5 Tips for a Greener Move: Save Money and Lower Your Environmental Footprint

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You don't have to sacrifice your environmentally friendly values just because you're moving. Photo: © auremar - Fotolia.com

You don’t have to sacrifice your environmentally friendly values just because you’re moving. Photo: © auremar – Fotolia.com

From Styrofoam packing peanuts to gasoline-guzzling moving trucks, maintaining your well-honed green lifestyle on moving day can seem impossible. Yet, keeping your move sustainable and inexpensive doesn’t have to be such a challenge. With a little strategic planning ahead of time, these five tips can make moving affordable and eco-friendly.

1. Pare Down

The less your mover has to transport, the fewer resources required, and the greener and cheaper your move will be. It’s really that simple. Take a good look at all of those “must-have” items stuffed in closets, under beds and into crawlspaces. Clear out any unnecessary belongings before you pack. (Here’s a hint: If you’ve forgotten they’re there, you probably don’t need them).

Arrange a garage sale individually or with neighbors and recycle or donate the leftovers. Another good strategy is to list all of the items in a Google Drive spreadsheet and invite nearby friends and acquaintances to claim items. Or, simply post your items to Craigslist, eBay or Facebook Marketplace. These options create cash and limit the total number of items you’ll have to move. The less there is to move, the less it costs.

2. Collect Boxes

Start collecting boxes as soon as you schedule your move. Did your office make a supply order recently? Did an online package arrive? Tuck these boxes away for later, and avoid the cost of buying brand-new boxes. If you’ll need more boxes, head to the local grocery or department store to ask if they have any extras lying around. Stores often give packing boxes away for free.

If friends have recently moved, ask to borrow or keep their boxes. Or, post a request on Freecycle. Recycled boxes are also only a quick Google search away, as are moving box exchanges, and many moving companies have used boxes available for rent.

3. Avoid Bubble Wrap

Of course, it’s important to keep that favorite lamp from shattering, but plastic bubble wrap is just not worth the environmental cost; it’s not accepted for recycling in many locations. It may take a little bit more labor and care, but wrapping with newspaper should keep most of your fragile items safe, especially if you pad the boxes with pillows, sheets, or clothing. Even stuffed animals can make great shock absorbers. Just be careful that the newsprint doesn’t rub off and stain your fabric goods.

Packing and padding with household goods works best when you’re planning to move your items in a car or other personal vehicle. Items in a moving van don’t get the benefit of the same shock absorbers you do; they’ll need more packing care. Be sure to consult with your moving company to get their packing advice.

4. Find a Green Moving Company

With gas prices so high, many moving companies combine several households in a single truck, which has the added benefit of concentrating a move’s carbon footprint into one big haul. Be sure to research green moving companies online to confirm their claims, as “green” is just as often a marketing ploy as it is a real sign of sustainability. Truly green companies will use biodiesel, provide reusable plastic packing bins, and potentially even offer carbon dioxide offset credit payment plans.

If you don’t mind doing the move yourself, you can potentially save a lot 0f money. Opt for the smallest truck possible and try to stick to the fewest number of back-and-forth trips.

5. Clean with Environmentally Friendly Products

To clean your apartment for the last time or make that new home spic and span, stick to environmentally friendly cleaning products. Even general grocery stores tend to carry green products. Go a step further by cleaning just about everything with that vinegar in your cupboard. Remember to use washable rags rather than throwaway paper towels whenever possible.

From die-hard greenies to the casual environmentalist, there are plenty of ways to make the next move green. Keep in mind that green moving is only half the equation. Make sure your new home is environmentally friendly, too. Start by browsing online property search tools for eco-friendly homes in the area, to live the green lifestyle before, during, and after your move.

Tali Wee

Guest Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

About the Author

Tali Wee currently lives in Seattle, where she handles the Miami community outreach for Zillow. She is captivated by, and appreciates, everything real-estate related. Tali is also a new homeowner and enjoys spending time on projects around the house.

All photos via Shutterstock

Green Living Tip – Don’t Store It, Sell It

I’ve learned a lot from 30+ years of being a waste stream management consultant.

We all have stuff, most of us have clutter. Whether it is in our home or at work, things slowly appear around us, filling the open spaces. It’s a mysterious wind that blows chaos into our lives, like snow drifting in around our feet. It leaves us wondering, Where did all this crap come from?

Is your desk an archaeological adventure?

Is your desk an archaeological adventure?

At work, we create a thing I call “cold clutter.” Our clean, organized, work surfaces, like our desks or workbenches, become covered by the day’s business. Then, because time is short, we create another archaeological layer of the next day’s work on top of the previous one. And so on, and so on. It’s like this paper creature multiplies by itself, asexually. At some point, we open our eyes and realize we have lost control of our desks. Like a scene from cheap monster movie, “It’s alive!”

We do the same thing at home. But here, we keep the “warm clutter,” the things we’re emotionally attached to. If we tend to be insecure, we keep everything. We love stuff. In return, it accepts us, unconditionally. It doesn’t talk back. It’s non-confrontational. It’s dependable, always there when we need it. Our clutter becomes an extension of ourselves.

We Help You Clean Up Your Act

As an energy and waste stream consultant, I enter homes, businesses, and factories that are stifled almost to a halt by stuff.  I see the investment that has been made to buy it, and the lack of investment in controlling it. Storerooms and closets are so full, no one knows what’s in there. No one can find it. No one can get to it.

So, we invest in buying more. We over-buy. We waste more energy. We waste more space. We waste more resources. The equipment in our storerooms has to be heated and cooled. We move a hundred things to get one thing out. We buy containers to put stuff in. We move stuff from one container or shelf to another, handling each piece over and over again. Every time something is moved, it risks getting damaged. We inventory it. We keep it on the books, filling computer space and ledger entries. We hire more people to manage the tonnage, or the data, or we rent more space to store more stuff. We spend money to waste money.

Even kids have too much stuff.

Even kids have too much stuff. Time for an intervention!

So, what do you do when you have to walk sideways down corridors of stuff packed to the ceiling in your home or business? (If you haven’t seen it, trust me; it happens.) That’s when families and CEOs call me. By the time I get involved, things are usually out of control. It’s time for an intervention. When you wait this long, it costs a lot more than if you had just controlled everything from the start. By this time, most of what you have stored is no longer an asset, it’s a liability. Adding up all the costs through the life of a single stored item, you easily may have spent ten times your original investment.

A common practice of old school management was to just “dump it all,” and start over. Managers who practice this autocratic “flushing the toilet” mentality should be flushed as well. Nothing should be thrown away. Dumping does not correct the problem, it makes the problem worse. Every item I pull out of storage needs to be evaluated to see if it is recyclable, reusable, or resalable. Every electronic item needs to have its memory erased, and every item needs to be evaluated for toxicity. “Dumping” places your company at a huge liability risk.

Avoid the Landfill Like the Plague

The key term here is “Landfill Avoidance.” Someday, it will be the responsibility of every manufacturer to take back everything it produces once the buyer is done with it. This will force designers to create simple, cost effective ways to separate materials for recycling. If a manufacturer is forced to handle everything they build from “cradle to cradle,” less oil will be needed, less ore will be mined. And we’ll be that much closer to achieving sustainability.

Until then, it is our responsibility. We buyers have to make sure items get to licensed de-manufacturers, that everything gets reused, and nothing, or very little, goes to the landfill. It’s not just because the landfills are filing up; it’s not just because using raw materials produces much more carbon dioxide; it is simply because our planet is running out of resources.

At home, it’s the responsibility of every shopper to evaluate the full life of what you buy. How am I going to recycle this when I am done with it? How many years will I be able to use this? Should I buy cheap or spend more and have it last longer? Or better yet, can I do without this item all together? Essentially, stop buying so much crap. One good thing about this new failing economy is that it is making us all live more simply. You can stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. The Jones are unemployed too. The old adage, “Shop till you drop” is reserved for executives at AIG.

Imagine what it takes in energy and materials to produce something. I apologize that I cannot find the reference source of something I recently read. It stated that it takes 2,000 times the volume, in weight and mass, in resources, to make a single car. And that over the life of that car, it will take 4,000 times its volume in weight and mass to operate it. Remember, everything you buy exponentially takes away from the earth.

This is most true of businesses. The purchasing agent for your business should begin requesting “End Cycle” terms in the purchase contracts for everything you buy. More and more producers are going in that direction. Dell, Apple and IBM will all be offering return programs for their computers next year. When I approach a business, I suggest that the Inventory Specialist keep a running tally of the resale values of every item their company is depreciating on its books. This can be done in a few seconds by going to eBay.

Don't forget to calculate the cost of retrieving the stuff from storage. Photo: Joe Hennager

Don't forget to calculate the cost of retrieving the stuff from storage. Photo: Joe Hennager

Most accounting formulas do not take into account that electronic, medical and research equipment is outdated almost the day you buy it. If your business is, say a hospital, and you are required to use only the most up-to-date medical and research equipment, you need to have a full-time staff person checking the daily resale values of that equipment. Three of my rules are: “Buy Quality,” “Sell before it costs,” and “Never store electronic equipment.”

The only products that an average business office should store are toilet paper and typing paper (and maybe some janitorial equipment). Space is too expensive to waste on anything else. “People space” is more valuable than storage space. And data should not be stored on paper, it should be stored digitally.

This also means businesses should look seriously at what they are storing. Today, “Out of Sight, Out of mind,” means “Money Out of Pocket.” I inevitably run into managers who say, “Don’t sell that, I might need it.” I ask them how many dollars could be made from that same square footage if it were put into production.

A few years ago, the rule of thumb in storage was, “If you haven’t used it for a year, get rid of it.” Today, if you wait a year before you sell it, it may not have any value at all and may even cost you to get rid of it. I’ve recently consulted with manufacturers who were still storing equipment from the 1980s. Because they didn’t sell valuable equipment while it still had value, and because they kept equipment “they might need someday,” some of that equipment became too costly to get rid of. They stored their businesses almost into bankruptcy.

Evaluate Your Options

If you haven't used it in more than a year, get rid of it. Photo: Joe Hennager

Warehousing unused equipment is a waste of money. Photo: Joe Hennager

With the economy the way it is, no home, business, or factory can afford to waste a thing, especially space. At your home, sell or recycle what you have not used or worn for a year. Yes, you have to pull everything out of your closets and separate the things you know you can live without. But nothing gets dumped. Take good clothing to resellers. Have a yard sale. What you can’t sell, give away on Freecycle or  the charity of your choice. If nobody wants it, put it on the curb with a $100.00 sign on it; odds are, it will disappear. If you haven’t waited too long, the ratio of what’s resaleable-to-reusable-to-trash should be 50-45-5%.

At your business, evaluate the resale value of electronic equipment every six months. Evaluate desks and furniture every year, and manufacturing equipment every two years. Go to e-Bay and see how much those things are selling for. Check out LabX for scientific equipment. If the cash gained from selling your stored inventory will help you buy something you actually need, you’ve gained twofold.

If you’re storing enough to fill a room, check the cost per square foot for the space you are using against the cost of a storage facility. If you really need to keep that stuff, a storage facility is likely to be less expensive than the prime business space the stuff occupies now. But don’t forget to add the cost of moving and retrieval. In general, storage facilities are a money drain. It’s almost always more cost effective to sell what you are storing. Capitalize your unused equipment; don’t store it.

During hard times, people tend to hoard. It’s a security thing. But, this is also the time when people are looking for bargains. New stuff isn’t selling. Used stuff is. This is the time to stay very aware of what you have, what you need to keep, and what you can liquidate. Every dollar counts. Live lighter. Clean out your your closets and your storerooms. Shop conservatively, and sell wisely.

Joe Hennager

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)