Now for the biggie—the moving van. The most resource-intensive part of a major move is the amount of fuel consumed. Petroleum effects the cost of our moves and the tolls they have on the planet. Green Movers and Go Green Moving are two full-service movers that serve certain parts of the country and use vehicles that are committed to reducing their carbon emissions. But I only needed a truck, not professional movers, and I don't live in the spots these eco-movers service, so I scrutinized the major truck rental companies...for hours.

There is a concept in environmental communications known as "greenwashing," the corporate practice of making a company seem greener than it actually is. Those exaggerations lull consumers into thinking they are making a more environmentally friendly choice by choosing one product or service over another. Because we are inundated with information, it is not always easy to separate the authentic green from the greenwash. (Greenpeace has a fantastic blog that can help you make this distinction.)

I wanted to make sure I did not fall prey to greenwashing in my hunt for the perfect rental truck. Transportation is one of the greatest contributors to climate change. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, moving freight accounts for 20 percent of all energy consumed within the transportation sector. That means the most important way to green your move is to be very picky about your vehicle.

While U-Haul and others have interesting sustainability policies, it is not enough to offer recycled moving pads or retrofit trucks with fuel gauges that indicate the speed required for optimal fuel efficiency. In order to have a real impact, companies can't just say they are planning to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions—they have to do it. The EPA's voluntary Smartway program is a partnership with freight carriers that ensures this very thing. The only commercial truck rental company in the Smartway program that has earned an exceptional rating for fuel efficiency and environmental performance is Penske.

I found my optimal truck, but it was not easy, because Penske does not trumpet their greenness. I took the time to research the Smartway program and dig around other sites to see what they were really up to. Then, I got on the phone with representatives from various companies. Hours later—no, days later—I had my answer.

Penske is committed to replacing their fleet with efficient vehicles, providing diesel on their larger-size trucks (which get 8 to 10 mpg, compared to 6 to 8 mpg on their smaller gasoline-powered trucks) and also offer eco-friendly moving supplies. Their moving blankets (in case you don't own enough cloth to pad your breakables) are available for rent and made from 70 percent postconsumer recycled fabric. And if absolutely necessary, they sell boxes certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and made from an average of 30 percent postconsumer and 5 percent preconsumer waste. Their packing peanuts are also made from 100 percent recycled materials.

Moving is never fun—at least not for me. But I have been taking it all back to relationships: the relationship I am forming with my new house, the relationship with my beloved friend who is helping me move and, in the face too many books and too many shoes, the small but mighty moments of empowerment that come with knowing these changes help me tread a little more gently on the Earth.

You can find more move musings on Twitter @simransethi.

May you find small but mighty moments of empowerment in the week ahead,


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Simran Sethi is an award-winning journalist and associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications. For more information on Sethi, visit


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