A red roll of packing tape sitting atop a pile of white packing peanutes inside a cardboard box.

If you’ve ever moved before, you probably know that along with the realization that you have a lot of stuff comes the realization that you don’t have as many boxes as you need. And then after you’re done, you end up with endless piles of boxes and packing material crowding your new home! Here are tips to help you make your move a little greener by reducing and reusing before you recycle!

Reuse Someone Else’s Boxes

Somebody is always moving, and especially at the beginning and end of the month, you can often find lots of boxes in great condition for free. In many cases, you’ll also find packing material and even extra rolls of tape from someone who bought more than they needed.

It’s always worth asking your local friends, family, and co-workers. In addition, there are many community options. Check to see if your community has a Buy Nothing group. They usually have a facebook group or an app, and the entire concept is based on donating items to reduce waste. Other options include NextDoor, Freecycle, your community or neighborhood’s Facebook page, or even Craigslist.

Stock Up Ahead Of Your Move

Obviously you don’t always have the time or space for this, but if you know you’re planning to move, start collecting now! Many shipping boxes can be easily broken down and stored somewhere like a closet, under the bed, or behind the sofa and ready to be pulled out when it’s time to pack. (Have local friends with pets? Ask them to save their Chewy boxes for you!)

Check with Local Bookstores, Groceries, and Liquor Stores

This option will be less reliable during major moving times (like the end of the school year in a college town), but many of these stores will have a regular supply of boxes that get recycled.  (Pro tip: liquor boxes are a great size for packing book boxes that won’t be too heavy!) Big box stores are another option, but are more likely to use them for their customers. And remember, always be polite and gracious when asking businesses, and recognize that some may not be able or willing to provide them!

Use Clothing, Towels, and Blankets for Fragile Items

This won’t work for dainty things like china, but can be a great way to safely wrap larger fragile items like lamps or mirrors without using up all of your packing peanuts and paper. Since you have to pack towels and blankets anyway, using them to cradle your items and ensure their safety is always a plus.

After Your Move: Give Them Away

Remember, you can pay it forward to the next person who is planning a move! As you unpack, set aside boxes and packing material and post them to give away. Like before, you have lots of options, and in many cases it’s easy to plan a no-contact pickup by whoever is benefiting from your gift. There are also lots of local places that accept cardboard donations for reuse.

Use Cardboard for Gardens or Compost

If you can’t give it all away or you have boxes that are in disrepair, cardboard is an excellent addition to gardens. Cardboard can be laid down and covered with mulch for an excellent way to reduce weeds in a garden (particularly when you are building a garden over an area that was lawn), or shredded and added to compost. If you don’t plan to have a garden of your own, you can post online or at a local garden/farm supply store and you’ll probably have takers before you know it!

When in Doubt: Recycle

If you can’t find new homes for your paper and packing materials, the last step is recycling. Did you know that many kinds of packing peanuts are recyclable? While you may not be able to recycle them locally, you can call the “Peanut Hotline” (yes, really) to find local places to drop them for reuse, or contact local packing and shipping companies to see if they accept loose fill packaging for reuse.

Moving is always hard, but it’s always nice to find ways to waste a little bit less and save a little bit of money during the process!

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