Friday 17 May 2013

a green moving fling

It's official, my hubby and I are moving back to the United States after nearly 9 years in our adopted home of Australia.

Watch out America!

Now, I know moving house is known to be one of life's most stressful events, right up there with death, divorce and starting a new job.I've moved a lot, and I'll admit it's more stressful the older I get, but I don't know if I'd rank it higher than getting married, writing my book or finishing my Master's degree.

But . . .

Moving overseas has ramped up the stress level. Add to that wanting to make the move as sustainable as possible, and stress levels may rise higher than a regular move across town.

As we enjoy our final week living in idyllic Manly Beach and soaking up as much time with our beloved friends as possible, we are also in the thick of the "Keep!" "Sell!" "Donate!" or "Toss!"game that comes with moving.

At first the idea of sending anything back to the US seemed ridiculous, but 9 years is a long time, and we have accumulated some sentimental stuff we'd like in our new home (like from aforementioned stressful wedding, for example). So, we are sending some things on a boat to America, but what to take?

I wasn't about to engage in a Life Cycle Analysis of sending each item on the boat (though I sure wish there was an app for that), so unless an item has high sentimental value, we have to decision to make.
  1. Can we sell it?
  2. Is it in good enough condition to donate?
  3. Can it be recycled?
  4. Is the only place for this landfill? 
  5. Should it come on the boat?
Here are just some of the choices we've made so far . . .

Anything with an Australian plug had to stay, so that was easy, and luckily I was able to sell all of our major appliances. So happy they will be reused!

This 4.5 Energy Star fridge was popular on Gumtree!

Much of our furniture is in excellent condition, so I'm pleased so say we sold a number of items via Facebook and Gumtree and the remaining will be picked up by the Salvos next week.

Remember these chairs? I will be sad to part
with them after my handiwork!

This is coming with me - after my loving refurb
I can't bear parting with it!
Mattresses are understandably not an item you can donate, though can occasionally be refurbished and are recyclable. Ours is only two years old (and made with organic fabric!) and last year sat in storage unused for 6 months, but it's going to be recycled. There is even Mission Australia program run in the south of Sydney recycling and refurbishing mattresses as a social enterprise that provides and training in the Illawarra region called Soft Landings.

Small household items
Many small appliances and household goods are being 'gifted' to friends (blender! space heater! iron! microwave!), and the remainder will be donated. The idea of 'offloading' my cooking tools and laundry basket among other small items makes me cringe as I know many charity shops receive more donations than they know what to do with (for certain items, not furniture, though, they always need good furniture). The only thing making me feel better is the knowledge that I live in a transient neighbourhood of travelers so I feel confident most items will get a second life.

But I look around every day and see something else that I'm just not sure about, though. I mean, you can't really donate a toilet scrubber, can you? So inevitably some of these things will end up in the (ugh) landfill...

Truthfully, for a so-called 'fashionista' my wardrobe has never been smaller. Thanks to cleaning out last year ahead of our travels and generally not over-purchasing, I don't have that many clothes. I'll do a final clean out and most items will come in my luggage wit large winter items winning a spot on the boat.

photo: The Guardian
Clothing is typically donated to charity shops in huge amounts, and in the US shops receive 5 times the amount of clothes than they can donate. So remember, buy fewer clothes, buy quality items, and when you do donate, make sure it's in the best condition.

You know that drawer in your house filled with old electronics, wires, chargers, phones and laptops? Well now I really have to dispose of those items. I've been holding onto them, knowing they don't go into the landfill, but time is running out. I need to call TechCollect or take them to my local collection point at Kimbriki.

Globally we throw away anywhere from 20 million to 50 million metric tons of eWaste each year, with only 10-18% getting recycled.  Next time you upgrade your computer, television or mobile phone, first see if anyone else can use it, then make sure to recycle it safely.

Bits and pieces
Since I'm moving out for good, all the little things will need to be dealt with - lightbulbs, leftover laundry detergent, spices, dish soap - I've done the best I can to not over-purchase anything during the past few months, bu there will inevitably be a lot going into the bin unless I can offload it onto friends and neighbours. I think all the things that will be thrown away is the most stressful part of this move for me - so unsustainable! 


As I'm writing this and looking around my office, I see so many items I still need to make decisions on - sketchbooks with only 5 pages used, my stack of eco-magazines (Green Living, Peppermint, Green Lifestyle), pillows on the daybed, my stack of photos from those photography courses I took five years ago. And what about that cool free postcard I picked up to stick to my inspiration board? Has that earned a place on the boat?

I realise, perhaps more than most, how these things create our identity. We use items to portray ourselves a certain way, and a stack of partially used notebooks or old magazines may look like rubbish to an outsider, but they really contain pieces of me.

Right, this is why it's a stressful occasion.

At least I got the big things taken care of - I better get cracking on the rest.  If you have any tips (or are in the market for any household items!) please get in touch, I'll take all the help I can get right about now.


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