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7 Ways to Make Your Move More Eco-Friendly

From decluttering your house to buying environmentally safe packing supplies, here's how to green your move.

Dan Avery Writer
Dan is a writer on CNET's How-To team. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, NBC News, Architectural Digest and elsewhere. He is a crossword junkie and is interested in the intersection of tech and marginalized communities.
Expertise Personal Finance, Government and Policy, Consumer Affairs
Dan Avery
4 min read
Family with plastic moving crates

Unlike cardboard boxes, plastic bins can be reused dozens of times and don't require assembly or breakdown.

LWA/Dann Tardif via Getty Images

You never realize how much stuff you have until it's time to move. Then you have to buy more stuff to pack it all up and get it to your new home.

Fortunately, there are ways to lessen the impact of your move on the environment, many of which don't cost a thing.

Check out our handy tips on reducing your carbon footprint, minimizing waste and choosing reusable and biodegradable supplies.

1. Get rid of what you don't need

The easiest way to green your move is to move less. Fewer belongings means fewer boxes and fewer trips in the moving truck.   

Donate, gift or sell usable items you don't need anymore: You can host a yard sale, post items on Facebook Marketplace or give them away at a white elephant party.

Then try to recycle whatever's left: Keep America Beautiful has links to recycling programs across the US, and there are numerous ways to responsibly dispose of old electronics and accessories

2. Use household items as packing materials

Look around the house for ways to keep fragile goods safe. Bedding, towels and even clothing are good for wrapping items, and would be coming along anyway. You can even stuff your wine glasses with socks. (Just make sure they're clean.)

Old newspapers and magazines can also be used to wrap plates and glassware, though they will add to the post-move recycling work. 

3. Buy biodegradable packing peanuts

biodegradable packing peanuts in a box
Cat Lane/Getty Images

Made out of corn, wheat or potato starch, biodegradable packing peanuts don't require nearly as much energy to manufacture as styrofoam ones, which usually end up in landfills or floating in the ocean.

This plant-based filler dissolves in water, so you can toss it in the sink or a compost pile when you're done. Plus, it's 100% nontoxic to pets and humans.

4. Choose bubble wrap made of paper

Scotch Brand Cushion Lock

Scotch Cushion Lock


Run out of towels and sheets? 3M's Scotch Cushion Lock and Duck Brand's Flourish honeycomb wrap are just two of the corrugated paper wraps on the market. 

If you must use plastic bubble wrap, U-Haul's Enviro-Bubble is made from recycled polyethylene and is 100% recyclable.

5. Opt for used boxes or plastic bins 

You have several green options when it comes to boxing up household goods: Cardboard boxes are both easily recyclable and biodegrade quickly, though it's better environmentally (and financially) to reuse old ones.

You can pick up free boxes from one of the "Take a Box, Leave a Box" drop bins stationed at every U-Haul company store and many independent dealers. U-Haul also has an online exchange forum where customers can buy, sell or give away boxes and other moving supplies.  

Child with plastic moving boxes
LWA/Dann Tardif via Getty Images

Reusable polyethylene bins are an increasingly popular packing option: Typically, a company will drop off however many bins you need at your old address and then collect them at your new place when you're all unpacked.

You have to pay to rent the bins, and most companies only do local moves. But the bins don't require assembly or breakdown, can't get waterlogged and, compared to cardboard boxes, are practically indestructible. 

Services like Tree Hugger in Denver and Gorilla Bins in New York are highly praised, and Rent-a-Crate does cover a dozen major US cities. U-Haul also rents plastic Ready-To-Go crates at many locations, but you must pick up and return them to the same spot.   

Read on: How Plastic Crates Stack Up Against Cardboard Boxes

6. Properly dispose of boxes after moving

Take a Box, Leave a Box drop box

A U-Haul "Take a Box, Leave a Box" drop box.


Moving day has finally come and gone. You've finished unpacking everything and the place looks fabulous. Now it's time to get rid of all those boxes.

If you used cardboard boxes and they're in good shape, take them to U-Haul, where you can drop off moving boxes for others to take free of charge. You'll find "Take a Box Leave a Box" drop boxes at all U-Haul company stores and many independent dealers. (You may also find a taker on U-Haul's Box Exchange.)  

If you bought your boxes at U-Haul, return any unused ones for a full refund. (Just hold onto the receipt.) 

"Customers who take advantage of the buyback guarantee are preventing waste at the source and reducing demand for natural resources," U-Haul says on its website.

If you are recycling your boxes, make sure they're clean, dry and free of any food waste or paint. You can leave labels and writing on them, but most packing tape isn't recyclable and your local recycling facility may require it to be removed.

As an alternative, Kraft tape is made from paper and uses a water-activated natural adhesive, so it can be recycled along with your boxes.

The downside of most Kraft paper is that it's really suited for boxes under 30 pounds. EcoEnclose does make a heavy-duty reinforced version that's rated for packages up to 60 pounds, as well as a carton-sealing tape with a plant-based backing for smaller jobs.

7. Look for an eco-friendly moving company

Penske electric cargo van

Penske rents electric cargo vans, which are recommended for up to one room.


You can green your move even if someone else is doing the work. Search for sustainable movers in your area or ask movers you're considering about their practices.

If you're renting a moving truck or van, find out about its emissions rating. Penske rents electric cargo vans, and Ryder will be adding 4,000 to its fleet in the next two years, starting in California, Dallas and New York City this summer. 

The range of an EV van will be limited, of course, making it better suited for a smaller, in-town move.  

For more moving tips, find out how to move on a budget and the best way to fill a moving box.