With climate change looming and pollution becoming a huge issue all over the world, most of us are giving serious thought to how our actions are affecting the environment. How about self-storage?

Is it sustainable to use self-storage, or does it only increase our carbon footprint? It’s an important question that can be answered by comparing the resources that it consumes (energy to keep a facility up and running) and what it saves.

Consumer Trends That Negatively Impact Natural Resources

Considering the things people store most often, the self-storage industry can actually help protect our natural resources. About 40% of the people who rent self-storage use it for furniture, and another 40% use it for storing clothing. Other frequently stored things are sporting equipment and seasonal-use items.

Manufacturing all those goods takes a huge toll on the environment. The textile industry is one of the most polluting industries right now. The so-called ‘fast fashion’ craze – buying large quantities of clothing because it’s relatively cheap and discarding them after one season – is not sustainable in the long-term. About 20% of freshwater pollution worldwide is made by textile treatment and dyeing, and around 5% of the global landfill space is occupied by discarded textiles, while an estimated 10% of total global greenhouse emissions come from the fashion industry, according to the United Nations.

The furniture industry doesn’t have a much better track record when it comes to protecting natural resources. Furniture is made of either wood (which involves cutting down trees) or composite materials, which are manufactured with the help of intensely polluting solvents, adhesives and polymers.

Both industries are working on reducing their impact on the environment, but one very efficient thing we, as consumers, can do, is to use the stuff we already own for as long as possible. Purchasing new stuff all the time creates a need for more items to be manufactured, which, in turn, leads to even more pollution.

Storing vs. Buying – Which One Is More Sustainable?

Waste not, want not, as our grandparents used to say. Storing your items in a safe setting prolongs their lifespan and helps you buy less. That’s a positive thing, both for your budget and for the planet. Our lifestyles can be quite wasteful – just think about all the items you bought, used for a short while and then threw away because you either stored them poorly and they got damaged or simply because of a lack of space at home.

Storing your things for future use makes sense from a financial and environmental point of view. Although self-storage facilities have their own impact on the environment simply because they get built and they incur running costs, the service that the industry provides is helping us save a lot more resources than it consumes.

How to Reduce Waste Even Further

Many families buy larger houses than they need, simply because they own too much stuff and need extra space to store it. However, the bigger the house, the bigger its carbon footprint. You must heat it in the winter, cool it in the summer, and clean and maintain it, all of which wastes money and energy. Self-storage allows you to downsize by providing an efficient, affordable and safe way to store your belongings.

Transportation is the most important cause of air pollution in big cities and using non-polluting transportation such as bikes is a proven way of making things better. However, the standard city apartment simply doesn’t have space to store bikes or other similar equipment, so most people give up on using this type of non-polluting transportation for their commute.

Renting a self-storage unit in Washington, DC, or Seattle, for example, or in any other large metro in the country, solves that problem. In fact, a lot of Millennials living in cities are already using this solution to make up for the lack of storage space at home. Almost 14% of all Millennials rent self-storage, and 20% of them visit their unit more than once a week, according to a Self-Storage Association market research report.

Minimize Your Impact on the Environment While Storing

Pay attention to all the details that have an impact on the environment, such as the type of packaging you are using for your belongings or the driving distance between the storage facility and your home. Your main goal is to reduce waste as much as possible.

  • Avoid plastics as much as possible when packing and storing your things;
  • Recycle packing materials;
  • Instead of bubble wrap, which is not biodegradable, use newspapers or paper towels;
  • Avoid using Styrofoam and polystyrene beads when packing;
  • Talk to the storage facility about using LEDs instead of regular lightbulbs, if they’re not already doing it—LEDs consume a lot less electricity and, fortunately, more and more people and businesses are adopting LED lighting;
  • Select the right storage unit size for your needs;
  • Make sure that the storage facility is close to your home, or place of work, and you don’t have to do a lot of extra driving in order to reach it.

Remember: every little bit of effort you can do for the environment is important and it matters!


Maria Gatea is a real estate and lifestyle editor for Yardi with a background in Journalism and Communication. After covering business and finance-related topics as a freelance writer for 15 years, she is now focusing on researching and writing about the real estate industry. You may contact Maria via email.

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