8 Ways to Green Your Move

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NYC or bust! Our East Coast Editor makes the big move from Phoenix to New York City. Photo: Flickr/caruba

When I took over the job as East Coast Editor for Earth911, I had a big first task to complete: relocate my entire life from Phoenix to New York City in the most efficient, cost-saving manner.

The 2,500-mile trip took more than two months to plan. Granted, there were some rough patches along the way (and I’m not referring to the insane potholes on the New Jersey Turnpike), but the upfront planning made for an overall easy transition.

A cross-country move is not only extremely expensive, but it’s also hugely excessive when considering energy, waste and emissions.

Plus, whittling my stuff from a three-bedroom home down to just enough to fit into a large studio meant downsizing my life, cutting out the unimportant, selling the valuable, donating the usable and recycling the rest.

Here’s how I did it…

1. Find your space via satellite

It sounds overwhelming and virtually impossible, but it’s exactly what I did. I couldn’t shell out the 300 bucks to fly back and forth to view apartments. Several friends discouraged me from choosing an apartment in New York from Phoenix, but I didn’t have a choice. But I took note of the horror stories I heard about moldy apartments and fake brokers and kept a vigilant eye while searching.

I started by contacting friends that I already had in the area. I promised them a $50 kickback if they viewed apartments for me (it was way cheaper than the $2,000 broker fee alternative). I did catch a lucky break because I have a friend who has a broker license. I detailed my ideal space while also giving options that I was willing to compromise on (i.e. space for price) and things that were simply a must (i.e. location for safety).

She e-mailed me the spaces that fit my criteria, and I had my friends view them, take photos and give me an “e-tour” of the apartments. Plus, I was able to use the Google Maps street view feature to explore my neighborhood.

Patience was key, and I can’t say that it was easy. But I can say that I when I finally walked into my apartment for the first time, I knew exactly what I was getting, and I saved hundreds of dollars.

2. Survey your stuff

After I found my space and knew the square footage I would be living in, I took stock of what I currently had. This was no small task, and I highly recommend starting well in advance. I had to carve away 2,000 square feet worth of stuff to fit into 500 square feet with limited storage space.

  • Designate an area of your home as a “staging place.” This can be an extra bedroom, garage or even a part of your living room.
  • Divide your space into three categories: SELL, DONATE, KEEP
  • If space is limited, try the tagging option. Use three colors of sticky notes to tag the items in your home with the above designations.
  • Pack up one room per day. This will cut down on the bedraggled feeling that often creeps up during a big move.

Hold a moving sale. You can reduce your stuff and make a little bit of money. Photo: Flickr/Bsivad

3. Have a huge sale

Now that you have divided your stuff into these categories and you know what you want to sell, start making some money!

Remember that garage sale items do not often fetch a high price. I had to learn that a garage sale is literally a venue for people to haul off your stuff for you. So, I used another route for big-ticket items.

Wearable, stylish clothing: I opted for Buffalo Exchange and Plato’s Closet. While the shops usually don’t take everything you bring in, you will get more money for your items.

But be prepared for wishy washy rules, as the stores set their own standards for clothing they buy. For example, I took six bags of clothing to Buffalo Exchange, and the store only took one. But I made about $60 for that bag. These shops will often donate your leftovers to local charities as well.

Books, DVDs and CDs: I took these items to a local used bookstore. A small plastic bin fetched $40.

Furniture: When selling my nicer furniture, like my bedroom suit, I used Craigslist and designated the items for local pickup only. In the end, I made about $150 for items sold online.

Everything else: The leftover items – dishes, T-shirts and home decor – were set aside for my garage sale. Remember to advertise your sale online, post ads around your neighborhood and, most importantly, start early! My garage sale started at 6 a.m., and a bulk of my things had been sold by 10 a.m.

Don’t hesitate to sell that framed poster for $2 or that dish towel for 50 cents. By the end of the day, my stuff was gone, and I was $120 richer.

4. Find a blue bin for everything

Yep, you really can recycle (or donate) just about anything. This came in handy when packing up my bathroom. I had a cabinet full of half-empty toiletries. I simply combined similar soaps and shampoos and recycled the bottles. For used makeup, I actually gave some away at the garage sale and took the empty containers to Aveda.

A common item I found when sorting through my things was paperboard and cardboard packaging. This is easily recyclable in my curbside program, along with plastics. But if your program does not accept your items, simply use Earth911 to search for a recycling location in your area.

5. To fly or to drive?

Transportation was by far the most expensive cost associated with my move. When I got a handle on the amount of stuff I was taking with me, I knew that flying just wasn’t feasible. I used Terrapass to calculate my approximate carbon footprint of driving versus flying.

For my Honda Civic, a 2,000-mile trip amounted to about 1,300 pounds of CO2 emissions. A direct flight only amounted to 586 pounds. But when considering the shipping and transportation of my clothing, some furniture, etc., that amount would have been considerably more.

The most economical means of transportation was driving my car with a small trailer. My certified low-emission vehicle only averaged about 15 MPG while towing on the road. But a small moving van registered about 7-9 MPG.

If you’re starting fresh and are only bring a small amount of luggage, the most eco-friendly option is definitely a one-way flight. Plus, you can purchase carbon credits on Carbonfund.org to offset your entire trip.

What's the better option for your move? Consider using small vans or trailers to reduce your emissions and get better gas mileage. Photo: Flickr/cjc4454

6. Pack up with reusables

I found stackable reusable totes to pack most of my items for my move. This eliminated the need for a lot of cardboard boxes.

For breakable items, I chose to forgo the bubble wrap and use my towels, blankets and sweatshirts to protect my items.

The best part about using the plastic totes was that I was sure my stuff was protected during the move. It was also easier to carry, and I now use those totes for storage in my new space.

I did purchase three cardboard boxes for smaller items. Once unpacked, I broke down the boxes and recycled them using my building’s recycling program.

7. Get a roadmap

If you’re driving, plan it out. Get a map beforehand and spend time calculating the best route with the fewest elevation changes (which kill your gas mileage). A mapped out plan will also cut down on unnecessary stops, wrong turns and ultimately save you money.

If you have an iPhone, Android, BlackBerry or Palm, download the WHERE mobile app. These tools can help you plan your stops by locating the nearest gas station and provide its current prices. You’ll avoid driving around for pennies, saving time, money and emissions. If you’re not a smartphone user, do some research on GasBuddy.com, which provides the same info in an online format.

Also, don’t forget about pre-trip car maintenance to optimize your gas mileage. This includes checking your motor oil and tire pressure. A 15-minute car preparation can help prevent a two-hour car breakdown.

8. Don’t waste when you travel

Don’t forget to pack your recycling sense! Did you buy a bottle of water on the road? Don’t toss it in the trash at the next gas station, find a recycling bin at your next hotel, or bring along a bag for recyclable trash and save it for your curbside program. You can also use Earth911’s iRecycle® app to find nearby recycling locations while on the go.

When pre-planning your trip, look for eco-friendly hotel options along your route. You can now use Expedia’s newest website feature called the “Traveler’s Guide to Going Green,” an additional resource for eco-conscious tourists.

Like on any trip, it might be tempting to let your green habits slip for a long weekend, but it’s easy to continue living green during your relocation, no matter where you go.

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