Relocation is often stressful and time-consuming, but rarely do we wonder about the impact the process has on the environment. This is amplified when moving to a smaller house or condominium, and additional decisions have to be made regarding items that must discarded in order to save space. If we don’t make these decisions deliberately, our choices can generate a lot of trash, and waste energy and natural resources. Fortunately, we have other options so that, when the time comes, we can relocate -- along with our stuff -- responsibly.
Some measures to consider before moving day:
Buy less. The less you accumulate, the less you will have to discard when it comes time to relocate. Also, fight the urge to be a pack rat by recycling and giving items away as they become obsolete to you. If you put off these decisions until the day you have to relocate, many of the things that you're on the fence about keeping will likely end up in the trash because you’ll be too preoccupied by the move to put the effort into thoughtful and responsible disposal.
Discard items in a responsible manner, rather than merely throwing them away. Non-biodegradable trash doesn’t disappear; it just accumulates in new locations where it contaminates groundwater and soil, off-gasses methane and other greenhouse gases, and overwhelms otherwise useful land. By taking a few extra steps, you can save money, help others, and minimize your impact on the environment.
Sort through your belongings and decide what you don’t want to take with you, separating them into defined groups based on how best to dispose of them. For instance, separate your unwanted items that are in good working order, and can be reused by a friend or neighbor, from other items that require special disposal, such as hazardous chemicals or large, bulky items. See the following sections on how to identify items for reuse, recycling and special disposal.
Recycle. With a minimum of effort, you can recycle old magazines and newspapers that you do not want to take with you to your new home. Glass, metal and plastics are also easily recyclable, and you will conserve some of the raw materials and energy required to produce these items by re-offering them. Many of the items you clean out from your home might be recyclable in your community curbside or drop-off recycling program. To determine what items you can recycle, contact your local environmental agency or waste-pickup service.
Common recyclables include: