4 Zero Waste Moving Tips (plus a few bonus tips!)

A Drop in the Ocean Blog: 4 Tips for a Zero Waste Move
Listen to the audio of this post here:

This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on August 28, 2023.

So friend
, last month my partner and I moved into a new home together, and now that we and all the plant babies are all settled in, I think it’s about dang time to talk all things zero waste moving!

I think we can agree that typically, moving house creates a lot of waste.

Between the cardboard boxes, packing tape, bubble wrap, and general decluttering…it adds up!

But honestly, it doesn’t have to be that way.

And even more than that, avoiding all the excess waste can actually make your move less stressful, so you don’t end up like this 👇

Zero Waste Moving: Jess from New Girl crying surrounded by moving boxes

So let’s dive into my best tips for a zero waste move, shall we?


I don’t know about you, but every time I move I’m amazed at all of the ~stuff~ I’ve somehow acquired since the last move.

I hardly buy anything other than the necessities, so I truly don’t understand where it all comes from, but I think that’s just part of life, ya know?

But the great thing about moving is that it gives us a chance to actually go through every. single. thing. we own - and decide whether that thing sparks joy for us anymore.

In my pre-zero waste days, these times would always be accompanied by a giant plastic trash bag, but nowadays I’m always searching for ways to give these non-joy-sparking things a new life.

Here are a few of my faves:

Buy Nothing Groups. If you’ve been an EcoWarrior in this space for a while, you know my unending love for Buy Nothing Groups, and this love was only solidified during my moving process.

Yard Sale. Lucky for me, the week we moved, my friend and lovely ADITO assistant Nichole hosted a community yard sale and invited us to join in the fun! It was such a fun day, but in the end we still had more that didn’t sell, bringing us to…

OfferUp. If you’ve got bigger items to sell (like furniture or appliances) OfferUp is a great place to list them for some $$$. It’s not my favorite platform, but I have had success - both buying and selling - on it in the past.

Facebook Marketplace. FB Marketplace has been AWESOME since we moved into our new space. We’ve listed furniture, kitchen appliances, and even some pairs of shoes and have definitely found success here. It takes a bit of time to take photos of everything, upload them, and write up the descriptions, but if you do it right, the messages will start coming in almost immediately.

Donating should always be a last resort if you can help it. So much of what we donate to Goodwill and similar organizations never make it onto the sales floor. These organizations are often overrun with donations and so many people will drop off basically anything to assuage their guilt over just throwing something away, even if that thing really does belong in the trash.

No matter how you’re decluttering, make sure you wash any clothes and clean any household items before regifting or selling them. Nobody wants a shirt with a dirt stain front-and-center or a coffee grinder coated in grounds.

Sure, all of these options take a bit more planning and effort than simply tossing your unwanted things into a trash bag or dropping them off at a donation center, but it’s soooo much better.

Not only can you make some cash, but you’ll also know that the things you’re regifting will be used and cherished by their next owner.

Protip: One of the things we found super helpful was creating a list of all of the duplicate items we were about to have when we moved in together, and went through the list item-by-item to decide together what we were going to keep and what we were going to rehome. It was soooo nice to get that mental work out of the way before the move. Plus we were then able to pack the things to be rehomed in their own boxes so we didn’t have to spend extra time unpacking them just to realize we weren’t keeping them.

Moving Boxes: Opt Secondhand, Rented, or Repurposed

According to Moving.com, if you were to purchase all new boxes to move a one-bedroom home, you’d spend about $124 - just on moving boxes. No thanks, fam ✌️

Instead of spending cash on cardboard boxes that’ll just need to be recycled after your move, get creative with your packing!

Use what you have! I mean, this is just Rule #1 for going zero waste. Always use what you have before buying something else. Suitcases, bags, baskets, even things like soup pots can all be used in place of moving boxes. Gather up what you’ve got and see what all can fit. You might be surprised!

Keep things where they are. If you’re not moving far, you might not even need to pack certain things. For this move, since I was only moving 10 minutes down the road, I didn’t feel any need to pack up my dresser. I just pulled out the drawers and stacked them in my car to take them to the new house. Once the dresser itself was unloaded in the bedroom, I put the drawers back in as they were. I saved so much time, space, and money!

Zero Waste Moving Tips: Keep things where they are

Secondhand boxes. Before purchasing new shipping boxes, see what you can find secondhand! Ask friends, family, coworkers, the purchasing department at your office, local liquor stores, your local Buy Nothing Group, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, Craigslist - the list is nearly endless. I’d definitely recommend starting this process early so you have time to stock up. 

Protip: Don’t be afraid to ask multiple times in your Buy Nothing Group for boxes! Not everyone sees every post, and I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve posted boxes for gifting in my BN group, had them get zero attention, only to see someone looking for boxes two days later who didn’t see my post. Don’t get discouraged after just one post.

Reusable totes. Okay this one was a game-changer for me. My partner had a stash of reusable totes he had invested in for his last move, and we used those totes to transport nearly everything from both of our apartments to the new house. It was SO much easier than taping together a bunch of cardboard boxes, hoping they don’t fall apart, worrying about which boxes can be stacked on each other in the moving truck, and then tearing down all the boxes and recycling them when we unpacked. I’m absolutely a convert and can’t imagine moving without them.

But, of course, these totes are plastic, and buying a bunch of new totes can be SPENDY… So instead:

  • Buy them secondhand. In case I haven’t been excessively obvious here, I LOVE finding things secondhand 😅 A quick search for “storage totes” on the Facebook Marketplace got me SO MANY RESULTS for local people selling storage totes. And not just those flimsy, more-decorative-than-functional storage totes. I’m talking the heavy duty, stackable, hinged lids kinda storage totes. You know, the kind that would probably cost $15+ each brand new, but instead they’re just $5 secondhand. Even better, if you really didn’t want to keep them all after your move, you could easily just pop ‘em back on FB Marketplace and keep the secondhand love going! So check out FB Marketplace, OfferUp, Buy Nothing, and local resale shops to see what you can find around you.
  • Rent them! Okay so I had no idea this was a thing until I started doing some research for this post. But get this - there are companies that actually rent out storage totes specifically for moving. It looks like most of them are pretty localized, so they’d mostly only work for local moves, but one company I found, Rentacrate, does have warehouses in several cities across the US, and they even have a dedicated sustainability page (something I did not find with the other companies I looked into). But honestly, it looks like there are SO many other local companies across the US. Just Google “moving box rental near me” to find what’s available in your area.


Zero Waste Moving Tips: Reusable storage totes for moving plant babiesReusable storage totes were also the PERFECT solution for moving all of my [smaller] plant babies 🥰

Packing Materials: Do we really need them?

Imma level with you here - I don’t think there’s really a need for packing materials when you’re moving house. Or at least, there’s hardly a need.

Get creative with your packing materials instead of buying a bunch of bubble wrap and packing paper!

Towels, Sheets, Clothes. Before you start wrapping everything in bubble wrap and packing all your towels in their own moving box, think about different ways you can use what you already have. Towels, washcloths, dish rags, napkins, bedsheets, blankets, and clothes are all FANTASTIC for wrapping delicate items. And by using them as packing materials instead of stashing them all in their own boxes, you’ll save space in the moving truck, which could mean more $$$ in your pocket.

Zero Waste Moving Tips: unused loofahs as padding for dishes inside of a soup potMy unused natural loofah sponges worked great as padding for some ramekins inside of a soup pot!

Liquor boxes. I mentioned asking local liquor stores for boxes in the previous section, and I’m reiterating it here because those boxes are uh-mazing for glassware, mugs, or actual wine and liquor bottles. They’ve already got the dividers, so you can ditch packing materials altogether.

Ask your Buy Nothing Group. I’m telling you, friend, Buy Nothing Groups are the MVP of zero waste living. There’s always an Amazon package being delivered somewhere. Ask your neighbors for their latest packing materials!

Use paper tape. If you opt for cardboard moving boxes, use paper tape instead of plastic. This is the tape we use to seal all of our [reused] shipping boxes here at A Drop in the Ocean, and I absolutely love it. The tape itself cannot be recycled on its own, but when it’s attached to a cardboard box, it’s totally safe to put in your recycling bin, and it’s 100% made from paper here in the US. Use this link to save $20 on your first purchase!*

* This is a referral link. If you choose to use this link to make a purchase from EcoEnclose, I will receive a small shop credit as well. I only ever recommend products and brands that I use and love personally.

Ultimately, remember it’s okay to create some trash.

Honestly, friend, using these tips, my last several moves have been essentially zero waste.

But especially in the decluttering process, you’re going to find things that just aren’t worthy of being donated, aren’t wanted in your Buy Nothing Group, can’t be recycled or composted, and don’t spark joy for you anymore.

✨ I give you permission to throw these things away. ✨

Our linear economy isn’t set up for responsible disposal. So many of the things we own don’t have a sustainable end-of-life scenario. Especially the things we may have purchased before becoming EcoWarriors. 

Don’t feel obligated to keep moving something from place to place just because you feel guilty throwing it away.

Zero waste is not possible in our current economy.

We will create some trash in our lives.

It is okay.

And now, I wanna know if you have any other zero waste moving tips to add to the list! You know the drill…comment below and let me know what you’ve done in the past to keep your moves low waste! 👇

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