Moving with Minimal Impact


Like many people who rent and lease their space, I’ve moved a lot. During my most recent move, it was painfully obvious that a byproduct of relocating is a ton of waste! Between the boxes (oh, the boxes!), packing supplies, and the meals upon meals of take-out… moving can be incredibly wasteful. With some innovative thinking and preparation, however, moving with minimal impact was easier than I expected.

So. Many. Boxes.

Purchasing brand new cardboard boxes should be a last resort. In the weeks leading up to your move, make a plan to call your local grocery store a few days before you pack the boxes and let them know you’re in need. Most stores will save boxes from their shipments if you ask!

Years ago, I went through a series of moves and got tired of the ‘used boxes chase,’ so I purchased five large storage bins with snap-on lids. Packing your stuff into bins, rather than boxes, is a win-win. Why? Bins can be reused and repurposed once you’re in the new space. I’ve had the same bins for over five years now and they’re still going strong. When I unpacked them in my current digs, I simply stacked the bins inside each other and keep them in a closet (using the vacant storage space for my art supplies). Another win with storage bins is how much you can fit inside! Unlike cardboard boxes, storage bins have firm structure and can hold a lot of weight. Of course, you’ll still need to actually move the bin, so don’t get too carried away packing stuff in.

Don’t get me wrong — I wasn’t able to fit all of my things into storage bins, but packing five heavy bins meant I needed to use fewer cardboard boxes.

Pro-Tip: I prefer using apple boxes or liquor boxes since they usually come equipped with handles.

Fragile: Handle With Care

Whether you’re moving across the country or just down the street, you’ll need to pack breakable belongings for safe transport. Bubble wrap, styrofoam packing peanuts, plastic wrap — oh my! I was determined to nix as much material waste from my moving process as possible, so I refused to use packing materials that I didn’t already own.

This is where innovation is key.

To pack my fragile decor, I used extra bed sheets and towels — first, just from the kitchen, but then I used my bath towels as well. I even used a few of my t-shirts and blankets to wrap up some vases and framed artwork. Eventually I ran out of things to use that I already had, so I resorted to using newspaper to pack some plates and glasses. I was able to snag an entire stack of old newspapers from the grocery store, which they normally just throw away!

Pro Tip: If you’re using cardboard boxes, think about purchasing some biodegradable packing tape (it’s plant-based instead of plastic)! It may be hard to find locally, but there are plenty of options online.

Be Ready to Refuel

If you’ve ever moved, you know those days can shape up to be long and laborious. For me, moving days normally include a few runs to get take-out when we’re getting hungry and tired, accompanied by paper plates and plastic forks. To avoid wasteful packaging with take-out meals (and to save a ton of money), I whipped up some food for the move before packing up the kitchen.

Plan ahead to refuel with snacks and meal-prep for lunch and dinner. I packed a cooler with sandwiches, hummus, a few left-overs (which would have been thrown out), and some fresh-cut fruit. Think of things that are easy to serve with little preparation and don’t need to be kept cold for safe eating. This is a great way to explore some low-carbon meals! Dry foods were packed up in my handy reusable bag along with some serving ware and utensils. (Be sure to set aside a few plates and such when you’re packing the kitchen.)

Pro Tip: Hopefully you have a team of supporters helping you move! Plan a potluck with your crew for when it’s time to break at lunch. Tell folks to bring their own plates/utensils and encourage local food choices.

Moving can be a huge undertaking, but with some pre-planning and thinking ahead, the process of moving with minimal impact can actually be easier than you think!