Trader Joe's Is In The Midst Of An Important Makeover
Upon entering Trader Joe's, I usually beeline right for the freezer section. Partially because that's where the cauliflower gnocchi is and partially because the amount of plastic in the produce section annoys me.
TJ's has championed so many other green initiatives, from being one of the first chains to get rid of BPA and BPS in its receipts to making reusable bags the norm, but the sustainability editor in me has always felt that its commitment to reducing plastic falls short. And I'm not the only one who thinks so: One Change.org petition asking Trader Joe's to reduce its plastic packaging now has over 90,000 signatures.
Back in December, the grocery chain announced that it heard its consumers' concerns and was actively starting to explore more earth-friendly packaging options. "While most of the plastic in our packaging has the highest recyclability acceptance rate in the U.S., reducing the amount of plastic packaging in our stores is another important focus of our sustainability," the statement read. "With all this in mind, we created a framework to help us and our vendor partners, with whom we work closely in this effort, to identify packaging improvement opportunities."
In this February's Fearless Flyer, the company's circular, TJ's updated its customers on how it plans to remove 1 million pounds of plastic packaging from stores this year: a mix of nixing single-use plastic carryout bags, replacing plastic flower bags with renewable ones, and swapping Styrofoam produce trays for compostable options.
The goal is to ultimately start selling more loose products, too, though that will require larger shifts in supply chain. In an age when recycling rates are low, ditching single-use packaging altogether is definitely the best way forward. Next time you're visiting the budget-friendly grocer—or any food store, for that matter—send the message that you're willing to pay for a plastic-free future by buying loose produce and bulk-bin items (and storing 'em in reusable bags and jars) whenever you see them pop up. Let's start a movement to get cookie butter in bulk, shall we?
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.