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A List of Alternative, Green Packing Materials You Can Use

woman packing with newspaper
Air Images/ Shutterstock

Whether you are about to move from one home to another or sending packages to family and friends, finding eco-friendly packaging materials is an important part of living sustainably. While traditional cardboard boxes can be recycled, manufacturing and recycling them consumes a fair bit of energy. In other words, this traditional packing method isn’t as sustainable as people think.

However, there are a plethora of options on the market for eco-friendly moving supplies. Whether you prefer reusable bins to minimize waste or want biodegradable options that can be composted, here are eight of the best green options out there.

*Note: While we provide links for most products mentioned, some may not ship to all 50 states.

Alternative green packing materials you can use


Newspaper is a common household good that can easily be repurposed for a wide range of uses. It’s a fantastic green packing material in part because it wasn’t produced or purchased solely for this purpose. Use this easily recyclable packaging to safely wrap and protect glasses, dishware, and other fragile goods.

If you don’t have any newspaper, check in with your local recycling outlet or newspaper office. Both often sell large amounts for incredibly cheap.

Biodegradable packing peanuts 

These are made of non-toxic materials, either cornstarch or wheat, and are compostable. There is a large market for this biodegradable packaging, so you can usually find a decent amount for the price.

Get a large bag of biodegradable packing peanuts on Amazon for a little over $50.

Reusable plastic bins

These are a great reusable option. They are sturdy, longer-lasting than cardboard boxes, and relatively affordable. You can either purchase and keep again for future use, or rent from a moving company.

For buying, you can find popular, collapsible models on Amazon for roughly $60. 

Upcycled materials

Upcycled, eco-friendly packaging is anything that was previously used and is now sold on a crowdsourcing platform, such as Craigslist. You can even get these for free. Some local moving companies offer this as a part of their sustainability measures, so check with them to find lightly used packing options to keep your move green.

Check out this link for more information on where you can look for upcycled materials.

Blankets, sheets, or towels

You don’t have to spend money to get eco-friendly packaging. Use your own blankets, sheets, and towels to properly cushion everything within your green packing bin. This completely minimizes waste by repurposing other common household goods. Get innovative and look within your own home to pack your items in an environmentally friendly way!

Recycled paper tape

Tape is a necessary part of packaging. Use tape made from recycled paper to minimize your impact on the environment. This is a more difficult material to reuse or fully recycle, so making sure that the tape is made as sustainably as possible will help cut your environmental impact. Find a roll on Amazon for roughly $40.

Biodegradable bubble wrap

If you want the same protection as bubble wrap without the plastic waste, there is a biodegradable packing option. Made of 100% recycled paper and compostable after use, this honeycomb netting is a perfect example of biodegradable packaging.

Corrugated paper roll

Made from recycled paper, this packing material is a common choice for moving companies or shipping centers looking to be more sustainable. It can be reused and recycled once it has reached the end of its shelf life.

Eco-friendly packaging for moving liquids 

If you are transporting your household liquids in a move, such as detergent, dish soap, and cleaning supplies, finding a way to pack them safely and sustainably is important. Below are some of our favorite options for making sure these goods get from point A to point B safely.

Smaller, reusable plastic bins

As mentioned above, these are great options for moving anything in an environmentally friendly manner. They work especially well for transporting liquids. Make sure your bottles are closed tight and the plastic bin taped shut so nothing leaks out if things spill inside. Use smaller bins so the liquids fit more snugly and don’t jostle around in the bin. Purchase a set of 12-quart plastic bins for as little as $30.

Resealable plastic bag

Larger Ziploc resealable bags, while not made sustainably, are reusable and help keep liquids from spilling in transit. Put a few bottles in each bag, and pack safely within the plastic bins mentioned above. Steer away from using compostable wrapping;  if there is a spill, the toxic chemicals in the cleaning liquids that soak into the wrapping render it non-compostable. These household, bacteria-killing compounds degrade soil quality and damage the compost batch.

Recycled paper tape

In addition to packing, tape is also a great way to seal the bins holding your liquid bottles. Use this special tape to cut down on your environmental footprint.

Household blankets in between bottles

If your bottles are loosely falling around the bin, ensure they stay tight and upright during the move by jamming a few household blankets or towels in between them. You are already opting to use some reusable plastic during the move, so take it a step to further minimize your environmental impact by using blankets instead of purchasing more packing materials. But if you’re concerned about the chemicals damaging your towels in transit, use the well-loved towels you usually hide from guests.

The bottom line

There are a lot of different things to consider when packing and moving all of the important things in your life. The good news is, moving sustainably is very doable. The market has been flooded with eco-friendly packaging alternatives in recent years, giving you, the consumer, many options to choose from. Whether they’re already in your house or biodegradable alternatives, make sure to invest in making your packing plan as sustainable as possible.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What are eco-friendly materials?

The most eco-friendly materials on the market are those that are both made from recyclable materials and compostable. The sustainable bubble wrap, mentioned earlier in this piece, is a perfect example. Anything compostable after use is also eco-friendly. Innovatively using household items as packing material also counts as caring for our environment.

Are eco-friendly packing options sold in stores?

Most often, yes. Your local shipping store should have smaller-scale green packing materials. Eco-friendly packaging materials, such as reusable plastic bins, can also be found at most home improvement stores.

What do I do with these packing materials after the move? 

If you are planning on using them again and have the storage space, keep them in your new home until you need them for future use. All compostable materials at the end of their shelf life should be taken to the nearest composting center. Donate or sell any packing materials that can still be used but that you no longer need. Last but not least, bring all recyclable packaging to your local recycling center for processing.

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