Zero waste moving. Not something we typically consider until we’re faced with packing up our entire lives.
Moving has the potential to create a huge amount of waste if you leave the slightest thing to chance. Unfortunately, this means planning.
Thankfully, I’ve got you covered in the form of all the things my husband and I did right – and could have done better in our zero waste moving experience from Indianapolis to Lafayette. I broke it down step-by-step to make the whole process a little less intimidating!
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1. Get your new space ready
If you have the chance to get into your new space before you move everything, embrace a day of deep cleaning! For our house we had about a month of overlap between buying the house and moving out of our apartment which was great since the house had sat empty for a while and was pretty filthy.
Start by opening all the windows to let fresh air in. Then, get ready to clean.
A few brands I recommend: GreenerCleanDesigns, Dropps, or Fillaree! More traditional companies like Grove Collective also offer more eco-friendly products that might come in plastic packaging.
Want to DIY your cleaning products? I’ve got a full post of zero waste cleaning recipes.
Next I tossed baking soda on the one room with carpeting, let it sit for a few hours, and then vacuumed it up. (We did end up bringing in a natural cleaning crew to deep wash the carpet as we couldn’t get it clean enough on our own.)
Finally I cut up some of my rag stash into inch square pieces. I balled them up, dabbed on 5-10 drops of my favorite essential oils and put 1-2 in each room/closet. This is especially helpful if your space has been closed up/unlived in for a while since it helps cut that musty smell really quickly.
2. Optional pre-move
Because we had so much time between our purchase date and actual move-in date, part of our zero waste moving strategy was to start bringing things early as we spent time fixing up the house. We tried to be pretty strategic about it – not bringing too much to a dirty, in-process house, but enough to make life comfortable.
Make a list of items that are most important to you (or will make your life easier if you end up spending the night before the big move-in day).
Our list included:
- our inflatable air mattress and our spare pair of sheets and blankets so we could stay overnight while working on the house.
- a bare pantry of basically all the components to make good tea and coffee (priorities).
- these adorable stainless steel cups sent by SeaTurtle. They’re super lightweight, wash up easily, and don’t even dent if you drop them on tile (not that I’d know or anything…). I was really happy to have this set as they’re low maintenance during a time when we really didn’t have the time or the resources to do any heavy cleaning.
3. Gather your moving materials
Once I made peace with the idea I didn’t need tons of cardboard boxes and packaging materials, I was able to get pretty creative with how we packed our stuff. Repurpose any typical storage items (like baskets, wardrobes, and trunks) instead of getting boxes. Use towels, linens, and clothing in lieu of traditional plastic packaging materials, wrapping them around fragile items.
If you do end up needing more storage, there are some easy options to source cardboard boxes that don’t involve the (economically and environmentally) wasteful practice of buying new:
- check out moving companies like U-Haul or Budget. These companies have give and take boxes inside their locations where people can drop off still-good items from their move. It’s a crapshoot as to what you might find, but it’s worth a look when you’re picking up your moving vehicle.
- Do you work in an office or somewhere that gets food deliveries? Ask the office manager when delivery days are and grab some cardboard boxes to use. Most places simply toss them in the dumpster anyway, so you’re doing them a favor!
- Ask stores for leftovers. I’ve had great luck asking the produce stockers in grocery stores for extra cardboard boxes. Liquor stores are also a good bet. Most of the time they just head to the back and grab as many as you might need.
4. Moving day!
One of the ways you’re absolutely going to create an environmental impact is on the actual moving day. Unless you’re moving within a city and have a bike moving company (yes! that’s a thing!) available in your city, you’re going to have to use a truck.
Because we were moving between towns and our tiny car can hold about two people and two boxes max, we ended up renting a truck.
Not ideal, but our king-sized mattress was not going to fit on top our our Chevy Spark, no matter how hard we tried! We ended up with a 10-foot truck that fit all of our belongings pretty comfortably.
In terms of rental companies, I’d recommend U-Haul if you’re in the States. Not only do they generally tend to be the cheapest option, they also have a super handy gauge on the side of the dash that shows you whether you’re in the green ‘good gas mileage’ range or the red ‘not at all fuel efficient’ range. That was really helpful to keeping fuel costs low, particularly on the highway.
Want to go a step further? Calculate your carbon emissions for the trip and purchase a carbon offset! Make your zero waste moving day carbon neutral!
Once we were at the house, our zero waste moving day was pretty much done: move everything in, store any cardboard for future use (or composting!), and start to enjoy the house.
Zero waste moving. Easy. As. Pie.