How to Minimize the Environmental Impact of the Moving Industry
What role can movers and moving companies play in contributing to a healthier planet?
- By Nancy Zafrani
- Jun 09, 2023
Years ago, climate change was an abstract concept discussed by academics and environmentalists. Today, more and more everyday citizens are starting to experience the consequences of global warming. Extreme weather, rising water levels and changing seasons are only three of the signs affecting many of us.
As a consequence, every industry is called upon to reconsider its business practices and minimize its overall environmental impact. The moving industry is no exception, and there is no time to waste in the interest of organizations, customers, and employees. In this article, we examine what the industry can do right now.
Environmental Impact of the Moving Industry
The vast majority of the moving industry relies on vehicles that burn fossil fuels. Moving trucks and other vehicles that help transport your possessions between your previous and your future home or between business premises emit greenhouse gases and contribute to global warming.
In fact, the transportation industry overall is one of the biggest contributors to gas emissions in several countries. In the United States, the industry is actually responsible for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Nearly 60 percent of these emissions are produced by light-duty vehicles, while medium- and heavy-duty trucks account for more than a quarter.
Of course, the moving industry is only a part of the overall transportation sector, but the figures illustrate the importance of and potential for change. The U.S. is not the only country where a large transportation and moving industry contributes to significant emissions. Australia is facing similar problems. Published in late 2019, the country’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory showed that overall emissions had remained steady since 2013. However, transport-related emissions followed a different trend—the sector’s emissions had increased by 64 percent since 1990.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted this trend temporarily, but current statistics show that transportation-related emissions may even surpass pre-COVID levels. So, what can the moving industry do to limit its output of GHG and the subsequent detrimental effects on climate change?
Industry Standards and Regulations Lead the Way
Industry standards and regulations are one approach to limiting the environmental impact of the moving industry.
To support the sector’s transformation toward greener business practices, the EPA and the Department of Transport (DOT) have teamed up and issued a joint rule-making that includes limits for emissions as well as fuel-economy standards.
The new standards have been designed to support American businesses and consumers alike, by:
- Protecting buyer choice
- Reducing the country’s dependence on oil
- Providing savings for buyers at gas stations
- Allowing manufacturers to meet the standards gradually over time
Government projections predict a six billion metric ton reduction in GHG emissions over the lifetime of new vehicles sold between 2021 and 2025. Other standards that also apply to medium- and heavy-duty trucks not only include reduced emissions but also improved fuel efficiency.
The moving industry uses trucks of all sizes to accommodate small home and large business moves. Adhering to these new standards and upgrading existing fleets is one step toward minimizing the industry’s environmental impact.
Customers have a role to play in this transition, too. By choosing a moving company with a new fleet of vehicles that are complying with EPA and DOT standards, customers can directly influence business practices and contribute to the success of forward-thinking businesses.
Sustainable Packing and Transportation Practices
Aside from cutting emissions and improving the fuel efficiency of their fleets, moving companies have several other ways to limit their environmental impact and contribute to the fight against climate change.
Reducing the industry’s impact can start long before the actual moving day. Most moving companies will meet their customers in person or via video or have a phone conversation to discuss customer needs.
Limit the Load. This is the ideal time to start talking to potential customers about limiting the items that need to be moved. Consider this scenario: If a customer is looking to downsize, they may want to sell or donate some of their possessions. If that’s the case, moving businesses may not need a medium- or heavy-duty vehicle. A more fuel-efficient, lighter vehicle may be appropriate or even more suitable.
Alternatively, environmentally conscious moving companies may suggest that several smaller customers share a moving van. This option not only benefits the environment but is also often more cost-effective.
Consider Reusable Packaging Materials. Most moving companies supply their clients with packaging materials. Cardboard boxes are popular, as well as bubble wrap and other plastic products that prevent damage to a customer’s goods.
Consider offering environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional packaging materials, including reusable items. Forward-thinking, environmentally-conscious movers have already started offering those options. If your business is not yet thinking along those lines, start researching how your company could deliver a more sustainable service to gain and retain more customers.
The Benefits of Sustainable Moving Practices
Implementing sustainable moving practices benefits businesses, customers and the environment.
Businesses benefit by:
- Building sustainable practices that align with up-to-date industry standards
- Attracting new, environmentally conscious customers
- Standing out among their competitors as industry leaders
- Reduced operational costs thanks to fuel-efficient vehicles
Customers benefit by:
- Reducing their personal environmental impact
- Avoiding the waste of large quantities of single-use packaging materials
- Limiting the costs of their move by sharing vehicles or selling items that are no longer necessary
- Contributing to national emission reduction goals
The environment benefits through:
- Reduced GHG and fuel consumption of fuel-efficient vehicles
- Reduced waste of packing materials thanks to re-usable options
As part of the transportation industry, the moving industry contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. However, as industry leaders embrace more environmentally friendly business practices, the sector has an opportunity to become a leader in the fight against climate change. Customers, companies and the environment itself stand to benefit from these changes.
Nancy Zafrani is the general manager of Oz Moving & Storage. A day-one employee of Oz, she has 30 years of experience in the moving industry. As a lifetime New Yorker, Nancy also has lots of experience dealing with small apartments and organizing. Nancy has many interests. Her hobbies include painting, hiking, and baking