Moving Is Tough
But It Doesn’t Have To Be Tough On The Planet

When my husband and I recently had to move, our unexpected and rushed move had me thinking a lot about what I would’ve done differently had we had more time to prepare.

We went about packing logically and efficiently, but the thing about efficiency is that it’s not always sustainable. We refused to use any bubble wrap or plastic, and used newspaper or fabric to wrap fragile items. Regardless of how we moved, though, I hated seeing how much we threw away. My heart strings were tugged each time we brought another trash bag to the bin. I couldn’t stop thinking about how often people move, and how much waste this must cause.

Moving is never easy, especially if it’s done hastily and without time to plan, which is the key to moving sustainably. Ideally, there’s plenty of time beforehand to plan every step of the process, allowing for a slower and more thoughtful approach. 

Below are some ideas for making your move easier—and more sustainable.

1. Wrap fragile decor in soft fabrics instead of newspaper. 

Not only is this method zero-waste, it’s also a creative way to pack soft fabric items like towels, blankets, and linens. Make piles for all of your fragile items that need extra support in the boxes such as plates, glassware, and art. Then, lay out what soft materials you have that can be used for wrapping. 

If you find that you will still need newspaper for smaller items opt for re-using old newspaper or recycled paper.

2. Rent reusable moving boxes.

Boxes are one of the most important elements of moving, but boxes are also one of the least sustainable and create a lot of waste afterwards. Finding boxes to pack all of your belongings can be a tedious and time consuming task.

Luckily, there are wonderful companies that offer box rental options as a sustainable alternative. Like this company based in Portland and Chicago that rents crate-like bins for your move; or this similar company based in San Francisco. Both offer pick-up and drop-up off services so that once you’re finished with the boxes you don’t have to worry about getting the boxes back to them. 

Look up what resources are available in your town or city for box rental and plan ahead. Deciding to opt out of single-use boxes for a move is an amazing way to make your move more sustainable. 

3. Use biodegradable packing material.

If you’ve used up all of your towels, bedding, and clothing for packing, find an eco-friendly and biodegradable alternative to bubble wrap or newspaper. This Greenwrap is made to work just like bubble wrap, but it’s biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable. Make sure to do your research and stock up on any eco-friendly packing supplies you may need well before moving day.

4. Host a garage sale—then donate the rest.

Inevitably, there will be a lot that you want to get rid of once you start packing. Ideally, you’re able to go through all of your things before you start packing to decide what you’re going to keep and what you’re going to get rid of. Being able to clear the space before you start moving helps to clear clutter and allows for a more seamless packing experience.

If you find that you have a lot of personal items that you would rather sell, have a garage sale a few weekends before the move. If you decide to donate, do your research to find the best places to send donations to that will benefit people in your community directly.

5. Be mindful about recycling.

The accumulation of trash and recycling is unavoidable when moving. Chances are, between cleaning and going through closets, boxes, cupboards etc, there’s going to be a lot that you want to just throw away. Of course, you don’t want to be responsible for pounds of trash going into the landfill just from moving to a new house or apartment.

Make a plan in advance for dropping off everything you are getting rid of. For instance, if you have a ton of old electronics or cords, find out where your local electronic recycling center is. If you are throwing out a ton of old documents and paper, find a paper shredder and the best recycling center for paper. Make piles of what needs to be thrown away/recycled and plan for doing a lot of errands and drop-offs. Here’s a guide to recycling home goods and electronics, and here’s a closer look at how recycling centers work.

6. Rent a U-Haul for less driving emissions.

The company U-Haul understands the stress that comes with moving—and also the environmental impact. They are dedicated to sustainable and environmental practices within their business model. 

That said, moving can require a lot of driving. By renting a U-Haul you can reduce how much driving back and forth you are doing to help reduce your environmental footprint. U-Haul also offers customers the opportunity to drop off their used moving boxes for other customers to use for free, and have Ready-To-Go boxes for rental as well. 

7. Consciously throw away unwanted food.

A lot of food gets thrown away when moving. Some does need to be thrown away (like the stale Christmas cookies from the year before shoved in the back of the cupboard.) But there are other things like sauces and canned food that you might want to consider donating to local shelters. Find unopened goods that you don’t want to bring to your next home, and do your research about the best place to donate instead of throwing them away.

Not only does sustainable moving require planning, but also patience and creativity. Enjoy a more thoughtful mindset when moving—the planet will thank you later.

If you have any tips or tricks for moving sustainably add in the comm ents below!


Courtney Jay Higgins is the Associate Editor at The Good Trade. She is also a Yoga Instructor, vegetarian, wellness and fashion enthusiast. Originally from Colorado, her soul found California when she came to get her degree in Visual Communications at the Fashion Institute Of Design & Merchandising. She has a background in telling a story through writing, creative direction and content creation. Check out her blog and Instagram for her unique perspective on the mergence of fashion and spirituality.