As you begin to plan your next move and you decide that you want to do a green move, you will undoubtedly consider several moving companies. You will want to consider schedule, delivery time, cost, and availability of packing materials and supplies. If you are among the rapidly growing group of environmentally conscious Americans you will also want to choose a green moving company.
There are actually several levels of “greenness” with regard to moving companies. There are “wanna-bes” – these are companies that want to be green because it makes them more attractive to some groups of people. These companies will make a big show of a little effort. On the other end of the spectrum are moving companies that are environmentally conscious in everything they do and every decision they make. Here are some of the things that define green moving companies. When you interview you might want to make notes about how green each company is and ask questions about how they accomplish their stated eco-friendly goals and practices.
1. Observe the details when a company representative comes to your home to prepare an estimate or quote a price for your move. Did this person arrive in an empty moving van or a hybrid car? Did this person leave the engine running or turn it off? What is this person wearing? What kind of uniform is the person wearing? Is it made of natural fabrics or synthetics? Does this individual work with an electronic estimating device or use reams of paper? Does the estimator turn lights off when leaving a room or leave them on?
2. How does the company power their moving vans or trucks? Are they using traditional diesel engines, gasoline engines? Do they drive hybrid trucks? Do they use biodiesel fuel? How efficiently do their engines run? What kinds of pollutants are they creating in the atmosphere? Is it clear that they think carefully about the environmental impact of their vehicles?
3. Is low-cost low-impact transportation of your household goods considered carefully? Does the company assume that driving a truck from your current home to your new home is the most logical and energy efficient option? Have they considered the benefits of loading your furniture and possessions into a trailer and sending it across country on a railroad car? Does the company have a trustworthy partner or office on the other end of the move?
4. Does the company use trucks with battery-powered lift gates, or must they leave the engine running when loading and unloading? The importance of this difference can be multiplied by the environmental impact of the way the engines are powered and how efficiently the engines burn fuel. An idling engine is generally considered the most inefficient operation of a vehicle.
5. How do they run their office? This is a legitimate question of a moving company that makes claims about its eco-friendliness. How do they heat and cool the office? Are they conservative in their use of paper? Do they use outdated and inefficient electrical or electronic equipment?
6. How energy-efficient is their storage facility? How secure is it? Is it climate controlled? How efficiently is it heated and cooled? What kind of lighting is used? Are lights on at all times? Do they use vaults that are recycled and can be reused?
7. What kind of packing materials and supplies do they use and/or recommend? Movers who use plastic tubs and others who promote their use insist that this is the least expensive and most eco-friendly way to pack and move. Many of these containers are made of recycled plastic. Packing containers of this kind are available in three to five different sizes. They can be used many times before they need to be replaced and they are easy to clean between uses. They stack very well and are easier than cardboard boxes to load onto a hand truck. Some companies use cardboard boxes or cartons made of recycled paper. These can be either new or used. They are made in specific sizes so they are easy to stack. Used boxes can sometimes be obtained free of charge. Otherwise, they can be affordably purchased and then sold after the move. Another option is to gather free boxes from stores and other businesses that use products shipped in sturdy boxes. Boxes used for cases of paper, banker’s boxes and liquor/wine boxes are ideal because they are heavy enough to take the wear and tear and they are often relatively consistent in size. Liquor boxes are perfect for small fragile items, spices, glasses and stemware.
While packing paper is still the standard material for wrapping breakable items and separating things in packing cartons, newspapers can be used (but they are very messy). Most companies now use recycled paper. But there are other options. Instead of using paper, pack and wrap items in towels and washcloths, sheets and pillowcases, bedspreads, blankets, rugs, sweaters and other similar items. These items actually provide better protection than paper. Instead of putting mirrors and framed art in special cartons, consider packing and securing these items between mattress and box spring. Instead of Styrofoam peanuts, use popped popcorn or cut up egg cartons.
Finally, ask the green moving company what kind of padding they use for furniture. The traditional furniture pads were generally made of synthetic materials. Many moving companies now use moving pads made of 100% natural cotton. If you have enough blankets on hand and you don’t mind washing them when you arrive, you can also pad furniture with them.
8. What does the mover do with packing materials after the move? Do they come back to collect the packing materials from you after you have time to unpack? Do they take everything to the landfill or do they re-use as much as possible?
9. Do they drive empty trucks back to the warehouse? This is not an issue for a local move, but if you are moving several hundred or thousand miles, how does the moving company get the truck back to the warehouse after the move? Do they have another move lined up to take back? Do they have another job lined up when yours is finished in order to drive a full truck back, or do they just drive empty trucks back to the office? How much fuel are they wasting?
As it becomes more important to a larger number of people to offer green moving services, some companies will try to claim to be green moving companies without actually taking the appropriate steps. These questions should help you identify and hire a reliable, careful, green moving company for your next move.