Can Moving Be Sustainable?

By: Alexandra Kueller

“So how sustainable was moving to your new place?” When’s the last time...I mean first time you have ever heard that? The truth is that most of us have never even considered sustainability when relocating much less being asked. Moving can require multiple trips between locations, frequent stops at gas stations, and continuous “last minute” shopping jaunts because you forgot that one item – multiple times. Needless to say, moving isn’t the most sustainable activity one can partake in.

Late this spring, I received (and accepted!) a job offer from SSC. And with this job being located in Lynchburg, Virginia, I had the "pleasure" of completing a 13 hour move from Chicago. Having finished school, I had very little to my name, and new furniture was in my immediate future. I tried my best to transport as many things as I could or pick up the remainder in Lynchburg, but some large items would simply not fit in my tiny car.  Should I rent a U-Haul or have the large items shipped? Shipping won because the cost was much cheaper through Macy’s delivery program.

Macy’s uses a third party vendor, Home Direct USA (other big retailers, such as Target and Williams-Sonoma, use this company as well), to ship large items. They have a policy stating that they will deliver all the furniture at once – no multiple trips (unless I wanted to pay a $300 fine each time!). On its face, Macy’s delivery seemed to be a good, sustainable decision, and I felt even more comfortable knowing Macy’s (as well as Target and Williams-Sonoma) has a sustainability initiative.

When it came time for my furniture to be delivered, it did not come all at once or even in two separate deliveries, but rather three separate deliveries. Not only were did having three separate deliveries seem illogical, it was highly unsustainable! Given my education background, I started to wonder how much more CO2 was emitted due to the extra deliveries. After some research, I found an emissions factor to calculate the kg CO2 emitted for a delivery truck. Here is what I found:

Calculating a baseline

I needed to figure what was the total amount of carbon emissions from all of the deliveries. The distance from the warehouse (in Richmond) to my apartment is 115 miles and the total weight of all my deliveries was 225 pounds or .1125 short-tons. When calculating the miles, the weight, and the emissions factor (.297 kg CO2/short ton-mile), the total amount of emissions was 3.84 kg CO2.

Calculating the extra deliveries

Having two additional deliveries meant that the delivery truck had to go out of its way to come to my apartment. One of the delivery guys said that he came from Roanoke before coming to Lynchburg, so I am using the assumption that both of the deliveries came from Roanoke to help make the calculation simpler.

The distance from Roanoke to Lynchburg is about 57.5 miles, and the weight of each delivery was 50 pounds or .025 short tons, and when multiplied by the emissions factor (.297 kg CO2/short ton-mile) and by 2 for each delivery, the total amount of extra emissions was .852 kg CO2. While .852 kg CO2 might seem like a lot, it actually accounts for an additional 22.2% of carbon emissions (extra deliveries divided by the baseline).

I’m sure Home Direct does not always take three tries to deliver furniture, yet my fears were not allayed by the fact that they have some of worst customer reviews on the internet (just do a quick google search).While environmental concern is just one part of sustainability, the importance of stakeholders is another. Macy’s has made a pledge to be more sustainable, and I think it’s time for them to examine their vendors to see if they are adding to or detracting from their sustainability mission.

Moving is not always sustainable, but can weddings be sustainable? Read our blog entry to see if a sustainable wedding is possible!