When I was young, I was obsessed with moving. It wasn’t that I detested the house I grew up in; there was something about the act of relocating that I found exciting, exotic, envy-inducing. When I had friends whose families moved for some reason or another, I became jealous. I longed to pack up my bedroom in to a few cardboard boxes, have a new backyard to explore, to say the words: “I live in a new house, now.”

I couldn't understand why my parents didn’t want to move. To me it seemed so effortless, so natural. But years later, after moving from Tacoma to Boston to the Netherlands back to Boston, and then to Los Angeles, and then back to Boston again, and then, finally, to Brooklyn, I now understand. It’s a pain. Never mind the selling and buying of homes and the signing of leases, the physical act of moving now gives me the shivers.

As the Obama family moves in and the Bush family moves out of the White House, I’ve been thinking about the constant flux at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s like the country’s most exclusive rental home/museum; a building steeped in history but also one where renovation and redecoration is constant. Some rooms stay the same — and will continue to stay the same — while others are given an overhaul every few years. Needless to say, the White House has seen a lot of moving box action. And with all those moving boxes comes significant environmental degradation.

There’s no doubt that the act of moving and the trappings associated with it — boxes, tape, packing materials, gas-guzzling trucks often traveling long distances — are inherently eco-unfriendly. According to Low Impact Living, the average American uses about 100 pounds of cardboard and emits 5,000 of CO2 during a cross-country move.  But at the same time, it’s relatively easy to reign in all that waste and minimize a cumbersome carbon footprint. Listed below are the basics of greening a move.


Lighten your load. Use moving as an excuse to part with all that extraneous flotsam around the home. Unless you have to decamp hastily, take the time to donate or sell what you don’t consider essential items. Throw a yard sale if you're feeling up to it. And although it might be tempting to toss everything in garbage bags and haul ‘em to the curb, take care to recycle.

Pack conscientiously. Words to the wise: Avoid Styrofoam peanuts like the plague and if you can’t, find out how to recycle them; start saving newspapers for weeks before the move-date so you have plenty to wrap with; scour local grocery or liquor stores for discarded cardboard boxes; check out UsedCardboardBoxes.com, Rentagreenbox.com, or Rentacrate for green packing materials; recycle or save everything once you’re done.

Clean up after you clean out.  Chances are you’ll be cleaning up your old domicile and/or sprucing up your new one. Opt for natural or homemade cleaning products to do this. And if any walls require a fresh coat, use low-VOC paint.

Hire a green mover. If you need extra strong hands or a truck, look into hiring an environmentally responsible moving company that uses eco-friendly packing supplies and/or biodiesel-powered vehicles. There’s quite a few out there, especially in large cities. Green Van Lines (Dallas), Move Like A Celebrity (NYC), Movegreen (Santa Barbara), Go Green Moving (Los Angeles), and Movers Not Shakers (in my ‘nabe, Red Hook, Brooklyn) are just a few companies offering long- and short-haul green moves. There’s even a national network of like-minded moving companies, Green Movers USA.

Share. The above points are only the basics, so if you have other tried and true (or new) suggestions about green moving, list ‘em in the comments section.   

Photos: movingcompanies, ThrasherDave

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Bust a move
Now that Dubya and Laura have vacated 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and the Obamas have moved in, a few thoughts on eco-friendly moving practices.