They say that moving house is right up there with bereavement and divorce as one of the most stressful things you can go through, and considering the enormity of the list of things to organise and take into account, it’s understandable that being green when moving is perhaps not at the top of the priority list. Nevertheless, if you are planning a house move and want to make the process as eco-friendly as possible, there are many things you can do that will reduce your carbon footprint and the amount of trash – and shrink your stress levels to boot.
The best way to have an efficient and safe removal is to wrap all of the belongings up securely. But this doesn’t necessarily mean going overboard and using tons of packaging and generating tons of waste. There are many way ways to keep the trash to a minimum and the amount of disposable materials used – and the associate costs – low.
Boxes: If you have a spare cardboard box from a new appliance, reuse it to pack. Ask for box donations from neighbours and friends, or try Freecycle or Craigslist. Some supermarkets still keep cardboard boxes at the foot of the checkout for customers to pack groceries in. Make use of clothes baskets, chests, suitcases and other non-throwaway box alternatives.
Packaging material: New appliances often come wrapped in bubble wrap so keep hold of this and use it again. For a zero-waste way of protecting delicate items and breakables, use textiles, such as bedding, towels and clothing. Old newspapers and paper can be recycled or shredded and added to compost heaps after the move, as can any untreated cardboard. If your new house has a loft, garage or other suitable storage space, save all your packaging for future moves (or pass it along when someone else you know decides to move home too). Avoid packing peanuts and polystyrene altogether.
Labelling: Label boxes with a marker pen instead of using sticky labels, and consider securing boxes with a paper-based tape or biodegradable garden twine.
Unless you are already a committed minimalist, chances are your home has a lot of stuff. From a carbon footprint perspective, the heavier and more weighed down the removals van, the more fuel is consumed on the journey and the more carbon emissions are generated. In brief: the less stuff you own, the greener your move will be.
Unless you are paying a removals company to pack for you, dealing with the totality of your belongings when moving house is unavoidable, and it’s usually only once you start to pack that you realise how much stuff you actually have. You may even find yourself wondering how on earth you’ve manage to accumulate so much. For all but the most stubborn maximalist hoarder, sorting through and clearing out before a move is an almost natural part of the process. Moving is the perfect time to let go of the old and embrace the new, and this often takes the shape of a good ol’ fashioned de-cluttering. It’s also the perfect time to take an honest look at what you own, what you buy, use, and, ultimately, throw away. It’s also a good opportunity to examine what you really need. If you’re downsizing and moving into a smaller property this isn’t something you can avoid doing; some things have to go. So, decide what’s essential and consider letting go of the rest.
Repair and upcycle: Items that are broken, old and battered are obviously a good place to start when having a clear out. Consider what can be repaired, revamped or upcycled. That chair you love with the wobbly leg, perhaps, or that chest of drawers that looks a bit drab but would look lovely with a coat of paint. Those boots that need to be re-heeled…
Donate: What can be donated to charity? Items ranging from kitchen white goods, to furniture, to clothes, bric-a-brac and books can all be resold and many charities are happy to take them off your hands. Some will also collect larger items like beds, sofas and fridges if they’re in good condition and can be resold. Check what’s in your area, and fill up any charity bags that come through the door.
Do you have two of anything – kitchen utensils, for example? (Two cheese graters, anyone?). Most UK charity shops will accept small household items and knickknacks, and somebody somewhere will be happy to make good use of your surplus. Declutter your wardrobes by donating anything that no longer fits or you no longer wear, and take the opportunity to go through your kitchen cupboards and get rid of anything you probably won’t eat. Provided the items are undamaged and still within their use-by date, these can be given to local food banks.
For waste materials like paper, plastic or glass that can be recycled, check to see if your refuse collectors will take extra bags or boxes if your recycling bin is overflowing, or consider asking a neighbour if they have any space left in theirs.
Sell: EBay and Gumtree are your friend. That exercise bike acting as a clothes horse in the spare room? Someone would pay good money for that, as would they for that collection of china teacups that you bought to make candles in and never got round to, and that set of art materials bought for the hobby that never got off the ground. Car boot sales, jumble sales and yard sales are also all good ways to part with surplus stuff and generate a bit of extra cash.
If you are left with items that you have no choice but to throw away but are still committed to reducing the amount ending up as trash, then it’s time to explore the refuse collection services offered by your local council. Some local councils offer a free collection of larger household items and furniture, while some charge a fee for the service. If you are able, take your broken junk to the local tip for recycling, or consider contacting local scrap metal merchants or refuse collection firms which will also come and collect.
Cleaning the new house before you move in so it’s pristine will do wonders for your stress levels. Use environmentally-friendly cleaning products, or natural alternatives such as white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Open windows for fresh air, instead of relying on chemical air fresheners, or consider using essential oils.
The problem of food waste is one of the scandals of our time. You can avoid adding to the problem of throwing good food away with a little forward planning.
Unopened tins and jars: These can last for years so don’t leave any food behind when you leave. These can easily be boxed and transported.
Opened and fresh food: A week before you move, plan your meals to use up opened items and leftovers. Pack the remaining contents of your fridge and freezer on the day in a suitable insulated cool box to minimise spoilage. Consider using all fresh foods beforehand if you are moving long distance.
Redirect your mail
Let’s face it, who hasn’t received a Christmas card addressed to someone you’ve never heard of who probably vacated your property years ago? Someone’s old elderly relative or neighbour who still diligently sends them season’s greetings even though they themselves have long been forgotten about.
When moving house there always seems to be an endless list of friends, family, colleagues, companies and suppliers to whom notifications of your new address need to be sent, and let’s face it, unless you are super organised, you’re probably not going to notify them all at once. It goes without saying that you’ll want to update your details with the important people first (bank, utilities, insurance, GP etc), but for the rest, consider paying for a mail re-direction service to be set up. This buys you a little more time (usually 3 months) to let everyone else on your contact list know, reduces the potential for identity theft and for a ton of junk mail landing on someone else doormat. You could also take the opportunity to go paperless instead and have all your correspondence emailed. Let’s face it, in this day and age there really is no justification for having your gas bill sent to you on a piece of dead tree!