Dear Umbra,

Is there such a thing as “green movers”? I want to transport furniture from L.A. to Seattle and wonder if any movers use biodiesel vehicles or something like that.

Andy Luk
Seattle, Wash.

Dearest Andy,

You know, we’re moving too. What a coincidence!

Crate expectations.

Photo: iStockphoto.

But we’re not moving far — just a few blocks — and have tailored a green moving system all our own. Firstly, we’re using only old feedbags, hand-knit sacks, and fruit boxes to pack our stuff. We’re wrapping the computers in used Kleenex and old socks (everyone’s written their names on the socks they want back). On the day of the move, we’re going to hail passing pedestrians and ask them to form a giant bucket brigade, passing all the machines, furniture, and whale posters hand to hand until it’s done. It’s going to work out great — but doesn’t suit your situation.

Sadly, I can’t find a national green moving company. We did — another coincidence — hear recently about a moving company in North Carolina that runs its trucks on straight vegetable oil. Cutting edge! But they are a bit out of your trajectory.

In terms of fuel use, I think you would have to directly or surreptitiously tailor the moving trucks to your purposes. If you are hiring movers, ask them to consider using biodiesel in their diesel trucks for your move. Likelihood is high that you’d have to present them with a bit of persuasive research about pump availability and how using biodiesel would affect their engines; the National Biodiesel Board is a good place to start on these topics.

If you are renting your own diesel trucks, from U-Haul or a similar outfit, you could ask them to let you use biodiesel. I doubt they will, honestly. So my third idea is to sign the rental agreement, then violate it by filling up with biodiesel whenever you can until the last fill-up. This is a financial risk if they catch you, though, and an ethical no-no. Let’s see, what else? You could buy a diesel rig in Los Angeles, fuel it with biodiesel, and sell it once you get to your destination. Or you might consider shipping by train.

I will hold out a little hope that your own research will turn up helpful moving companies. Despite the all-powerful internet, I think local papers, classifieds, and eco-organizations might turn up a company that I can’t find from my vantage point. Don’t treat me as the final word (a good general policy).

And even if your possessions float to your new home on diesel fumes, there are a few ways for anyone to ensure a greener-than-usual move. Leave yourself enough preparation time to avoid the traditional “Agh! I’m going insane and am going to throw everything away!” phase. Particularly, make time to take unwanted hazardous stuff — electronics, batteries, etc. — to its various best ends, and objects useful to others to thrift stores. (Don’t forget that charities and other handy organizations will often pick up your unwanteds.) Clean your old home with non-toxic cleansers. Scrounge old moving boxes from friends and the liquor store before buying virgin cardboard boxes. You may even find a place in L.A. that rents moving boxes. Good luck!

Distantly,
Umbra