10 steps to a greener house move

Jayne Dowle
Photo credit: Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury - Getty Images

From Country Living

If you're moving house, you'll already have a to-do list that includes everything from remembering the cat to packing the tea bags. But one more thing – have you thought of ways to make your move as eco-friendly as possible?

Packing, cleaning, transporting, storing and unpacking a home uses precious resources and energy. Removals comparison site Buzzmove says that the typical UK home move creates an average of 16.8kg of CO2 emissions – that's equivalent to keeping a light bulb on continuously for 53.85 days.*

So if you want to help save the planet when you up sticks, follow our expert guide:

1. Get cooking

Start emptying kitchen cupboards and the freezer early. "Try to use up items to avoid throwing food away unnecessarily or using packing space to transport it," says Gary Burke, managing director of West Midlands removal firm Burke Bros. "It is often worth contacting local charities with a view to donating surplus food." Food charity Olio will even collect from your door and distribute to people in need. When you think that the average UK household wastes £470-worth of food every year – says recycling advisory body Wrap – and it goes straight to landfill, it's a no-brainer.

2. Shed the weight

"Have a sort out before the move," says Damien Seaman, head of brand for Buzzmove. "Many companies charge based on the weight and the size of your possessions so this can save money, plus less stuff may mean a smaller removal van."

It will also cut down environmental costs. Buzzmove estimates that the CO2 footprint of its removal companies adds up to 72 tonnes a year, that's the size of 342 double-decker buses. Charity shops, friends and family, schools and day centres will welcome your no-longer-needed clothes, shoes, books, toys and DVDs. And this helps the environment too, by cutting down landfill and reducing the number of new items bought.

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3. Choose your carrier with care

Fnd a removal company which uses low-emission EEV Standard (Enhanced Environmentally-friendly Vehicles) vans. And ask questions. "Such as, are travel routes and moving times arranged to cut down on emissions?" says Alexander Constantine, manager at London firm City Removals, which has produced a handy 10-point eco-friendly check-list. Find out more at www.city-removals.co.uk.

4. Keep quotes simple

These days, you don't have to arrange for a series of companies to turn up in person and troop through your house, garage and garden shed. Do initial research online. Then choose a removal firm which offers video surveying instead of a home visit for the detailed quotation. "This will save fuel, time and CO2 emissions," says Damien Seaman.

5. Box it up right

As you declutter your possessions, save empty drawers (removed from the frame), crates and suitcases to cut down the number of packing cases you'll need. Or look on Gumtree, Freecycle or Freegle. "Often you can find other people's used packing boxes as they very quickly find them cluttering up their home when they unpack," says interior designer Phoebe Oldrey, of Smartstyle Interiors.

Charles Rickards, director of removals firm Aussie Man & Van, offers customers the option of buying pre-used removal boxes at a discounted rate to encourage them to be more environmentally conscious: "Eventually, they lose their strength, so after they have been used three times we recycle them all."

And then there's this worthwhile scheme suggested by Rob Houghton, CEO of home move site Reallymoving.com: "I recommend Depaul (depaulbox.co.uk) which raises money for young rough sleepers by selling a range of good-value removal boxes." The 'Big Haulers' pack, for example, is suitable for a three-four bedroom house, has 18 small boxes, 12 large ones, two rolls of packing tape and a marker pen for £85.

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6. Wrap up wisely

Defra, the government department responsible for the environment, says that paper and cardboard packaging waste going to landfill or destroyed rose shockingly by 110% between 2013 and 2016. You don't want to contribute to this mountain, so ask your removal company for biodegradable bubble wrap – it's actually green – to protect breakable items. Then look around the house for what you can use for everything else.

"Old newspapers, magazines, junk mail or clothing are excellent packing materials to secure non-fragile items," says Alexander Constantine. "Collect in the weeks before the move and ask friends and neighbours to help. Also, T-shirts, socks, jumpers, towels, even soft toys, make great gap-fillers in boxes. For protecting items like artwork or furniture, use blankets, towels and sleeping bags."

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7. Find furniture a new home

Did you know that we send 300,000 tonnes of usable furniture to landfill in Britain each year? That's the equivalent weight of 24,000 London buses. "We've rallied together to tackle plastic waste in recent months. But we still have a collective blind-spot when it comes to throwing away furniture," says Georgina Burnett, homes TV presenter. "Too many of us are ditching perfectly decent items rather than recycling or repurposing. This doesn't just create hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste, it's also a waste of money when you consider how expensive brand-new furniture is."

If you can't find a place for that coffee table, donate to a charity such as the British Heart Foundation, which will collect, look for local re-use networks which benefit vulnerable groups, or pass on through an online selling/sharing group such as eBay, Gumtree, Freegle or Freecycle.

8. Don't dump it

Some things we simply can't take with us, and no-one else wants them either. Broken fridges, defunct laptops and conked-out lawnmowers, all must be got rid of. If a man with a van offers to dispose of your waste for a fee, always check he has the correct waste carrier's credentials. Fly-tipping – when someone dumps waste items on land not designated for refuse – is a growing environmental menace.

Local councils spent £57.7m cleaning up fly-tipped rubbish last year, according to Keep Britain Tidy. And if your name is found on dumped paperwork, for instance, you could face court action yourself; the maximum penalty for fly-tipping is 12 months in prison or a fine of £50,000.

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9. Recycle instead

"If all else fails, it's time to think of recycling," says Alexander Constantine. "If you don't know where your nearest recycling centre is put your location in the handy Recycling Locator at recyclenow.com. If you're disposing of white goods like fridges and bulky electricals like flat-screen TVs, your local council may do a household recycling pick-up." These services are busy, and may charge a fee, so plan ahead to prevent moving day panic.

10. Keep it clean

There's nothing more welcoming than a sparkling fresh house. But avoid harsh, environmentally toxic products full of phosphates dangerous to marine life, says Damien Seaman: "Use 'green' products for the big clean before you leave. Consider natural remedies such as lemon and vinegar or eco-friendly off-the-shelf cleaning products." Try Method's range of cleaners, all made with biodegradable formulas, specifically the All Purpose Multi-Surface cleaner for your home (pack of 8 for £24, Amazon).

* CO2 emissions calculated via YouSustain

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