Mott Haven firm pioneers green moving

Reduced trips, reusable boxes and recycled packing pellets head list

A new patch of green is growing in Mott Haven–but it isn’t grass.  In the shadow of the Bruckner Expressway, a company called iMovegreen, is trying to transform the moving business.

What makes a mover green? Instead of Styrofoam peanuts, the company offers its clients shredded office documents and other biodegradable packing material. In lieu of throwaway boxes, it provides sturdy reusable plastic boxes. It uses soy ink to print its documents on recycled paper.

In addition, iMovegreen’s trucks and cars are washed with water captured during rain storms and with environmentally-safe detergents and solvents.

The company gets all of its electricity from an Ohio-based company that supplies wind power to Con Edison’s grid, making iMovegreen the only mover in the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership program, which recognizes businesses that get at least 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources.

“Reduce, reuse and recycle and now relocate,” quipped Jeffrey Sitt, the company’s CEO, who started out in Brooklyn running another green endeavor called iStoregreen. When that company proved viable, he purchased an aging Bronx moving company called Meyer’s Van Lines in late 2009. He retooled and rebranded the company to work in accordance with the model established by his storage company.

The change has been an adjustment for the workers. Surveyors who traditionally showed up in a Ford F350 now drive hybrid Toyota Priuses. More important, trucks no longer go out half-full. To reduce the number of trips made, save fuel and cut down on exhaust emissions, the workers play a game of Tetris with furniture and boxes in order to fill as much space as possible before departing the warehouse.

The change has had an impact on Pablo Morales, a gruff-voiced foreman who has been working at the company since before the green revamp.

Morales participates in the employee information program the company runs, which provides recycling tips and offers wholesale prices on compact fluorescent light bulbs and other green products. It has led him to urge his family to do the little things that save energy and materials. He says these lessons often lead to shouting matches with family members and have earned him the moniker of “the recycle Nazi.”

As part of its marketing strategy, the company sees to it that every move adds a little bit of green to the planet. As they say good bye, the crew presents each client with a reusable tote. Inside is a pamphlet filled with tips on saving energy in the home, two reusable coffee mugs, a customer satisfaction survey, and a housewarming plant grown in a small nursery on the premises.

In addition, in a partnership with the Nature Conservancy, the company donates a percentage of the proceeds to plant trees in the Brazilian rainforest. If the client returns the customer satisfaction survey, iMovegreen pays to plant an extra dozen. One out of every four clients returns the survey, a figure, Sitt says, that far outstrips the industry average.

John Meo, a resident of Long Island recently needed a moving service to relocate a hot tub and large wooden gazebo. He inquired at six different moving companies before coming across the iMovegreen. Its green business philosophy is what attracted him, he said.

Competitors are taking notice. Moishe’s Moving Systems, a mainstay of the trade, has revamped its operations to keep pace. The company has formed a partnership with the Trees for the Future program, which plants beneficial trees around the world. It has also converted its fleet to bio-fuels, created a program to allow customers to exchange reusable boxes and begun using biodegradable pellets made from recycled diapers instead of packing peanuts.

Sitt says his next program will be aimed at community groups. This new initiative would allow Mott Haven residents to store unwanted furniture that is in good condition with iMovegreen until it is offered for donation or sale at a church or community flea market.

Although he says he’s  a strong believer in the environmental movement, Sitt is careful to point out that he still runs a moving company. “We aren’t perfect. We use trucks,” he notes.

A version of this story appeared in the Summer 2010 issue of the Mott Haven Herald.