items on your move, which can be a major muscle-saver if you’re not hiring professionals.
Instead of: Using paper plates and utensils your first few days in a new place
Try: Packing a “go-bag” with the essentials
Unless you manage to unpack in hours, your first night in your new apartment won’t lend itself to the ideal set-up for making a welcome home meal. Takeout is always an option, but you can make your first few days more sustainable by avoiding plastic + paper dishware, and instead making sure you have everything you need on-hand. Create a to-go bag with all of your essentials. This could include a set of cutlery, a plate, a bowl, and a cup for you to eat with. When you arrive at your new place, put these items in the cupboard first so they’re easily accessible.
Instead of: Buying new furniture
Try: Upgrading your existing furniture with paint, contact paper, or slipcovers
It can be tempting to completely redesign your space when you move into a new apartment or house, especially if you have a different layout or your tastes have changed since you last moved. However, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw out over 12 million tons of furniture each year, and it’s only increasing as mass-produced furniture becomes more widely available.
Instead of getting rid of your furniture, first explore options to upgrade it with simple fixes like paint, contact paper, or slipcovers. Contact paper can make an old side table look one-of-a-kind and trendy, and most IKEA furniture like couches and chairs have removable slipcovers that can be replaced for custom options for way less than a new piece of furniture. There’s also always the option to buy second hand. Not only will you save money, but you’re more likely to find unique items.
If you’re moving to a new city and don’t have any furniture, you can also explore fully-furnished options like coliving. Common’s coliving suites are all-inclusive, and provide everything from utensils to pots + pans, dish soap and toilet paper. You can be fully moved in with only a suitcase, and avoid the time, money, and impact on the environment that comes with moving.