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Green on the Move

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I just moved into a new apartment with a beautiful view (see above…oolala) of North Toronto. My fiance and I are both environmental science students and live pretty eco-friendly (as much as we can). So as if moving isn’t stressful enough… add in being environmental? It becomes a mini nightmare. This wasn’t the first time I’ve moved. In fact I counted and I’ve lived in 13 different houses and/or apartments since the age of 16. That’s 13 different places in 7 years. But this was my first BIG move. I wasn’t just moving to British Columbia with a backpack on, or into university residence with my suitcase of clothes and a laptop. No, this was the big one. The big empty apartment that needed desks, beds, shelves, rugs, art, plates, cups… etc.

The first issue was that we had stuff all over. We needed to drive a UHaul to Guelph and back to Toronto to get my stuff and from South East Toronto to North West Toronto (twice!) to get all of his stuff. Stuff Stuff Stuff. Stuff that we don’t even really need, but we couldn’t just leave at our other places. Next was packing. Bubble wrap? … How eco-friendly can those tiny little plastic bubbles really be? Well, we used a lot of it. And what about furnishings? Buying all new chairs, tables and beds didn’t really seem like the right thing to do either. So, here’s a few tips I wish I would have though about before this move:

1. Purge first. I can’t even tell you how angry I was to see the amount of stuff that the fiance got rid of AFTER we moved. It was absolutely ridiculous. On the flip side I’m pretty embarassed about the amount of stuff I brought that I haven’t even thought about using yet, and probably never will. If we would have really gone through all of our belongings and seriously thought about what we needed we probably could have gotten a smaller vehicle, saved on gas, time and packing. So buck up and give those old boardgames to the Good Will.

2. Give and take. Give to the good will, and take from other’s good will. We looked at a lot of different pull out beds and futons (we have people over a lot) from Ikea and different stores. After the first trip to Ikea we looked at what we had in our carts and realized what we were doing. We left our stuff there and started calling friends. We ended up getting a beautiful dining room set, a huge/gorgeous TV stand with built in shelves, a night table, a queen sized bed, a full living room set, a coffee table, lamps, a desk and other little things from family and friends. My fiance’s step-dad’s friend from University’s mother was moving into a old age home, so she had all this really wonderful and great quality items to pass down to it. So you never know who is trying to get rid of their entire house full of great things. Granted the living room set is pretty hideous, but I spent around $300 buying eco-friendly cloth and making slip covers and curtains out of it. If things didn’t match the decorating scheme of the apartment it was very easy to cover it or paint it. Im glad I can look around the apartment and know that we’re reusing so much great stuff.

3. Packing. Ugh. I have a lot of breakable things and we had our cups, plates, wine glasses, etc. We packed most of it with bubble wrap. At the end of it all we had so much bubble wrap and we had NO idea what to do with it. Recycle it? Throw it out? That got us feeling guilty when we thought about how its made. We got rid of some of it on FreeCycle and the rest of it we eventually found a company that would use it. Lucky for American’s you have Earth 911 to help you find recycling places for most things. But besides that I would suggest packing with paper or your clothes. Clothes is one I thought of nearing the end of my packing. I wish I would have thought of that sooner.

4. Find a way to clear your guilt. Offset your carbon footprint from all the driving by planting some trees, volunteering for your local environmental group, donating to your favorite environmental cause or don’t drive for the next year. We got an apartment within walking distance to work, school and friends. This was the big reason we were okay with the big driving trips, was because we’d be making up for it over the next couple years.

5. This is a personal one…. bigger is not better. We looked at 3 apartments in the same building and ultimately decided to get the biggest one. I wish we would have gotten the smaller one. We’ve had to get lamps to light up the big room. It looks empty without more bookcases etc in it. It takes more cleaning supplies. And its a lot harder to keep cool in the hot summer sun.

Anyway, this is my learning experience from my first move. Post your ideas and tips for moving and keeping your green guilt low!