Moving and Sustainability
April 23, 2012
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There is not much sustainable about moving half way across the country, and this is something that has plagued me over the last few weeks as we prepared for our move. I’ve been trying to come up with ways to reduce the environmental footprint of our move, and to give some consideration to the social impact as well. The triple bottom line involving environmental, social, and economic impacts is something I place a lot of value in.
The first thing that we have done is to purge as much of our stuff as possible to cut down on the weight we will be moving. Fundamental thermodynamics says that the force required to move something is equal to the mass times the acceleration. Since we can’t control the acceleration the movers use, we have to adjust the mass to reduce the energy required. We also chose to hire movers so that our belongings are moved in a large truck with many other peoples belongings. This means it will be much more efficient than moving it in a half empty U-Haul by ourselves.
Other problems presents themselves because we will need to replace the things we purge when we get there, and producing new products requires energy too. We also need to divert what we purge from the landfill. The embodied energy associated with what we are throwing out and what we are replacing is difficult to calculate. The solution we have come up with for this is to leave everything we no longer want on the sidewalk for people in our neighbourhood to take. The vast majority of what we placed outside has found new homes, and the less fortunate and student populations in our neighbourhood benefited from this. Some people even stopped us on the street to thank us for putting so much stuff outside to give away. Reusing is the second of the 3 Rs for a reason, and the best way to divert things from a landfill. The remainder of the things will be recycled if possible and we will send to the landfill only what we cannot divert. Once we arrive in Ottawa we will try to stock our apartment with items from yard sales. This will allow us to reuse other peoples items they no longer want, and reduce the embodied energy. It will also help us financially as we try to establish ourselves in a new city.
The last step involves getting ourselves there. I have been pretty hard on my car and was planning to sell it before we made the move. We have decided to keep it and sell it in Ottawa, and drive instead of fly. Driving is more fuel efficient than flying. We will also fill by car with light boxes to use all the space, and free up space in the movers truck. We’ve got CAA roadside assistance in case we don’t make it, but our fingers are crossed!
While its near impossible to do a zero carbon move (I like to think that nothing is impossible), it is still important to consider the environmental and social impacts of your decisions. Often people are only concerned with the financial impacts. In our move we made decisions that both reduced the carbon impact and helped out the less fortunate in our neighbourhood. We are far from a zero-impact move but every little bit helps.
Our move from Halifax to Ottawa will be roughly 1,434 km
City of Halifax
City of Ottawa