How To Pack For A Zero Waste Move In 5 Simple Steps

This past Spring we found out pretty suddenly that the beautiful historic building in Boston that we were renting our apartment in was being sold to developers. After only moving about 7 months earlier we were pretty devastated, but we also luckily had already downsized and de-cluttered from our last move and knew the things we did and didn't want to do when it came to this next move. 

As we started planning for our move out of our sixth floor walk up (and no there is no elevator) we started to plan for how we wanted this move to go, and what we wanted to avoid. Since we have adopted a reduced waste lifestyle (we absolutely are still far from perfect) one thing we really wanted to try and limit was the amount of waste that is caused by moving. 

How To Pack For A Zero Waste Move

I know you all have been there before with trash bags filled with clothes to donate to goodwill and lots of just "junk" that you have no idea how even got into your home in the first place. You know what I am talking about...the random office supplies, old electronics, and old linens or clothing that cant be donated, not to mention all the moving supplies that then get tossed immediately after moving. 

Needless to say, moving creates a ton of waste and we wanted to keep ours to a minimum. But how do you do that when you actually still have to move? I'm not going to say that it was easy, but it also really wasn't that hard with a little bit of planning. So today I'm sharing with you my top five steps to packing for a zero waste move that allowed us to move (almost) waste free.


Step One: Pour Yourself Some coffee And Get organized

Seriously, do not attempt this step without coffee because it is the most important in my opinion! In the many times we have moved I always found that when I was organized I created less waste, and when I was disorganized I created much more. So before you even start packing it is time to get organized. What have you been moving from one home to the other never to touch? What is cluttering up your space that you could let go of? Now is the time to think hard about your belongings and what you need to take with you. This doesn't mean throwing away perfectly good items only to replace them with the "newer version". This happens so much when moving and only contributes to more waste down the line. So get honest with yourself and start thinking about your home in terms of piles. Go room by room and create piles (either literally or in your mind) about what you are going to keep, sell, donate, and toss. 

How To Pack For A Zero Waste Move

Keep: Your keep pile should be anything that you use on a daily/weekly/monthly/seasonal basis and is in good working order. 

Sell: Anything that is still in good working order/shape but you don't need/want in your life anymore. Now is the time to take photos and start making money off your used clothing and "stuf"f. Utilize places like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and secondhand clothing sites like Poshmark and ThredUp. Get your unwanted (but perfectly good) items in the hands of someone who wants them. This is called upcycling and is one of my favorite ways to reduce my waste on this planet without creating a cluttered life. 

Donate: Donating should only be used when absolutely necessary and with intention. Especially when it comes to used clothing which, in general, does much more harm than good. Most secondhand clothing here in the USA is ultimately shipped to developing countries internationally where it has created a huge disruption in local textile industries and is something many receiving countries are working on phasing out/banned. You heard that right, other countries our tired of literally taking our discarded "stuff" and I don't blame them. 

So if you are going to donate, make sure you are doing it intentionally. Are the items in season? Are they in good condition? Are they in style? If the answer to all of these questions is no then it shouldn't be donated and instead should be repurposed. We need to start taking more responsibility for our purchases and waste and stop thinking that other people or countries will take care of it for us...they wont and it's time we stop asking them to. 

How To Pack For A Zero Waste Move

Toss: Sometimes it may be inevitable that you need to throw something away after you have exhausted all the other possibilities above. In this case my best advice is use something like a Terra Cycle Box, which is a great way to recycle materials that otherwise wouldn't be capable of being recycled.

The box we used was their All In One Zero Waste Box that allowed us to recycle all of our leftover non-recyclable waste, which mostly was made up of old office supplies and clothing that couldn't be repurposed into rags.

As we were moving we basically just filled a reusable bag with anything that we couldn't keep, sell, donate, or upcycle and at the end of our packing placed all of those items into the Terra Cycle Box. The best part was that all we had to do was seal it and bring it to UPS and it was shipped back to Terra Cycle for sorting.


Step Two: Rent Reusable Zero-Waste Storage Boxes

How To Pack For A Zero Waste Move

Now that you are all organized it is time to determine what you will be using to move your belongings in. Let me just start by saying that I will never, ever move again without renting reusable moving boxes from Box Save. Seriously I had no idea that I could love something that has to do with moving so much, but both Mike and I are out of this world obsessed with Box Save from their mission, to their product, to their amazing staff.

We came across Box Save when we first found out that we were moving and knew that we #1 wanted to reduce our waste, but also #2 wanted to be very organized. In order to do this I felt pretty strongly about using the same size box for as many of our items as possible, and ideally wanted to rent them since we don't have the space to store a ton of moving boxes.

And then I found Box Save which is a company local to the Boston area and our move couldn't have gone more seamless. You heard me it was an organizational zero-waste dream...bet you have never heard someone describe moving like that before!

Since all of the Box Save boxes are made from recycled plastic and interlock there was no need for tape and the boxes could be easily labeled again for organization. We ended up being able to move our entire apartment with 30 boxes without any tape or purchasing any new moving boxes.

How To Pack For A Zero Waste Move

The boxes are very sturdy and stack easily on top of one another which made stacking them in our moving truck very easy and saved a ton of space...when you save space you can get a smaller truck, which saves gas and money! Another win win.

Want to know the best part?! If you are moving within their area they will actually deliver and pickup the boxes for you as long as you are moving within their radius. We ended up having them dropped off and were able to bring them back ourselves to their warehouse since we moved well outside their radius but this really wasn't a big deal.

So needless to say if you are moving anytime soon in the Boston area I HIGHLY recommend that you check out Box Save. If you don't live in the Boston area but would like to rent similar boxes just google "Reusable Moving Box Companies" and you most likely will be able to find a similar company in your area.

How To Pack For A Zero Waste Move

Use Old Clothes/Linens For Cleaning Rags

Want to reduce your paper waste when moving? We ended up going through our entire move without purchasing one roll of paper towels and it was all thanks to repurposing old/used clothes and linens that we would have discarded for cleaning supplies. Instead of whipping out paper towels every time we needed to clean a room we instead just used old clothes as rags, which cut down on a lot of waste by the end of the move.


Use Reusable Packing Materials

Once we knew that we were going to be moving we started saving every single item of packaging that came with anything we ordered online. We also had saved a lot of packaging materials from the previous time we moved, which meant that we had a lot of packaging ready to reuse when we needed it. 

We also made good use of all our cloth napkins that we had accumulated since switching from paper-towels and napkins. Rather than wrapping a lot of our kitchen and glass wear with disposable paper or plastic wrap, we wrapped them up with reusable napkins which worked perfectly. 

If you are looking to make the switch away from paper napkins and towels I would highly recommend checking out Ten Thousand Villages that has a wide variety of ethically made napkins and hand towels that have totally made going paper free in the kitchen possible...and just so happened to double up as an excellent zero-waste moving tool! Win win!


Meal Plan For Minimal Food Waste

 The napkin above is the "fresh air" pattern from  Ten Thousand Villages

The napkin above is the "fresh air" pattern from Ten Thousand Villages

Nothing bothers me more than throwing out perfectly good food so once we were about two weeks out from moving we took a hard look at what was in our refrigerator and pantry and started getting creative with our meal planning. For those two weeks it was a lot of tuna, stir fry's, and other simple meals that kept us from needing to purchase many new ingredients. But the end of the two weeks we had very little left in our fridge and it made moving our pantry so much easier!


I hope these tips help you in reducing your waste on your next move as much as they helped us. When everything was all said and done we ended up only having 1 small trash bag worth of trash from our move and I honestly was really proud of that.

For me trying to reduce my waste is less about being perfect and more about being mindful. I truly admire those that are able to maintain an almost 100% waste free lifestyle but I know that that most likely wont be me. Instead I want to focus on the many ways we can reduce our waste and live with more intention day-to-day, challenging ourselves to do the best we can. Trying to do a waste-free move certainly wasn't easy or convenient, but it was worth it. 


This post was not sponsored however I did receive complimentary product in exchange for my honest review. As always all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links