There’s a certain sense of purpose that comes with fresh cardboard boxes and the loud swak of wielding a tape gun with reckless abandon. Add a few jumbo-sized smelly permanent markers, and boxing up old office files and materials seems almost adventurous. But the novelty quickly wears off. Stuff gets tossed haphazardly in boxes, the permanent marker labeling becomes indecipherable, and by the time the boxes are ready to be dumped into a storage unit you could care less about anything other than finishing up, taking a hot shower, and drinking a cold beer.
If your business is planning a move in which a storage unit has to be used, or files or other materials have to be stored in a unit, be wary of the traditional method of box and tape and move and store. Not only can it be inefficient and expensive, but it’s also environmentally wasteful. One glance at a pile of only-once-used empty cardboard boxes outside an office just waiting to be trashed is enough to take the zing out of your tape gun. All of those beautiful boxes gone to waste!
There are ways to decrease if not eradicate the wasteful effects of business storage, but they do take planning:
- Move files and other items IN the furniture to reduce trips made to storage unit. If the files or other objects that you no longer need in arm’s reach at the office are kept in a file cabinet or other furniture that is not needed, consider moving the entire piece of furniture with the files inside it. That way there is no boxing necessary and the number of polluting car or truck trips from the office to the storage unit is minimized. Yes, this will take some strong arms and a dolly, but imagine the savings in time, effort, packing materials, and even area of storage unit needed. If it’s already consolidated within a piece of furniture, why break it out into multiple unwieldy pieces that take more time, materials, space?
- Use reusable storage containers to reduce cardboard box use, prevent breakage of items that would have to be replaced, and enable continued use in the future. If you plan on storing these items once and never removing them, then there is no environmental advantage to using a bunch of plastic containers. But if you plan on moving items in and out or using the containers only temporarily, then reusable containers make sense. Reusable containers cut back on the use of packing tape and other packing materials, they are easy to stack making efficient use of storage space, and provide sturdy protection for your items.
- Collect used packing materials from your office deliveries. When you know a move or transport to a storage unit is coming up, start saving packing materials such as newsprint, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts from packages that arrive at your office so when the time comes you do not have to purchase new packing supplies but can directly reuse materials.
- Minimize air-conditioned space required. If temperature is not an issue for your items being stored, consider using a unit without ac. If ac is necessary, pack items efficiently to minimize the air-conditioned space required.
- Develop a filing system for stored items. To cut down on labeling, label each reusable container with a number only. Keep a paperless record of what is in each numbered box. This way, you will not have to use tons of labels or markers to label the boxes since you will have to mark a number only. You will be able to reuse the containers in the future without having to re-label the boxes. Simply change the description of what is in that numbered box on your paperless spreadsheet. Having a record of each container’s contents also will allow you to better plan and consolidate trips for retrieval of items from the storage unit without multiple unnecessary trips to check what is in which containers. The paperless file of contents could be accessible to office members via computers as well as portable devices such as laptops, phones, and tablets.
No move or storage solution is without its environmental hiccups, but with a little advance planning you can develop a long-term storage system that minimizes time, cost, materials, and trips to the storage unit. Now, if only there were an earth-minded way to re-purpose that tape gun…
Kenneth McCall is an avid ski, boater and bicyclist. When he is not engaged in outdoor activities he directs the IT operations at storage.com, building systems and tools for homeowners and businesses needing storage.com in places like San Francisco, and many other cities, including self storage in San Francisco.