Eco-Friendly Storage Tips - Going Green in Your Storage Unit

When it comes to the future, and protecting it for our kids, it's important to find ways to "go green" whenever possible. Our natural resources are in a limited supply, and for that reason we need to look for ways to save. One place where people are, surprisingly, finding savings is in their self-storage. "Green" self-storage is a relatively new concept, but the rate at which facilities with hits option are booking seems to indicate it is one that consumers want. Here is some more information about this trend and what you can do to make your storage unit more "green."

The Reason Green Is So Important

Why is it important to find green storage options? Is "going green" really all that important? A closer look at disappearing natural resources will show that yes, it is. Here are some reasons why:

  • Going green saves moneyThis isn't the primary reason to take measures to protect the environment, but the truth is, going green saves money in the long term. Some green improvements may cost more at the outset, but they end up saving money in the long term.
  • It helps reduce global warming. The light bulb your storage unit uses may not seem like it has much of an impact on global warming, but the reality is that climate-warming is directly linked to human activities. Changing some of those activities will have an impact.
  • Resources are limited. According to some scientists, if we continue depleting resources on the earth at the current rate, the earth will only be able to support about 2 billion humans at the turn of the next century. Using resources more wisely is the first step in changing this.
  • We make too much trash. According to the EPA, Americans generate over 250 million tons of trash each year, and only recycle or compost about 87 million tons. Most of that garbage goes to landfills, where it continues to contribute to environmental damage. Recycling and other "green" measures can help reduce the amount of garbage going to the landfills.

Going green is not something to take lightly. The resources we have are limited, and we need to do our part to keep them protected. One way to do that is to focus on green storage practices.

How You Can Help - Packing Green

In a perfect world, you would choose a storage facility made with the latest, green features, but that is not always the case. Green storage is a relatively new idea among those who want to "go green," and as such many facilities are embracing these ideas slowly. If you are in the market for a new storage unit, and want to go green, there are a number of things you can do to do your part while your storage facility tries to make itself more energy friendly.

Choose an Insulated Storage Facility

If you're storing your things in an outdoor shed, cold basement or hot attic, there is a high chance that they will be damaged by extreme temperatures. Damaged items end up in the landfills, and that's not eco-friendly in the least. Keep your belongings safe by storing them in an insulated storage facility instead.

Use Sturdy Cardboard Containers

When possible, store your items in cardboard, which is biodegradable, instead of plastic. However, make sure the cardboard is heavy duty cardboard made from recycled materials. Flimsy cardboard boxes will break down and leave your items at risk. Use plastic tubs only for those items that absolutely must be protected from moisture.

Opt for Plastic Ties Instead of Tape

Taping your items is a waste of a costly and environmentally-dangerous material (plastic tape). Instead, use plastic ties to secure items when you can. You can secure cords, hoses, curtain rods, handles and other small items with zip ties. Consider purchasing ties that are reusable. Of course, sometimes tape is necessary, but cutting down on the amount of tape you use will make your storage unit more "green."

Recycle Packing Materials

When you get your items out of storage, make sure you recycle the packing materials. If you are done with them, send them to a recycling center, or give them to someone who is moving and needs boxes and packing materials. If you are going to store other items, re-use the packing materials for your own needs.

Choose the Right Packing Material

For items that won't be damaged by the newsprint, consider packing with newspaper. Otherwise, invest in biodegradable packing peanuts or packing peanuts made from recycled materials. Paper towels, which are also biodegradable, can be used in place of bubble wrap for those items that are particularly fragile. When you have to buy tubs or other containers, look for those made from materials that are reclaimed, renewable, recycled, or repurposed.

Use Recycled Pallets

Pallets from businesses can be easy to get, as they are typically disposed of after they get worn. These are recyclable and renewable, and can be used to stack items off of the ground in your storage unit. Ask small businesses that use pallets if they have any they no longer need that you can use. If you see pallets on the curb, most likely you can have them, but always ask first.

What Makes Storage Green?

After you have done your part to pack "green," here are some features to look for in a storage unit. Keep in mind that it may not be possible to find a unit with all of these, but each one can provide a benefit.

Green Lighting

In a self-storage facility, lighting has to remain on twenty-four-seven in order to maintain safety and security. This may not seem like a big deal, but leaving a light on non-stop can add up to a lot of energy used. Just one 75-watt incandescent bulb left on constantly adds $11 to the average home's monthly electric bill, and that's a significant amount of energy used. Multiply that by many, many lights in a self-storage facility, and you have a significant chunk of energy being used.

Green storage facilities are going to address this, and they have a number of options to consider. Some of these include:

  • Changing the Type of Lighting - Changing from any existing lighting to compact florescent (CFL) or light emitting diode (LED) lighting will save a significant amount of money. One LED light bulb can lower energy consumption by as much as 90 percent! CFLs use about a quarter the amount of energy as incandescent bulbs, but at a slightly lower purchase cost.
  • Using PhotocellsA storage facility needs to be well lit, but that doesn't mean it needs lighting on at all times. Photocells detect the amount of natural light in the area, and automatically turn the electric light on and off as needed. This makes the lighting automatic and ensures that the facility is always well-lit.
  • Motion Sensors - Some areas of the facility may only need to be lit when someone is in them, like interior hallways or the storage unit itself. For these situations, motion sensors can allow ample lighting at all times, without driving up the electric use unnecessarily during those times when someone is not in the building. Also, motion sensors ensure no one forgets to turn off a light inside the storage unit when they are done packing or unpacking their belongings.

A few changes to lighting can provide ample lighting in a storage facility, with a lower cost.

Solar Energy

Another way to increase the eco-friendliness of a storage facility is by harnessing the power of solar energy. Storage units have large, somewhat flat roofs, and that is an ideal place to put some solar panels to grab the energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. In fact, if done properly, a solar powered storage facility can operate almost completely off the grid, even putting some energy back into the grid through buyback programs.

In addition, solar powered lighting options can add energy efficiency to the facility. Solar powered lamps can convert solar energy into outdoor lighting at night. While a backup source would be needed for those times when the solar energy did not provide sufficient power, it's still a great way to light the exterior of the facility without relying too heavily on limited natural resources.

Is solar energy a viable source for power for the modern storage facility? According to the Department of Energy, the cost to install solar panels has dropped significantly in recent years. In addition, solar energy is the most abundant energy source on the planet today, with over 173,000 terawatts of solar energy striking the earth at any given moment, which is more than 10,000 times the amount needed for the energy use of the entire planet. Harnessing this power, when possible, simply makes good sense, and storage facilities are a great place to start.

Green Building Materials

For newer storage facilities, the materials that are used to build the facility can be just as green as the facility itself. As you shop for a facility, look for green building materials, such as:

  • Materials made from recycled materials
  • Materials made from renewable materials, such as easy-to-grow woods
  • Materials that reduce energy use, such as insulation and careful climate controls

While storage facilities have to protect the items they are storing before they focus on green building materials, they will still have some wiggle room in the materials they choose, so consider this when choosing a facility. Also, keep in mind that sometimes the “greenest” thing to do is to continue using the facility as it stands, rather than rebuilding to make it more "green." Adding energy-saving features to the existing structure does less damage to the environment then tearing down and building from scratch. Green building materials primarily refers to those materials used in new properties.

Onsite Recycling and Well and Septic

Finally, the way in which the facility handles water and waste can point to how green it is. A storage facility, by the very nature of what it offers, is going to generate a lot of garbage. People are going to want a place to throw away the stuff they realize they no longer wish to store, "pickers" are going to toss the items in the units they buy that they don't need or want and all of the packing materials will need a place to be tossed. Look for a storage facility that offers onsite recycling to know that your facility is committed to being as eco-friendly as possible.

Well and septic on site can also be a "green" option. Well and septic requires less dependence on utilities, which are a drain on the environment, and they make use of the land and water directly on the site. While this option may not be available in all locations, if you want a green storage facility and have this option in your community, it's a good consideration.