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August 15, 20197 min readTravel

Zero Waste Moving Tips


Zero waste moving - I'll admit that being sustainable does make moving a bit more complicated. Rather than just chuck out items into your bin when you discover them, you'll have to now consider how to properly dispose of those items. Or how you can give them away.

But I've tested these tips over and over again as I've moved every year for the past 5 years. Aye.

And for the last two years, I’ve been zero waste, which means I’ve done two zero waste moving trips.

But have no fear, it's not super complicated! The biggest tip I can provide is: if you can, prepare a couple of months in advance! It'll help make this process a lot less stressful.

Let's jump right into my zero waste moving tips!

Zero Waste Moving Tips


The first thing that you should do when preparing to move is it evaluate what needs to continue on with you.

Because despite my best minimalist intentions, I slowly accumulate various things throughout time. Things like glass jars, scarfs, plants, etc.

So now is the perfect time to declutter! Go through everything a couple of months before your move time to determine which pieces will be staying with you and which will not.

For those that don’t make the cut, you have a couple of options.

How to get rid of unwanted items:

  1. Sell it  - this ensures the items are actually used by someone else and you make a little money
  2. Gift it - another great way to ensure your items don’t end up in the landfill
  3. Donate it - if your items are in good quality, and you can’t sell or gift it, donate it!
  4. Recycle, Compost, or Trash it - for everything else, recycle, compost, or throw it in the bin.
    • Check out your local area's recycling guide to make sure you're putting the right items in the bin.
    • Here is my general recycling guide though (but please also google for your area for the specifics. Recycling varies from town to town.)

Eat through your pantry

The month before I move, I make an effort to eat whatever is left in my pantry, like rice, beans, and lentils.

Hauling my pantry stuff across the city (or country) is a waste of effort and composting it before is a waste of resources and money.

So save yourself effort, time, and money by making sure you eat all of your food before you move!

For items you don't know how to use up, I recommend typing the ingredients into Google or Pinterest to see what kinds of recipes come up.

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Zero Waste Moving box options

Use your suitcases & duffel bags

I had a large suitcase, a carry one, and three duffel bags I used to stuff clothes, jewelry, and shoes into.

The upside of using suitcases too is that they have wheels which will make moving them a lot easier. I put my heavy items into these because of that reason.

Reusable plastic totes

I loved using my plastic totes for my breakable and heavy items (mainly my kitchenware). I bought them a few years ago when I wasn’t zero waste, but they have gotten 5 solid years of use and are still holding up strong.

But if you don’t have any lying around, ask your friends and family if they have any spare totes you could borrow.

If they don’t have any, ask your online Buy Nothing Groups, Freecycle group, or FaceBook local area group if anyone has some spares.

If that still is a bust for you, consider investing in a few reusable totes for your breakables.

Repurpose online shopping cardboard boxes

Between my boyfriend and me buying a couple of items online over the past year, we had amassed a small collection of cardboard boxes.

We saved all of them for organizing things under our bed, or if we need to shop something.

So we repurposed them to help organize and move our stuff!

Find Second Hand Boxes

Get your boxes for free from grocery stores, your work, or from big-box chains.

These places are constantly getting boxes from shipments which always end up in a dumpster or compactor. Call the store’s shipping department and ask if it would be possible to collect some of their empty boxes. Most of the time they’ll say yes!

BoxCycle is also a second-hand, local cardboard box marketplace (you can buy used ones here or sell them when you're done).

RELATED RESOURCES (for once you move in :) )

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How to Secure cardboard boxes

Totes, suitcases, a duffle bags seal themselves up which is awesome.

But for closing cardboard boxes, you’ll need a way to prevent stuff from falling out the top.

So you have a couple of options:

  1. Use any kind of tape you already own
  2. Fold your boxes to avoid using tape
  3. Compostable, Plastic Free Tape

Skip the bubble wrap

Skip the plastic bubble wrap and instead save on space by wrapping your breakables in your clothes, sheets, and towels.

For example, you can:

  • use socks to put drinking glasses in
  • use curtains, sheets, and towels to wrap plates and bowls in
  • use (clean) rags to cushion other small breakables like glass vials of oils in your bathroom cabinet

This essential kills two birds with one stone because you protect your valuables while also moving necessary sheets, towels, and clothes to your new place.

Double win!

Organize using stuff you already own

No need to buy organizers when moving when you can use what you already have!

You can use paper toilet rolls to prevent your necklaces from getting tangled in your move by threading them through the tube.

Clear mason jars are good great for organizing small electronic cables so they don’t get misplaced or tangled when moving.

If you're using bins or suitcases, it can get easy to forget what you've packed in them. An easy solution is to use any saved any paper bags or brown craft paper (which normally comes in plastic-free packages as an alternative to bubble wrap or packing peanuts) and write on it what items are in your boxes. Then cut it out, lay it on the top of the items in the boxes so when you open it up, you easily know what's in the box.

Keep Moving Day Necessities handy

I always make sure I have my water bottle, thermos with coffee handy, and a couple of easy snacks ready to go (like carrots and pretzels).

Also, have some tunes bumpin if you can.


Whether you need to clean your old place before you leave (get that security deposit back!) or you need to clean your new place, make sure you have your supplies handy!

For how I clean my apartment with an all-purpose spray and a deep cleaning scrub, check out this post.

Wrapping it up!

Moving itself is a stressful process, and I don't envy you if you're moving soon. But I hope this gave you some ideas for how you can move a more sustainable move!

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Moving can be stressful enough before thinking about how to make it a sustainable trip. However, these zero waste moving tips will help you prepare for a smooth move while saving you money!

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Hi, I'm Taylor

Amateur adult. Zero waste zealot. Personal finance fiend. Spicy food supporter. I’m an mid 20’s gal living in Denver, Colorado. My love of the outdoors has cultivated my zero waste lifestyle, which inadvertently fueled my passion for personal finance. Cheers to everyone interested in lessening their footprint while growing their wallet!


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