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Q. Dear Umbra,

We have to move a small apartment from New York to LA. We can rent a diesel truck that gets 8-12 mpg (yikes — but the best we could find) OR sell the furniture, ship some stuff, and fly. Both options are about the same price, but which is more environmentally friendly (considering airplane pollution, waste of dumping and buying new stuff)? Is there any other cheap and green solution? Much obliged!

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New York

A. Dearest Sarah,

Are you chasing your dream of making it in show business, or just trying to get out of the rain?

cat in boxDon’t forget the kitty.mava via flickrThere are a lot of solutions, some greener, who knows if they’ll be cheaper, and only you will know if they’re palatable. “Green” moving companies have come into existence since we last touched upon this hassle-filled topic, and there are also interesting shipping and personal travel options you did not mention.

For example, have you considered the train for your stuff and yourselves? Amtrak travel between New York City and Los Angeles will in theory take three days. When I accessed the fare finder, two people in coach cost $386. Your stuff can also travel by train, separately from you if you wish; you need only pack it in boxes 3’x3’x3′ or smaller, weighing 50 pounds or less, and get it to an approved receiving Amtrak station. Greyhound also ships boxes and travels across country at a much lower greenhouse gas cost than air or private car. Both Amtrak and Greyhound are generally held to be cheaper than shipping via UPS or FedEx or USPS. Naturally you should doublecheck. We do know that train and inter-city bus are both environmentally better than flying or diesel trucks.

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Another option you should certainly look into is a pod — these freight containers are rented out by several companies now. They can fit quite a bit of furniture, and get loaded onto a truck with other people’s pods. It’s like carpooling for your stuff! The companies often offer storage at one end of your move or both, for a small additional fee. Once your pod is safely on its way, you could make your way across the country by train, bus, or bicycle — whatever method you see fit.

I would characterize the selling/buying furniture question as a financial rather than environmental issue. If you so easily are able to sell your old stuff and buy new, and are interested in an affordable move, I assume we are dealing in used furniture. Selling old used furniture and buying new used furniture is just a rotation of furniture. Except the mattress. Here’s your opportunity to buy a PBDE-free mattress.

To answer your basic question about which form of transport out of your original two choices is preferable, we’ll have to go with the diesel truck. But remember, the train will be faster than driving, as well as more pleasant and environmentally preferable. I hope it will work for you.