The Environmental Impact of Interstate Moving and How to Minimize It

June 3, 2024

The interstate moving industry has a surprisingly large carbon footprint. On average, a long-distance move emits over 3 tons of carbon into the atmosphere. This is equivalent to the emissions from driving a car 7,500 miles. With over 35 million Americans moving households each year, the environmental impact starts to add up quickly.

Reducing the carbon emissions of moving is becoming increasingly important. As climate change progresses, individuals and businesses alike are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints. The moving industry has lagged behind other sectors in prioritizing sustainability. But with rising eco-consciousness, there is growing consumer demand for responsible moving practices. More people want to move in an environmentally-friendly way.

The carbon emissions from moving matter because they contribute to climate change. Moving sustainably is one impactful way for households to lower their annual carbon footprint. With some planning and preparation, families can reduce the environmental impact of their move. Eco-moving options are on the rise, providing ways to move greener.

Factors Contributing to High Emissions

Interstate moves tend to have high carbon emissions for several reasons. The primary factor is the fuel usage of large moving trucks traveling long distances across states. A typical interstate move may involve a heavy 26-foot rental truck driving over 1,000 miles. With an average fuel economy of only 7 miles per gallon when loaded, this can result in over 140 gallons of diesel fuel burned just for the moving truck.

In addition to the truck’s emissions, the disposable packing materials used to protect belongings can also have a significant environmental impact. Bubble wrap, paper, tape, boxes, and other packaging are often used in large quantities for an interstate move. Most of these materials are discarded after use, ending up in landfills. The resources and energy used to produce these materials further contribute to the emissions footprint.

The total distance traveled is also a major contributor, as longer distances naturally require more fuel usage.Moving across several states could amount to burning hundreds of gallons of diesel. This not only emits carbon into the atmosphere, but also releases particulate matter that impacts air quality. Overall, the combination of large trucks, disposable packing supplies, and vast distances is what causes interstate moves to be particularly detrimental to the environment.

Emissions From Moving Trucks

The emissions from a single moving truck can be substantial due to their large size, heavy loads, and inefficient fuel economy. Most commercial moving trucks get between 5 to 10 miles per gallon when fully loaded compared to the average 20-25 mpg for personal vehicles. For a typical long-distance interstate move of 1,000 miles, a moving truck can burn 100-200 gallons of diesel fuel each way. This results in 1.2 to 2.4 tons of carbon emissions released just for the moving truck transport. With additional emissions from the return trip while empty, the total can be 2 to 4 tons per move.

While moving companies try to schedule moves efficiently, the trucks are large and often don’t fill up, resulting in lots of excess emissions from unused cargo space. The long distances traveled also make trucks a major emissions source. With over 40 million people moving each year in the US, the cumulative impact of all those trucks on the roads for moves is significant.

Emissions From Packing Materials

When preparing for an interstate move, most people rely on common packing supplies like cardboard boxes, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and tape to protect their belongings. While convenient, the manufacturing and disposal of these materials contributes significantly to the environmental impact of moving.

All combined, the cardboard, foams, plastics, and adhesives used for packing during moves contribute substantially to the overall emissions and environmental impact from relocating.

Total Emissions Per Move

The average carbon footprint of an interstate move is estimated to be around 10,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per household move. This is a massive amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can have a major environmental impact.

To put this in perspective, 10,000 pounds of CO2 is equivalent to:

So you can see, the carbon footprint of moving your household long-distance is incredibly significant. The emissions are equivalent to many months or even over a year’s worth of normal daily activities for an individual or family. This underscores why it’s critical to find ways to reduce your moving emissions and make your interstate move more eco-friendly. Even a slightly smaller move footprint can make a meaningful difference.

Impact of Distance Traveled

The distance traveled during an interstate move has a major impact on the total emissions produced. Generally, longer distances mean higher emissions from the moving trucks. This is because the trucks have to burn more fuel as they drive farther, releasing more greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

For example, a 500 mile move may produce over twice the emissions of a 250 mile move, simply because the trucks are operating and burning fuel for twice the distance. The emissions increase linearly with the miles traveled in most cases.

Moving companies can optimize routes to reduce unnecessary miles driven. Taking the most direct interstate routes, avoiding detours, and planning overnight stops at strategic locations enables trucks to minimize excess mileage during long-distance relocations. Some companies use route optimization software to map out the most eco-friendly routes that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Carefully choosing a moving company that optimizes routing and minimizes miles driven is an important way for consumers to reduce the environmental impact of their interstate move. The distance traveled has a major influence, so minimizing excess mileage is key.

Ways to Reduce Emissions

One of the best ways to reduce the environmental impact of moving is to use eco-friendly packing materials. Instead of buying new cardboard boxes, try to reuse boxes from previous moves or see if local businesses have boxes they are throwing out. When packing fragile items, substitute bubble wrap with newspaper or packing paper made from recycled content.

Renting a fuel-efficient moving truck is another way to cut down on emissions. Many rental companies now offer trucks with better MPG ratings and some even have hybrid or electric models. Opt for the smallest truck that will fit your belongings to minimize excess emissions from a larger truck.

Carefully planning your driving route can also help reduce carbon output from the move. Taking the most direct path avoids extra mileage and look for routes with lower speed limits, fewer hills, and less stop-and-go traffic which will burn less fuel. Using GPS to find the optimal route based on these factors can streamline the process.

Making just a few simple changes can cut down on the environmental toll of moving to a new home or office. With eco-packing materials, fuel-efficient rental trucks, and smart trip planning, you can feel good about your move’s impact on the planet.

Low Emission Moving Companies

Moving companies are embracing more eco-friendly practices to reduce their carbon footprint. Many now use trucks with high fuel efficiency or alternative fuels like biodiesel. Some companies are transitioning their fleets to electric vehicles.

A number of movers also offer carbon offset programs. This is where they calculate the emissions from your move and invest in projects that reduce CO2, like planting trees or capturing methane. So while your move still causes pollution, they balance it out through offsets. Typically you pay a small fee per mile to participate in these programs.

U-Pack is one company with a carbon offset option. You can choose to offset the emissions from their ReloCube containers. PODS lets you offset emissions too. Their program plants trees to balance out the CO2 from delivering and hauling your container.

Newer startups are designing their business models around sustainability. Boldly Green Movers uses biodiesel trucks and carbon offsets all their moves. They also encourage reuse by letting you rent reusable plastic containers.

When researching moving companies, look for ones with green programs and policies. This ensures your relocation will have less environmental impact.

Alternatives to Reduce Emissions

There are a few alternatives to traditional moving that can help reduce the environmental impact of an interstate move.

Rent Moving Pods

One option is to rent detachable moving pods instead of hiring movers with a large truck. The pods can be dropped off at your location, filled up at your own pace, then picked up and shipped to your new destination. This cuts down on truck fuel emissions significantly. The pods are shipped by train which is far more efficient than a moving truck.

Ship Belongings vs Driving

Rather than driving your belongings cross country, consider shipping boxes through a parcel service. While not practical for furniture, shipping boxes of clothes, books, kitchen items, etc. can greatly reduce emissions from driving a moving truck or your own car. Compare costs of shipping vs. fuel and see if this strategy works for your move.

Use Public Transportation

If flying or taking a train to your new city, use public transportation as much as possible once you arrive. Avoid renting a car and driving all your belongings. Public transit like buses, subways, and trains are more sustainable options. You can also use a taxi service for transporting individual items.


As we’ve seen, interstate moves have a significant environmental impact largely due to emissions from moving trucks and materials used for packing. A typical interstate move can generate over 5 tons of CO2 emissions – equivalent to the emissions from driving an average car for over 6 months straight.

The further the move distance, the greater the impact. Even a move of 1,000 miles can generate as much emissions as driving over 35,000 miles in your personal car. With nearly 40 million people in the US moving each year, largely relying on commercial movers, the collective impact is massive.

However, there are ways we can reduce the environmental footprint of moving. Choosing low-emissions moving companies that optimize routes and trucks for efficiency makes a difference. Using green packing materials like recycled boxes and blankets also helps. For shorter distance moves, renting your own truck and doing it yourself avoids excessive truck emissions.

The greenest option of all is simply moving less – staying in one home longer term and being more selective when relocating. Moving sustainably requires planning and effort, but simple changes can dramatically reduce your environmental impact. As consumers, we have the power to influence companies to adopt greener practices through the choices we make. By moving mindfully and voting with our dollars, we can help preserve our planet for future generations. The time to act is now.