Inside Simran's House
Photo: Jessica Sain-Baird
I have too many shoes and too many books. I now know this because I have had to pack them all. I can honestly say that half the reason I rarely move is because I hate moving. As I told the folks at, interviewing Al Gore was easier than packing boxes and poring through all the memories embedded in my stuff.

Nearly everything I have purchased has a story: the first rug I bought in a village in Indonesia, the art I tentatively studied and procured in India, the ceramic mugs my friend Sam made, the bamboo bowls I ordered from Viva Terra. I care deeply about how I spend my money and the impact my stuff has—whether it's a carton of milk or bottle of shampoo. So when it came to shipping my precious cargo from my mom's house in North Carolina, I was, of course, invested in that too.

I logged five hours just deciding on a rental van for the move. Here's how I did it. First, I determined the most wasteful parts of a move—boxes, packing materials and the fuel it takes to get from point A to point B. Then, I figured out how to minimize them. Boxes were easy. I asked others who had moved for theirs. Yes, it was that simple—and cheap! Had it not worked, I would have reverted to what I've done in past moves—ask grocery stores if I could have their boxes. No store has ever objected because the boxes are always destined for the recycling bin.

When I am done, I can pass the boxes on to friends, Freecycle them or, worst case, recycle them. I say "worst case" because I would rather give the boxes another life. Most cardboard boxes can make it through four moves. Since I rescued the boxes from the recycling bin, I know they have had at least two lives, but I would like to give them more. Another incredible alternative that I would have investigated had they been available in my area are rentable, recycled plastic bins that can be used repeatedly (and keep plastic from our landfills).

Now for packing materials. My mom taught me to transform every textile into a packing material: T-shirts and cloth napkins get stuffed into glasses and vases, while blankets, comforters and towels enshroud framed paintings or buffer the hard edges of furniture. If I don't have enough blankets or towels, I buy a few extras from Goodwill and pass them along to the local homeless shelter or Humane Society when I'm done. Bubble wrap and packing peanuts (even the ones made of bio-plastic) do not jive with my desire to stay eco-friendly, but when I do end up with the stuff (when I buy, ahem, shoes), I usually drop them off to FedEx where they happily reuse them.

Obtaining an earth-friendly moving van