When your house is a mess of scattered moving boxes, the environment is probably the last thing on your mind.
But it’s simpler than you might think to make moving into a new home or storing your belongings a little easier on the planet. As an added bonus, many of these tips and tricks can also help you save a little bit of green—as in, the kind you find in your wallet.
We chatted with a handful of sustainability experts to learn some of their environmentally friendly moving and storage methods. Here are nine ways to make the process more eco-friendly.
1. Hire a professional
When you hire a professional moving or storage company, you’re working with people who are experts at loading trucks.
Why does that matter? The more efficiently you can load and pack your belongings, the fewer trips you’ll need to move them into your new home or into storage.
The team at Closetbox will pick up your belongings, deliver them safely to a private vault and then return them when you’re ready. No truck rentals, no wrong turns, no multiple trips.
2. Reuse boxes
Instead of buying new moving boxes, why not score some for free in your neighborhood? Grab some from neighbors or local businesses—you’ll be saving money and recycling cardboard at the same time.
“Rather than contribute more waste, take material out of the waste stream,” suggests Shel Horowitz, an environmental and social change business consultant. “Approach liquor stores and bookstores for clean, sturdy boxes small enough to carry easily when loaded. They break them up every day, but if you call ahead, they’re usually happy to save you some.”
Better yet, consider renting reusable storage containers made from recycled plastics from HiveBoxx. They’ll deliver their water-resistant boxes right to your door, then pick them up once you’re all moved and unpacked. After you’re done with them, the boxes will be cleaned and made available to dozens of other eco-friendly families on the move.
You can feel good about renting storage containers from HiveBoxx for another reason: a portion of their profits go toward supporting local bee farmers and nonprofit organizations working to save honeybees, which have been dying in record numbers since 2006.
“Everybody moves, so why not make every move count towards something that affects us all: helping protect our environment,” said Wesley Rankin, HiveBoxx’s founder and CEO. “We see every HiveBoxx move completed as one more honey bee saved. Over time, we see our company’s products and services having a profound effect on a resurgence of honey bees everywhere through the awareness we generate and the funding we’re able to make to causes working to solve this issue.”
3. Pack sustainably
And while we’re on the subject of sustainable packing materials, consider the packing peanuts you’re using for boxes that contain breakables.
Luckily, today’s packing peanuts are color-coded to let you know how environmentally friendly they are.
“Green packing peanuts are just as effective as the white ones, but they are made from renewable sources so they are biodegradable,” says Alan Ilyaich of Eco Choice Windows & Doors.
4. Get creative
Before you start packing, take a look around your house. There are hidden packing helpers everywhere.
Skip the packing peanuts or bubble wrap altogether and use towels and blankets to protect your fragile belongings.
Got a few laundry baskets and suitcases at home? Use those to move or store items instead of boxes.
5. Shop your pantry
A few weeks before you move your belongings into storage and move out of your place, challenge yourself to “shop” your pantry.
Instead of making your weekly grocery run, create meals using the food you already have. Use an ingredient-based meal planning website to help you come up with recipes.
This trick will help you reduce food waste. As a side bonus, you’ll also save a little money while you’re at it.
6. Clean green
When you move out of your home or put some belongings into storage to transform your extra bedroom into a nursery, you’ll want to do a deep clean.
Skip the toxic cleaning chemicals and make your own green cleaning supplies, suggests Joanna Douglas, founder of Clean Affinity in Portland, Oregon. All you’ll need is a little vinegar, baking soda and water.
Diluted white vinegar can help you clean your kitchen, your bathroom and even your hardwood floors. Baking soda can help you tackle caked-on grime and dirt, such as in the shower or around the kitchen sink.
7. Wash with cold water
Before you put your clothes, bedding and other linens into storage, you’ll want to wash them. Using cold water and air-drying your laundry can help you cut down on energy usage.
Though it may not seem like much, when you’re washing your entire wardrobe, every earth-friendly tweak you can make adds up.
8. Green your new place
If you’re moving into a new home, take a day to focus on making sustainable updates around the house.
Install energy-efficient LED light bulbs throughout the house and take stock of outdated appliances that might be heavy energy users.
Check doorways and windows for air leaks, then fix them with caulking or weatherstripping, advises the U.S. Department of Energy.
Buy power strips so that you can unplug multiple electronics with one switch.
In the yard, consider planting trees and shrubs that doesn’t require as much water as grass.
9. Dispose with care
When you’re sorting through items in your garage, you’re likely to stumble across open cans of paint, varnish and other chemicals. Beyond that, you may want to toss a few medications before packing up your medicine cabinet.
Before you do anything, spend a little time researching how to properly dispose of these items in your neighborhood—the environment will thank you.
Many communities, for example, partner with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to host prescription drug take-back events, and some community recycling facilities often offer household hazardous waste disposal.