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6 Steps to a More Eco-Friendly Move

Moving doesn’t have to involve a ton of trash, single-use supplies, or harsh emissions. Take these six steps to ensure a more sustainable moving experience. 

Step 1: Acquire Used Boxes

Packing your house requires lots of boxes, but you don’t have to buy them all brand-new. A more eco-friendly approach is to use boxes that you and your friends, coworkers, and family members have saved from previous moves or packages.

Create a post requesting boxes on social media platforms, such as your neighborhood’s Facebook group. You can also join The Freecycle Network and the Buy Nothing 

Project—organizations through which individuals can give and receive free items—to see if anyone has boxes to donate. Local businesses, such as liquor stores and supermarkets, may also have boxes customers can take for free.

Start hunting for boxes as soon as possible. It may take several weeks to collect enough suitable options.

Step 2: Declutter and Downsize

Before you pack, decide what you no longer need. “Start downsizing so you don’t spend time or money to move things you don’t need,” says Jessian Choy (a.k.a. Ms. Green), advice columnist for Sierra magazine. Less stuff means fewer packing supplies and potentially a smaller moving truck. Plus, when you donate or sell unwanted items, others can purchase or receive them secondhand, which is more sustainable than buying them new.

Start by considering whether each item is worth packing, moving, and unpacking. You may want to get rid of clothes that don’t fit, barely used kitchen utensils, and mismatched furniture. Once you’ve decided which items you won’t keep, divide them by condition. For example, you could create categories such as “brand-new” and “well-worn.”

You can then list valuable items on resale websites such as eBay or Poshmark, host a garage sale, or donate the items to charitable organizations. If there are any items you can’t donate or sell, try to recycle them.

If you’re discarding a large number of items or parting with bulky furniture, you may consider hiring a junk removal service. However, ensure the company employs sustainable practices. “When researching junk removal companies, ask about what they do with everything,” says Eleanor Greene, editor-in-chief of Green American. Some companies might haul everything away to a landfill, while others donate what they can to local nonprofits.

Step 3: Limit Single-Use Packing Materials

If you must buy packing supplies, choose eco-friendly items, such as recyclable cardboard boxes, biodegradable packing peanuts, and reusable materials.

“Reusable bins are the biggest moving hack,” says Matt Graber, co-owner of Cool Hand Movers, a New York City-based moving company. “Boxes are only as sturdy as they’re built. They’re also susceptible to moisture and generate waste,” he says. While cardboard boxes are easily damaged and not designed for long-term use, plastic bins are durable and reusable for years.

Also, try packing creatively to reduce your consumption of single-use supplies. Use towels, T-shirts, and newspapers instead of styrofoam peanuts, and wrap your delicate items in clothing. For soft, non-fragile items, opt for backpacks, suitcases, and gym bags instead of moving boxes.

Step 4: Choose Sustainable Transportation

Because the transition from gas-powered to electric vehicles (EVs) is slow, finding a moving company that only uses electric vans or trucks is unrealistic. However, you can opt for a company that prioritizes sustainable practices. For example, ask if the company powers its trucks with biodiesel, which is less toxic than regular diesel.

If you only have a few items or are moving locally, you may be able to rent an electric van yourself and hire moving labor separately. Penske, for example, rents out electric high-roof cargo vans, and Ryder is also adding more electric vehicles to its rental fleets. If you can’t find an EV but still wish to rent a vehicle, ensure you pack the moving van efficiently. This will reduce the number of trips you must take and, therefore, the amount of gas you use.

Step 5: Reduce Waste When Unpacking

When it’s time to unpack, examine your moving supplies and see if you can reuse any disposable packing materials. Consider keeping boxes and padding for the next time you have to ship something; you can also place boxes underneath mulch in your garden to prevent weeds.

If you still have moving boxes you don’t need, donate them to someone who does. You can use the same social media platforms and websites you used to get your boxes in the first place.

Step 6: Purchase Environmentally Friendly Appliances

If you need to buy appliances for your new home, find ones that are certified as energy efficient. Appliances with ENERGY STAR certification meet strict criteria set by the EPA or the U.S. Department of Energy. These appliances won’t just save you money on your monthly power bill but will also help the environment by using significantly less energy than traditional appliances and reducing harmful emissions.

Moving is expensive, so luckily, there are ways to save on eco-friendly appliances. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, you can receive a rebate of up to $14,000 when you upgrade your household to electric appliances, including electric induction stoves, clothes dryers, 

heat-pump water heaters, and more. Note that this rebate is only available to households that earn less than 150% of their area’s median income. Households that earn between 80% and 150% can claim rebates for as much as 50% of the cost of home electrification projects; those that earn below 80% can claim rebates for the full cost of qualified electrification projects.Source: Architectural Digest

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