How to Move Sustainably
The Finch team has collectively moved over 60 times in our lives, and Lizzie herself has lived in over 13 apartments in the past 15 years, so we know first hand how moving into a new house or renovating an existing one can usually be equal parts thrilling and make-you-want-to-pull-your-hair-out stressful. From the packing boxes to light bulbs to the pantry-stocking, it’s often an incredibly overwhelming time even without thinking of the impact you’re having on the environment. We’ve been getting a lot of questions about some easy steps to take, so we’ve compiled them all below. This list is just a start, so please email firstname.lastname@example.org or ask in our next AMA on Instagram if you have other specific-questions and we’ll add them. Enjoy, and happy moving!
Help. Where do we even begin?
Here are some simple steps to take:
- Channel Marie Kondo and get rid of everything that doesn’t bring you joy. Even Hilary Clinton just admitted she had a hard time letting go (Stars! They’re just like us), but it makes a big difference. Check your local recycling services for e-waste, or look into Terracycle’s Zero Waste Boxes. Selling your clothes second-hand or donating to goodwill are phenomenal options.
- Order reusable moving boxes. ZippGo, Bungo Box, Bin It, Rent a Moving Box, Redi-Box, and even U-Haul offer reusable heavy-duty plastic moving crates of different sizes, wardrobe boxes included.
- Collect used cardboard boxes from local shops. If you plan ahead, you can check with your local wine stores and corner shops to arrange to pick up their cardboard boxes after new deliveries. For tape, we love what this company is all about.
- Before you buy all the biodegradable packing goods, use what you already have. Our favorites are t-shirts, dish towels, and bath towels.
Will try to figure out an eco-friendly washer/dryer option. Any recommendations on the impact of reducing how much you use a dryer?
The first step to take is to look at Energy Star’s most efficient washers and dryers. Don’t worry about the best of the best, if it’s on that list it’s Finch-approved. Cold water is always the best choice because heating water is the largest source of energy (and, additional perk, it’ll save you some $$!). Dryer balls are also said to reduce energy consumption. If you can hang things to dry, that does make a medium-sized impact, so do that when you can.
I love my Keurig but I also love the planet. What’s the best option for pods for my machine?
The problem with the pods is that they're often too small for certain sorting systems at recycling plants to pick up. Recycling centers are overwhelmed with all the trash, so picking out little pods out of the garbage is inefficient, and of course these end up in our water streams or incinerated, polluting the air. Nespresso offers pre-recycling bags that hold up to 200 capsules and the bags can be dropped at any location. We love reusable k-cups, where you fill in a little bit of coffee and then simply wash it out when you're finished. It takes an extra few seconds but totally guilt-free. We’re also big fans of Bunn’s My Café. Don't be so hard on yourself. If you have a family of five all drinking coffee, a pot is obviously more efficient but brewing an entire pot of coffee for one person also comes with sustainability issues.
LEDs are the way to go. They can last up to 50,000 hours and unlike CFLs, LEDs brighten instantly and can reduce your electricity consumption by up to 80% each year. Energy-star LEDs are even better. Be careful of the rebound effect, though. Just because they’re more efficient doesn’t mean you can leave them on when you leave the house or all night! If you’re looking for similar incandescent bulbs, search for the word “warm,” about 2,500 Kelvin. If you want whiter light, go higher. 5,000K gives a similar light to “daylight.”
Which is better for fires: natural logs or duraflame?
Firelogs like duraflame are more sustainable because they’re made from recycled materials and produce less carbon monoxide and emissions. They don’t produce as much heat which is a drawback. If you’re cutting your own wood in your backyard, firelogs are a great option.
It’s important to keep in mind that the best thing to do is generally use existing appliances instead of replacing them. For example, if you have an old, inefficient refrigerator that’s only five years old, buying a new energy-efficient one will be, overall, worse for the planet because you haven’t gotten the full use out of your other fridge. If you have to buy new appliances, obviously the newest energy efficient models are best, and be sure to look into donating old ones.
Tankless hot water versus hot water heater?
Tankless water heaters use high-powered burners to rapidly heat water as it runs through a heat exchanger. These types of water heaters are found to be 22% more energy efficient on average than gas-fired storage tank models. They’re best for homes that use natural gas to heat the water; electric models might require an expensive upgrade of the home’s electrical capacity. Tankless water heaters also take less time to heat water. Natural-gas water heaters cost less to run and use less energy, but they cost more at the time of purchase. Solar water heaters work well in warm, sunny regions, but even with federal and local rebates, you’ll wait 10-30 years to get a payback.
We’re curious about the environmental credits of engineered wood versus hardwood versus engineered vinyl.
Bamboo is actually a favorite alternative for the eco-conscious, as it regenerates in just three to five years and consumes more carbon dioxide than regular trees. Bamboo and engineered hardwood flooring are more sustainable options, as deforestation is a very real concern. Engineered hardwood is a sustainable option only if you purchase through a company that harvests from responsible woodlots. FSC is the best certification for that. Bamboo isn’t as durable and may show scratches, so we prefer engineered hardwood. Other factors to look for are reclaimed/recycled wood with a water-based, Green Seal 11-certified finish. Whatever flooring you choose to install, make sure you use nail-down or click installation instead of glue, which can emit harmful VOCs. If you do use glue, make sure you choose one that’s Greenguard Gold certified. Vinyl, or linoleum, is affordable, water-resistant and resilient. It’s the best choice for kitchens and bathrooms.
Do recycled surfaces look as pretty as a Quartz or Marble?
Aesthetics are a personal preference, but we’d vouch for installing a recycled surface – search for them here.
What are some other important things to pay attention to?
Eco-friendly paint, natural lighting, draught-proofing, and low-flow bathroom appliances.
Unpaper towels: We use a lot of paper towels and I want to turn the trend around. Are reusable dishcloths just as bad because of the water intensity of laundering?
Cloths are great in the kitchen! You can wash them less frequently and with a full load of clothes or bath towels, so the laundering footprint is relatively low. It’s sometimes fun to challenge yourself how long you can go with just reusable cloths – See how many meals you can get through without grabbing a paper towel or paper napkin, and challenge yourself to only use them for cleaning purposes. If you are going to buy paper towels, look for 100% recycled paper and unbleached.
Signing up for a composting service. Worth it?
If you don’t have a disposal, this is a great option and makes a big difference. If your sink has a disposal, it travels through the sewage system to wastewater treatment plants, where anaerobic digesters capture the methane gas and convert it to electricity or biofuel. If not, composting is a great choice. You can freeze your leftovers so they don’t smell and walk them to your nearest drop-off (you can find this by a simple google search), or using a composting service that will be specific to your zip-code. The last option is putting food in the trash to landfill.
Reusable bottles for hand soap, dish soap, etc to reduce the number of plastic containers that we use?
I’m a big fan of Blueland or Clean Cult. If you have a refill station in your local neighborhood, that’s the most optimal choice.
“Green” Cleaning products. Any recommendations for laundry detergent?
Check out our post here on detergent.
Better reusable grocery bags?
This is always hard to remember. We leave the bags in the cars at all times. Make it a habit the second you’re finished putting away groceries to bring the bags back to the car so they live there. If you’re concerned about Covid, it’s been proven that reusable bags are perfectly safe to use. We recommend these for reusable bags, but the best thing you can do is use an existing bag from the last time you shopped at Lululemon or another place that gave you a fancy one.
Thinking about trying to buy more bulk pastas, grains, etc. to reduce packaging consumption.
Great! Companies like Barilla are losing the plastic flap on the front, so it’s 100% cardboard that can be recycled so we wouldn’t stress so much if you can buy only-cardboard boxes. If you live in a certain area, Terracycle Loop might be a great choice for this. This shift won’t completely move the needle if you’re looking for habits to fall on the back burner.
I heard there is microplastic in 94% of US tap water, so I want a filter. Do you recommend anything specific?
First thing to do is look at your local tap water makeup. Filtration will never hurt, but the Finchers love good old natural tap. Otherwise, Berkey, Aquagear, or Brita will do the trick.
"Scientists Know More about How COVID-19 Spreads. So Is It Safe to Bring Your Reusable Bags Back to the Grocery Store?” | StateImpact Pennsylvania. NPR, Sept 3, 2020.