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How to Make Your Move More Eco-Friendly

Here are 7 tips to make your move more eco-friendly, from packing materials to moving companies you can choose from.

Dan Avery Former Writer
Dan was a writer on CNET's How-To and Thought Leadership teams. 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
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Dan Avery
Blake Stimac
5 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

Moving can cost a lot, and not just in the financial sense. From the packing boxes that you buy to the movers that are hauling your stuff to your new place, something you may want to be more mindful of for your move is the environmental impact it has. 

CNET Moving Tips logo

Whether reducing your carbon footprint is top of mind with your move or you just want to make less of an impact, a handful of things can make a difference without adding much more effort into the process. 

Below are some easy options to make your move more environmentally friendly. For more moving tips, check out how to move your mattress for your move and tips for first-time movers.

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.

First, take a look at your stuff and play the, "Do I need this or do I just want this" game. Separate those things into piles, and then walk away from them until the next day to do a reassessment. It's OK to want some of your cute, but useless stuff, but if you're trying to downsize, identify what no longer "fits" and let it go.

Getting rid of your stuff should be the easiest part, but it'll still take some effort. Consider doing some of the following:

  • Host a yard sale

  • Post items on Facebook Marketplace

  • Gift some of the things to friends and family

Then try to recycle whatever's left: Keep America Beautiful has links to recycling programs across the US, and you have 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 those items 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, and while using these may not be the safest route for packing dishes, it's definitely the smarter, greener option. 

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. And if that wasn't enough of a win, then watching them dissolve in water is a satisfying cherry on top.

4. Use a plastic bubble wrap alternative

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. Find used boxes or rent plastic bins 

You have several green options when it comes to boxing up household goods:

Cardboard boxes are both easily recyclable and biodegrade quickly. And luckily, you can easily score free cardboard boxes if you know where to look.

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. The convenience alone may make this option justified, and you don't have to worry about breaking down and disposing of cardboard boxes. 

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. 

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.) 

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.

Pay-it-forward option: While you may be in a hurry to rid yourself of the memory of the move you just accomplished, if you don't mind holding on to your boxes a little longer, consider putting them up on Facebook Marketplace or other community apps so someone that's about to move could take them off your hands. 

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. You can also ask if the company offers electric vehicles for rent. 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 what size moving truck you need and how to change your address on your phone after you move.