Eco-friendly packing, and packaging, is a big and increasingly important topic as we all look for more earth-conscious options for daily living. I often get asked for recommendations from my buyer and seller clients who are moving in/out of homes; I also like to provide ideas and options for the rest of my network. This month, with so many sending kids back to school and off to college, it’s a terrific time for a refresher on how we think about packing and packaging.
LET’S START WITH PACKING UP HOMES OR MOVING FAMILY MEMBERS.
Options abound, from the tried-and-true newspaper packing we’ve all been using for decades, to packing materials that minimize waste, are sustainable, are reusable, and lower our overall carbon footprint.
We’ve all used cardboard boxes for years; from grocery store apple boxes to the put-together boxes available through stores like U-Haul, Home Depot, etc. These will always be a good option, however, make sure that when the boxes have done their job that they’re appropriately recycled. My friends who live in college towns often remark how sad it is after move-in day to see garbage bins stuffed with boxes! Reminding our kiddos how important recycling is can go a long way in staying environmentally friendly.
Biodegradable Packing Peanuts
Unlike the Styrofoam packing peanuts contaminating landfills, these non-toxic packing peanuts instantly disintegrate into almost nothing when you run them under water, and they leave no harmful residue. Often made from starch-based renewable resources, they are also compostable. Packing perks also include a dust-free, anti-static and abrasion resistant product so your goods can stay both safe and clean.
Biodegradable ‘Bubble’ Wrap
You have items that need special wrapping – and there are new solutions that are so much better! Made of paper products, they’re lightweight, affordable, easy-to-use, and totally recyclable. I did a quick Google search for ‘paper bubble wrap alternative’ and found many sources including Scotch Brand, that has a variety of options for all sorts of needs.
Recycled Furniture Pads
When you’re moving furniture, be sure to look for reusable moving pads – many of which are made from upcycled materials. As an example, U-Haul’s pads are made from recycled denim!
Recycled paper tape
Did you know there are lots of paper alternatives to clear packing tape? It breaks down more easily, and you don’t have to remove it from boxes you’ll be recycling. Additionally, you can write on it when you need to label boxes. You can find paper packing tape alongside packing materials at most stores, and online at companies like Uline, Scotch Brand, and Amazon.
Reusable Plastic Bins
Plastic bins are excellent reusable options—they’re not only more durable and sturdier than cardboard boxes, but also longer-lasting and weather-resistant. Once you’re done moving, you can use them as storage, or you can purchase collapsible models to store until you need them again.
Blankets, Sheets, Socks, Clothes or Towels
Did you realize that you can use these as packing materials? Especially if you’re moving, instead of wrapping items with paper products, gather up all the soft goods you won’t need during the move and use them! When you do, you’re also saving packing room by doubling up items in boxes.
NOW LET’S LOOK AT PACKAGING
Do you ever finish a shopping trip and then stop to look at how much single-use packaging you have to put in the garbage? It’s a frustrating reality, but one we should become far more conscientious about. While we’re a long way from removing things like plastic protective coverings and clam shells, we can do our part to think about purchasing items that include less packaging waste, and when we do have waste, find ways to reuse it.
Here are some ideas that can go a long way in making a difference:
THIS IS BIG PACKAGING NEWS:
Several types of expanded polystyrene (EPS) will soon be banned for sale and distribution in Washington state. Products such as Styrofoam coolers, take-out containers, and plates & cups are on the list. This is great news as EPS products are brittle, break easily, leaving tiny bits everywhere – and are a danger to wildlife that think it’s a food source. Additionally, when burned (yes, we’ve all watched a cup melt in a campfire!), the toxic fumes emitted are dangerous.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE.
Three incredibly important words, and philosophies, that we all need to pay closer attention to. How can we reduce our carbon footprint every day. How can we reuse items that otherwise go in the garbage can. Once we’ve found ways to reduce and reuse, how can we increase our recycling efforts as well.
Take time to think about alternative packing & packaging materials and look for options that are far more environmentally friendly.
What to do if you end up with atypical items you’d like to recycle but aren’t sure how to? Ask your local commercial recycling provider if there are options in your area, and check out options like Goodwill, Ridwell, and Terracycle.
It may feel like small steps, but when we all do our part together, we’re making a palpable difference within our homes, our neighborhoods, and our communities.