Dear Trader Joe’s,
For years your food, creativity, prices, and positivity afforded me the best grocery shopping experience I had known. However, I will not shop at your stores anymore.
Please allow me to explain. In honor of World Ocean’s Day on June 8th, my friends and I decided to participate in the Plastic Swear Jar Challenge, an initiative by the Changing Tides Foundation. For one week we had to put a dollar in our “swear jar” for every piece of single-use plastic we used. Our goal was to reveal our plastic habits to ourselves and make necessary changes in our lifestyles to reduce our plastic consumption.
During that week my partner and I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s. We entered the icy blast of air conditioning with our reusable bags in hand, excited to purchase all of our favorite items and try a few new ones as well. I headed to the produce section first to get broccoli, lettuce, and a few other things. I was surprised to see all the heads of broccoli wrapped individually in plastic. The lettuce was also sealed away in plastic bags. Apples were trapped in thick plastic clamshells. Even avocados were hiding in plastic. I left the produce section empty-handed but eyes-opened.
As I wandered up and down the aisles with my near-empty cart, my incredulity grew. Nearly everything was packaged in plastic. I could envision my plastic swear jar overflowing with dollars from this single shopping trip. So, I chose to just say “no” to all the plastic-clad products and buy whatever plastic-free items I could find. There weren’t many. I had budgeted about $100 to spend, however, I left the store with under $20 worth of goods (mostly canned items).
I write to you, not to spout negativity and criticism, but to inspire action. I am certainly not the first nor the last customer who has refused Trader Joe’s products due to excessive plastic packaging. At a time when the whole world is looking more deeply at our plastic addiction, I have no doubt that a creative and innovative company like Trader Joe’s can not only keep up, but can set an example for what an environmentally responsible grocery store should look like.
In addition to dramatically reducing your plastic packaging, I suggest investing in a bulk section. Dedicate a row in each of your stores to bulk items, such as pasta, granola, tea, flour, trail mix, rice, spices, etc. Offer tastefully decorated reusable bulk bags for sale. Educate your employees about the ugly truth of plastic, so they can inform and direct customers to make smart choices.
I will miss your cheerful employees clad in bright Hawaiian shirts. I will miss your dark chocolate almonds covered in sea salt and turbinado sugar. I will miss your unusually affordable cheese. But there are things I would miss much more if I continued supporting Trader Joe’s plastic habit. I would miss swimming in an ocean that is not choked with plastic. I would miss Laysan albatross, Hawaiian monk seals, Loggerhead sea turtles, and all the other animals nearing extinction due to plaguing their environments with plastic. I would miss being part of this powerful movement to take back our planet from plastic. Please do not miss this opportunity to rise as a leader in resisting a plastic world.
*I sent this letter to Trader Joe’s to let my voice as a consumer be heard. If you would like to take action to encourage Trader Joe’s to reduce their plastic packaging, please sign the petition in the link below: