The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
April 4, 2012

What Do You Think of the Plastic Produce Packaging at Trader Joe’s Nowadays?


Six years ago, Michael and I got a notice that a Trader Joe’s grocery store was going to be opening down the street from our house. This was back before I had woken up to the problems with plastic, and the news thrilled me. I had visions of all the fresh salads I was going to buy on my way to work every day. And then a few months later, I saw a photo of a dead albatross chick filled with plastic, and I started attempting to live plastic-free.  By the time the new Trader Joe’s opened, I could no longer shop there. The only department where I could find anything not packaged in plastic was the liquor aisle.

What seemed to be the most egregious misuse of plastic was in the produce aisle. While most grocery stores–even mainstream stores like Safeway–carried loose produce, Trader Joe’s seemed to only sell produce in plastic-wrapped multi-packs or plastic net bags. And while some of its produce containers were made from PLA, a compostable type of plastic, the containers are only compostable in special industrial composting facilities, and the fact is that PLA is made from mainly GMO corn, which is grown using vast amounts of chemicals.  What’s more, the compostable trays were wrapped in non-compostable plastic film.  And the question remained, why did produce need to be wrapped in the first place?

Fast forward to last week. Blog reader Stacey in NYC wrote the following post in the My Plastic-Free Life Discussion Forum:

I want to start off by saying I’m a big fan of the grocery store, Trader Joe’s. They are a really cool store with great products and they stand behind their products. I’ve also found their sales associates to be very friendly and helpful.

However, they wrap most of their fresh produce in plastic! I’m obviously preaching the the choir here when I say this is so disturbing. I wrote them a letter recently that I have posted on the thread, “I’m writing a letter to my favorite Companies” if you want to take a look. However, I’m reaching out to the community here, to ask please write letters too. If you are familiar with this store, you understand that they seem to have a bigger picture in mind… Meaning, they may listen to concerned consumers about environmental issues. Please help if you can.

I’m also reaching out to see if anyone else had additional ideas of what I can do in this situation. Besides writing letters, what more can I do? Suggestions are greatly appreciated!

I’ve whined for years about TJ’s produce packaging and ranted along with other activists, but to date, I haven’t really done much else. Stacey’s post captured my imagination. Would it be worthwhile to start a real, honest-to-goodness campaign to get Trader Joe’s to reduce its plastic packaging? If so, what produce would we want to focus on? What specific, measurable steps would we ask Trader Joe’s to take? How would we approach them?

Last week, I went on a little fact-finding mission to learn whether the produce situation was as bad as it had been several years ago and which items seemed to be the worst offenders.  I found some pleasant surprises.

Trader Joe’s Selling More Unpackaged Produce

In the produce section in the Trader Joe’s on College Avenue in Oakland, CA, I found many examples of loose produce being sold right next to its plastic-packaged counterpart. Here are a few examples:

Bell peppers…



Lemons and limes…


Potatoes and yams…

Still Too Much Packaging?

But there were still items packaged individually in plastic…


And Stacey sent me photos from her Trader Joe’s in NYC showing many more items in plastic packaging without an unpackaged option:

Should We Start a Campaign?

So, what do you think? Is Trader Joe’s offering enough unpackaged options or should they be doing a lot better? Please leave a comment answering the following questions, to give me an idea if this is a campaign worth spending the time and energy on pursuing. As some of you know who were around when I started the Take Back the Filter Brita recycling campaign, I’m not interested in doing things in a half-assed way. There are too many dead petitions on and Care2 from people who had a good idea, slapped up a petition, and then didn’t have the energy or stubborness to see it through. That’s just not my style. So, here are the questions:

1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s?
2) If so, where? What area of the country? Please be as specific as you feel comfortable being.
3) Do you think Trader Joe’s produce packaging is actually worse than other stores in your area? Why or why not?
4) Does your Trader Joe’s offer any produce that is not wrapped in plastic? If so, what kinds of things?
5) What items are the worst offenders? What items would you love to see sold unpackaged?
6) If we started a campaign, what which of the following things would you be willing to do?

  • Sign a petition
  • Write a letter
  • Speak to a store manager
  • Forward the petition to all of your contacts via email or social media
  • Write a letter to the editor
  • Contact organizations that might be interested in helping spread the word
  • Organize an action at a local Trader Joe’s
  • Collect produce packaging from Trader Joe’s (assuming this is stuff you would have bought anyway) to be used for an action
  • Take pictures of packaging at Trader Joe’s and upload to a Facebook page
  • Create a video of packaging at Trader Joe’s
  • Any other ideas?

Thanks! Please forward this post to anyone else you know who might be interested or who has complained about the plastic packaging at Trader Joe’s. Right now, I’m just in the information gathering stage. I don’t want to act until I know there is enough support and that this is a worthwhile action on which to focus.

And now I’ll leave you with an awesome video about just this very topic from a comedian whose rant is way funnier than mine could ever be:


The Green Office

I only post ads for products I use myself. Your support helps to fund my plastic-free mission.

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133 Comments on "What Do You Think of the Plastic Produce Packaging at Trader Joe’s Nowadays?"

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when I Googled this topic your article popped up. you did an excellent job of laying out the problem at Trader Joe’s. to my knowledge no leafy greens are without plastic packaging at Trader Joe’s these days. Mixed greens are a mainstay of most people’s healthy diets. I will write a letter to my local Trader Joe’s and also send an e-mail to the company headquarters. thanks for taking all the time you did to put together a very fair representation of how Trader Joe’s is handing its produce.

Set the Produce Free!!! My nearest TJs are in Plano, TX and McKinney TX. They have a lot of plastic wrapped produce. The Kroger stores in my area of Allen, TX also have a lot of plastic wrapped and boxed produce. I’m so proud of the Kroger stores for stepping up and supplying a large assortment of organic produce, but why does it have to be wrapped in plastic?

I like the idea of using plastic wrap, I would much rather start a recycle thing than eat food that has pesticides and wax on them. The wax just just keeps the pesticides on the food for you.  In case you haven’t looked around the store you shop in people handle the food a lot and the plastic not only keeps the food fresher, it helps to keep some of the nasty bacteria and germs off the food. easier to wash food that isn’t coated with wax as well. Just think next time you buy some food that is sitting… Read more »

Thank you for putting into writing what I had intended to say.  I fully agree.  I would rather deal with proper disposal of the plastic than to worry about the 300 or so dirty hands that touched my piece of veggie or fruit before I purchased it.  Also agree I don’t like wax.

I hope this effort is not dead! I would love for this campaign to get some traction, especially in light of the recent expose in MotherJones magazine about the shocking prevalence of estrogenic chemicals, not just BPA, in so many plastics. 1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? Yes 2) If so, where? What area of the country? Culver City, CA 3) Do you think Trader Joe’s produce packaging is actually worse than other stores in your area? Why or why not? Yes. Many of the more mainstream grocery stores, both east and west coast from what I have seen,… Read more »
I don’t think Trader Joe’s is not the only store who use excessive parasitic to package their products. Wallmart, Sam’s club, Ralphs, etc… not much difference. I hope people are not studied enough to say “after X amount of parasitic it is considered too much—“. They do take care of employee and the majority of  customers use reusable grocery bags too. I’m sure Trader Joe’s is going to make change. But I am so curious — why all of a sudden people start to talk about Trader Joe’s parasitic use????? I want to find out what group started and who… Read more »

pre-packaged produce often costs more too – because they’ve packed it for you. Convenience gone mad.

Trader Joe’s “Organic Baby Spinach” is in a sealed #7 plastic bag!
#7 plastic can contain toxic bisphenol-A (BPA).
This can’t be good. Shame on Trader Joes.

Hey everyone… right now, the Plastic Pollution Coaligion has a petition going to ask Trader Joe’s to reduce produce packaging.  This is a good start.  Let’s all sign it and forward it.  We need to do more… but let’s see how this goes first.

We should tackle Fresh & Easy too.  I stopped shopping there because they sell live turtles to customers in China and they refuse to stop this practice.  Maybe they will stop wrapping everything in plastic if we add them to the action.  I will send you some video and photos of how much plastic they use in the produce section.  They are worse than Trader Joe’s

Without Conclusion I live in Oakland and have not seen Fresh and Easy.  Sounds awful. My question is whether they are presenting themselves as “green” in the same way Trader Joe’s does?  Many eco-minded people shop at TJ’s because of the emphasis on organic foods.  So it’s just so ironic that TJ’s has more plastic packaging than many other conventional grocery stores.

BethTerry Without Conclusion Beth, visit their website at  They have stated several times on their website and throughout their stores about how green they are compared to other grocery stores.  I don’t shop over there anymore because they refuse to stop selling live turtles in their stores in China.  I will make a special trip to take pictures of all the horrible plastic and email them to you sometime next week.

Without Conclusion BethTerry Okay, great.  Please do send me pics/info.  The turtle thing is horrible.

1&2) I shop at Trader Joe’s in Winston-Salem, NC. Our TJ’s opened a month ago and we were all pretty thrilled. Then my family read Garbology, watched Bag It, and started learning about the health and environmental dimensions of food packaging. Now we’re afraid we’ll have to swear off our favorite new finds.   3) TJ’s produce packaging is surely worse than any of my other local options (Whole Foods, Fresh Market, farmer’s markets, and the big-box stores). Plus, TJ’s doesn’t offer any bulk bins, so those products that I’d normally scoop into glass or paper are ultra-plasticized.   4)… Read more »
I’m shocked! Why does it get to this extent? I live in Australia and am getting annoyed at the ever increasing amount of produce that is beginning to be sold packaged. But I have yet to see such an extent as your photos display. While I do not buy fruit n veg in big name supermarkets which cart most of their stuff around the continent even they provide mixed lettuce, loose baby spinach etc that you can collect what you need yourself from big tubs alongside their bags of it. If not loose, I can still get my potatoes in… Read more »

I just want to add that as I’ve recently started shopping at Walmart (albeit reluctantly), they have less plastic wrapped produce.  Not a lot less, Walmart’s pretty awful about this, but they do have less.

1) Yes 2)Tempe, Arizona 3) For many fruits and vegetables, yes.  They have far more glass bottled sauces, jams, etc, but for vegetables they are filled with plastic 4 & 5) Yes – individual fruits, such as apples, pears, avacados, peaches, and individual vegetables like potatoes, onions, and bell peppers.  While I can see the utility of plastic wrapping things like spinach (especially considering TJ’s doesn’t sell by weight), I see no reason to shrink wrap individual heads of brocolli, cucumbers or pairs of squash. 6) If we started a campaign, what which of the following things would you be… Read more »

Hey Beth, I am a designer student in San Francisco State University, and I am currently working on the Trader Joe’s plastic packaging for one of my classes. A part of my project is to research the problem and to create an alternative solution. If it works out, I’ll try to work with Trader Joe’s to substitute the current harmful practices. Here is my project’s blog:
stay tuned :)

Awesome, Julia!  I got a reply from Trader Joe’s to the message I mentioned below, and it said basically “We’d like to avoid plastic, but right now that would be too expensive.”  Do you have a sense of what cost constraints you’d have to meet in order to make an alternative feasible for TJ’s?

Hey Beth, I sent a message to TJ’s telling them I’d like to be able to take home less plastic from their stores and asked them to contact you.   Here are my answers to your questions:   1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? 2) If so, where? What area of the country? Please be as specific as you feel comfortable being.   Yes, in Concord, CA.   3) Do you think Trader Joe’s produce packaging is actually worse than other stores in your area? Why or why not?   Not sure in general, but in produce, definitely yes. … Read more »
TJ’s used to be my favorite place to shop, since I could buy organic produce at lower prices than anywhere else around me. After reading the book and blog however, my eyes are opened in a whole new way and I am re-evaluating my plastic-steeped life (which I used to think was really green!). So I am looking to alternatives to TJ’s. My issue is that my family is also on a budget and organic is a huge priority to me. Our farmers markets don’t have many organic farmers (only one at the market I go to, and she doesn’t… Read more »
While I applaud your concern with reducing plastic use, your statement on GMOs is ignorant. A lot of GMO produce is developed precisely in order to reduce the use of chemicals. Some traits are selected in order to make plants more resilient in poorer soil – thus reducing the need for chemical fertilizers. Other traits make the plants more resistant to pests – thus reducing the need for spraying with insect repellents, fungicides and the like. If you are concerned about chemical use in our food supply (as you should be) then you should be supporting GMO – which is… Read more »

It would be good for TJ’s to see how much business they are losing, because of this one issue. I went from shopping mostly at TJ’s to only buying the foods they offer that are not packaged. I only shop organic so it has become really limited. My local does sell a few unpackaged organic items. On the other hand they have plenty of regular produce that is unpackaged. I guess they don’t trust their customers. This week I went to get grape juice and yes that too is now in plastic, another lost customer!

Michele Siegle Coghill

less plastic packaging! Particularly produce.

Yes, I would like MUCH less prepacking of fresh produce.

Yes yes and yes, but they probably pre-package at their distribution point to save $$$ in the retail locations. Don’t like prepack veggies though so don’t buy them.

I would love to see this happen.   1) No I don’t shop at Trader Joe’s, mainly because I feel that they market to people who think of themselves as environmentalists, while having products that are anything but environmentally friendly. I would love Trader Joe’s to practice what it seems to want to preach, and be able to shop there, so for this I’d be willing to stop in to my local store.  2) Stockton, CA is my nearest store 3) Yes. Safeway and Raley’s both have more produce with less packaging. Safeway and Raleys also sell their own bread… Read more »
I don’t want to burden you with work but I would absolutely love to see such a campaign take off because Trader Joe’s is one of the few grocery options we have around UCLA besides Ralphs. It’s a stepping stone for many I know between stores like Ralphs and the real healthy and sustainable venues like farmers markets. I’m going to bring this up at my Sustainability Club meeting tonight and am hoping to hear a lot of support!   1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? Yes, usually for convenience foods like crackers and tater tots. They’re often more… Read more »

yes! way too much packaging when these items can easily be sold package free!

Absolutely, it is a huge problem and is why I typically do not buy my produce from TJs.  With that said, mine sells organic milk packaged in a 100% paper carton–no TetraPak bullshit.with the plastic screwcap.  
My guilty TJ purchases (re: plastic wrapping): cheese, yogurt, maple mini-wheat cereal.
Happy TJ purchases (paper wrapping): milk, cous-cous.

Plastic Fantastic ? | Promenade Plantings

[…] she discussed the use of plastic in the kitchen and pointed us in the direction of another blogger My Plastic Free Life who is attempting to live life without plastic, like not buying food that has plastic to contain […]

I am very glad this was brought up because every time I walk in Trader Joes I am always sad to see everything wrapped in plastic.  Its nice to hear other people feel this way as well.  My boyfriend has the theory that it may be to reduce theft but I have no idea if he really believe that or if he was just trying to justify or if it is even true for that matter.  (1) I shop occassionally at Trader Joes (mainly for junk food and such similar to Jennifer) but I would shop there more if there wasn’t… Read more »

Haha that is hilarious.  I’ve always thought it’s pretty rediculous how much stuff is packaged in plastic.  Have you ever seen those packages of Candy that have like each individual life saver packaged in its own peice of plastic.  Its rediculous and frankly its wierd and im ashamed and surprized if the consumer market has actually driven these trends.  _  Zack Terry

yes! i never buy their produce. it’s imported mainly too. and it’s not just the plastic itself that’s bad–since stuff is packaged together, if one of, say, three avocados goes bad, they throw them all away! that’s part of the reason why their dumpsters are so plentiful.

It wasn’t too long ago I could buy juice in glass bottles there. Now it seems to be all plastic containers.

you so totally bet i would! all that plastic packaging (ESPECIALLY for the produce) was just too much – we quit shopping there over 12 months ago. organic veggies (ANY veggies) in plastic is so wrong!

That’s funny you posted this today because I was just talking to my dad today and he was talking about Trader Joe’s and I told him I don’t shop there because they overpackage.

Most of their stuff seems to be imported from S. America, Europe and Asia…their carbon footprint can’t be small. Sure, I’d be up for reducing their packaging.

This is crazy! VT doesn’t have any Trader Joes, but the stores we do have (Hannaford, Price Chopper, Shaws) all use way, WAY less packaging…usually the plastic wraps are used for only organic produce and bags of potatoes/apples, etc. This is an absurd waste of plastic, so yes; I’d totally be down for telling Trader Joe’s to cut the plastic habit. :)

Trader joes has a funny distribution system of their own, which i’m not certain but i think it reduces overall carbon footprint. but it might be something worth pursuing anyways, to make them re-think how to do both less plastic and less carbon.

Every company same.!!. now the packs are bigger than the bikkies .. Companies wld get it!

Yes, I hate Tj’s. I thought I was the only one. Everyone else seems to worship at the altar of TJ’s. :-

Yes, yes, yes!

That’s why I don’t shop there…so much packaging!

Kathleen Stanton Johnson

Yes! And it drives me crazy! I was so happy when they started offering apples, pears, and a few other products without the plastic clam shell. I wish they would continue that trend with all of their produce!

I have been a loyal TJ’s cutomer for about 20 years and have recently realized how much unnecessary packaging there is. This is perfect timing because as much as I love TJ’s I have limited my shopping there in my quest for plastic free.

I have been saying this for years! Which is why I don’t buy their produce! Only buy their organic noodles becaues its the best price around me.

Beth – can’t answer the questions as I only went to TJ’s about 4 years ago and was so gobsmacked that everything was packaged, so I never went back again. As a matter of fact I find Whole Foods almost as bad – sure they have loose veg, fruit and bulk items, but one cannot buy one piece of cheese, not wrapped in plastic.

Go for it!!

Shared the link, and absolutely TJ’s is over packaged – I have never shopped there because of this fact – even before I was converted PS that comedian was really funny and spot on.

Christine Boschen Ghodrati

Yes, I think it is over packaged. Count me in. I was talking to my local TJ about why my favorite bread there has to come in plastic if it is, indeed, made fresh each day. TJs can and should try harder.

If you have time, could you guys please take a minute to read the post and answer the questions? Trying to see how much people are willing to do and which items are the worst offenders. Thanks!

It’s annoying. My local grocery store does a much better job then Trader Joes

Yes, which is why I don’t shop there!


I think it SUCKS!

1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? Hardly, due to the packaging of most of their materials. I occasionally buy pasta sauce, and bananas. 2) If so, where? What area of the country? Please be as specific as you feel comfortable being. I live in San Francisco, CA. There are 3 locations in the city, and I “shop” at the one near SFSU. 3) Do you think Trader Joe’s produce packaging is actually worse than other stores in your area? Why or why not? Short answer, yes, it is. Other grocers carry a variety of produce available without packaging, including… Read more »
[BLOCKED BY STBV] 100 ways to live (and die) green «

[…] Skip the produce in additional plastic wrap. […]

Thank you for talking about this. I always feel so guilty when I shop at T.J.’s, because almost everything is in plastic, and a lot of items are going from glass to plastic. I primarily shop at our local health food store, Jimbo’s, which is far better than T.J.’s for both quality, local,organic, less packaging, and having a bulk department, but they are also more expensive than T.J.’s. They do not have home and beauty items in bulk and they need to enlarge their bulk department. I have requested, but said they don’t have the space. They also started putting… Read more »

You said in your post you can’t find ricotta cheese without plastic. I just wanted to share with you a blog with recipes of foods without plastic, and there is one for homemade ricotta cheese. The blog is, and the link is
Definitely recommend the site!

I was shocked at the photos that so many things were duplicated, but plastic wrapped. I live in Western Australia, and although our stores also over-use plastic packaging, not to this extent. I guess they would not sell the volume of produce that allows a store to have the same item two-ways?

I’m in the “avoid TJ like the plague” camp. And it is because of their packaging primarily. In fact I began avoiding them way before I even got clued into the whole plastic issue because I just dislike waste in general and their packaging contains so much waste! On a rare day that I do frequent the place (like today) it is to get an item that is packaged similarly in other stores. So today I got ricotta cheese and I don’t know how to get ricotta cheese without plastic. But I do reuse the container to store dry goods… Read more »
1) Yes, I shop there to get things that aren’t in the CSA basket, or when I can’t make it out to the Coop on the other side of town. But I don’t like buying the overpackaged produce at all, and if I can avoid it, I do. 2) I shop at TJs in West Los Angeles. 3) I think their produce packaging is worse that whole foods and the Coop in Santa Monica for sure. Even worse than regular supermarkets like Ralphs… 4) They do offer things like bell peppers and apples and lemons unpackaged- which I am SO… Read more »

Just letting you know that I followed through with my earlier comment and wrote today’s blog post about plastic in food buying and food storage with a link to this post of yours. I hope people will comment and offer their own plastic-free solutions.

1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? I used to, but the over-packaging drove me nuts enough times that I don’t go there anymore. 2) If so, where? What area of the country? Please be as specific as you feel comfortable being. I live in Palo Alto, CA near the Trader Joes at Town and Country Village. I work in San Jose, CA so I also used to visit the Trader Joes at the Coleman center. 3) Do you think Trader Joe’s produce packaging is actually worse than other stores in your area? Why or why not? YES. I think… Read more »

I commented yesterday but just stopped by TJs again today and noticed that there are a few more types of produce than there used to be that are not packaged in plastic. There is a definite improvement (some apples, watermelon, pineapple, avocados, one type of tomato, peppers, potatoes, onions, and some citrus). I thanked them via email for the improvement, and asked for continued improvement. Still too few options for me to regularly shop there for produce.

Just a quick note before I answer the questions. One of my close friends works for GreenPeace. A few years ago, they attempted to get TJs to stop selling some species of threatened fish (yes they were doing this, CRAZY). When they contacted the corporate headquarters, they were told that each TJs was individually owned and operated and that each store manager did the ordering for that particular branch. So, GP did successfully get these fish off the shelf at TJs but they did so by, literally, getting GP activists to go to every single TJs in the country. I’m… Read more »
Thanks for much for this. I, too, have complained to friends but have not taken any action. I did contact them about BPA and I know they are moving in the right direction on that (before other stores). 1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? I used to shop a lot there and was super excited when they arrived in Minnesota, but I by only a few things there now due to the packaging. 2) If so, where? What area of the country? Minnesota 3) Do you think Trader Joe’s produce packaging is actually worse than other stores in your… Read more »

I haven’t shopped much at Trader Joe’s because they’re way over on the other side of St. Louis, but I would be willing to sign a petition and/or write a letter. I don’t use Facebook very much but I would also be willing to post a link there.

I shop at TJs a lot but I refuse to buy produce there b/c of the packaging. The store I shop at is in Reston, Virginia. They don’t package bananas nor some citrus (like grapefruit) but only sometimes are these things unwrapped. I would write letters, make phone calls, sign petitions, speak to the store manager, and basically support anything else. Let us know!

1) Every now and then

2) The closest TJ’s to me is in Bend, Oregon.

3) This is a hard one for me, since I don’t buy produce at TJ’s, and therefore, don’t really notice it. But I think it’s a little more plastic-dominated than my local grocery store.

4) On occasion, I have seen apples, peaces and other such things sans plastic.

5) Cucumbers, salad items, etc.

6) I would be willing to write a letter, start a petition and write about it on my blog.

I have been to Trader Joe’s twice. Each time left I without purcahsing anything because I couldn’t buy fresh food items in the quantities that I wanted as the items were packaged in quantities greater than I wanted.
I don’t like the packaging waste and I don’t like that most often one can’t buy just one or two peices of produce.
I honestly don’t see why people are so enamored of Trader Joe’s and I have chosen to”vote” with my money… I just don’t shop at Trader Joe’s.

I live in Canada, so there is no Trader Joe’s around me, but my local grocery stores do the exact same thing and it drives me bonkers. I’ll continue to do what I can north of the border. I also just read this article ( and am glad to see that the plastic packaging debate is getting more recognition.

I don’t shop at TJs as they are not nearby. If i do its just for a few boxes of organic M&C premix for the kiddos, while in their area. with that said, I don’t buy produce there either, but not bc they may wrap it up, which I dont notice much of…bc I get it at my local farmers market cheaper. I do notice another store (several nearby) Fresh N Easy who wrap EACH and EVERY piece of produce in cellophane. I have taken photographs and posted them on FB. I have asked many managers WHY. I have stopped… Read more »

You know, I do a tremendous amount of my shopping at TJ’s- and I hate the packaging. Lately I, like you find more and more produce there that is not packaged. But far from perfection. And I would probably do a lot better if not for my addiction to Broccoli Slaw!


I think of you every time I am in a Trader Joes. I find it such a paradox that their clientele (at least where I live in MD) are those same people that really have a connection to their environment, shop organic, and would like to see the plastic gone. At the same time, the store is all about convenience. I would be a part of any campaign to challenge Trader Joes to find a more responsible way to meet the needs of their customers. All that extra plastic packaging does make me just CRAZY!

Jennifer @noteasy2begreen
1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? Occasionally (once every two or three months, mostly for junk food rather than regular groceries). 2) If so, where? What area of the country? Please be as specific as you feel comfortable being. Silicon Valley / South Bay area. 3) Do you think Trader Joe’s produce packaging is actually worse than other stores in your area? Why or why not? It’s comparable to Fresh and Easy but more excessive than most other local supermarkets, including Whole Foods. 4) Does your Trader Joe’s offer any produce that is not wrapped in plastic? If so,… Read more »

I’d sign a petition, write a letter & talk to my local manager.
I’d post a petition on FB.
Collect packaging from TJ’s purchases for a month.
and take pictures.

I love Trader Joes yet feel so guilty about all the plastic. I would be willing to support this campaign. They have so many organic, natural, and vegan product yet they are sold in disposable plastic. What annoys me the most is that they sell their soap in plastic. Who needs that? they should as least use cardboard jeez.

There is a Trader Joes about 30 mins from my house; I go a couple of times a year. Mostly I choose to shop closer to home for the convenience & to save gas (petroleum). I was there about a year ago -this TJ store is 25 mins north of boston. Much more packaging than any other store I go to so I think the packagers/manufacturers are responding to Trader Joe specifications. I think a campaign is a good idea. honestly, I go for their convenience foods so I’d still only go a few times a year. However, when I… Read more »
In May of 2010, I wrote to Trader Joes about their excessive use of plastic. This was there response: Vanessa, We appreciate all the feedback we receive from our customers. We are always evaluating the information that is available concerning our packaging. We evaluate every product for packaging requirements and we continue to explore economical Earth friendly alternatives that can deliver freshness and shelf life without preservatives. We are also using compostible packaging for much of our packaged produce. We are always working to balance our desire to use as little packaging as possible with our efforts to keep our… Read more »
I shop at that same Tjoes on College Ave! a) buy the unpackaged produce at Tjoes, or buy unpackaged produce at a different store. Easy as that b) Ask to talk to the manager and express your desire to see less packaging. Always mention it to the checkout person. And, do it nicely. After the 5th person makes such a comment, someone is likely to pass it up the chain of command c) While you’re having a nice chat with the staff there, ask them why a Northern California supermarket, less than 100 miles away from the Central Valley, only… Read more »

A friend took me to Trader Joe’s for the first time a couple years ago. He went on and on about how great their stuff is. Maybe, but all I could see was plastic everywhere and they were so proud of selling reusable cloth bags to carry home the groceries. I won’t ever seek one out again.

Yes, to just about all the questions. I go to the Trader Joe’s in Tempe, AZ but I don’t buy the packaged veggies. I can usually get loose apples, bell peppers, avocadoes, and sometimes potatoes there. Count me in on a campaign!

1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? I used to, in Boston. 2) If so, where? What area of the country? Please be as specific as you feel comfortable being. A TJ’s is coming to Boulder, CO next year so I will definitely go check it out! 3) Do you think Trader Joe’s produce packaging is actually worse than other stores in your area? Why or why not? I can’t remember, but those pictures are awful! Even the King Soopers here in Boulder, which is not health-minded at all, has hardly any plasticated fruits and veggies. 4) Does your Trader… Read more »
1) I do occasionally, but prefer Whole Foods and Earthfare because their produce sections are better and aren’t wrapped in plastic. 2) Mount Pleasent, SC. 3) Compared to the other two big health stores, yes. My local TJ’s has options on some of it produce, but often times the ones in plastic look better than the ones outside of the plastic. Compared to the conventional store that I shop at occasionally it’s about par. 4) It does offer things not wrapped in plastic and the items offered are about the same as your pictures. I haven’t been in my local… Read more »
I just heard recently and it was confirmed in the pictures above that often grocers are forced to package organic produce because people switch the stickers to pay the conventional price. It seemed as though most of it was the same in the pictures – the conventional limes were loose, the organic limes were packaged – and so on. I mostly only shop at TJ’s for paper products (TP, tissues, etc) because they have the most affordable, highest postconsumer recycled content. This is produce packaging issue is important, but potentially TJ’s is doing better. Costco (only been in there a… Read more »
I would definitely support less plastic packaging at Trader Joe’s and all stores, but here’s an interesting fact that hasn’t been brought up yet: TJs are well known in the dumpster diving community as being a fabulous place to get “gently used” produce. Why? Because with the packaging on several produce items at once (avocados for example), if one of them gets bruised, TJs throws out the whole package. Often the other ones are in fine shape, and a dumpsterer can take the three of the four avocados and feed his or her cooperative household, a food pantry he or… Read more »

I live in Canada so don’t go the Trader Joe’s but I just want to chime in to agree with eco cat lady comments about food being handled.
I think we’re a wee bit too paranoid about cleanliness and germs.Fruit and veg can be washed and the general public’s view that “touched” produce is contaminated is one of the reasons that the world finds itself knee deep on plastic.
Yea, you can pick up bugs and germs when you’re out shopping for apples, the only solution for that would be to live in a bubble.

I would shop at TJ’s more often if it was near me. However when I visit family in the Chicagoland area I almost always stop in and spend a pretty penny! This means I don’t always purchase produce, but have definitely noticed the plastic! I don’t think their packaging is worse – the ‘problem’ is that organic more often than not seems to be in plastic as compared to conventional. Like how even if bananas aren’t bagged in plastic, they still have a plastic sticker around them. While I do think they are a company that would listen, it kind… Read more »
1) I rarely shop at Trader Joe’s anymore due to this very problem. 2) Mountain View and Palo Alto, California 3) Yes, the produce packaging is obscene. Even when I did shop regularly at Trader Joe’s, I avoided the produce. I live near an small open air market–almost all of the produce has zero packaging there. Even the Safeway near me doesn’t package the produce like TJ’s does. 4) Yes–apples, bananas. I’m not sure what else. 5) I’m not sure if they still package peppers on plastic trays, and then wrap the whole thing in plastic. I know basil is… Read more »

1. Yes, for certain items
2. Orange, Connecticut
3. Yes, Trader Joe’s produce packaging is definitely worse than other stores in the area
4. I think potatoes, onions, lemons, limes, avocadoes, and apples I can buy without plastic packaging
5. Pretty much all the green vegetables are encased in plastic – bell peppers, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, zucchini, etc
6. I would write letters, sign a petition, forward to others in my network

Beth, I wrote this post objecting to the plastic packaging at Trader Joe’s:

I have to say, TJ’s footprint is small compared to Safeway, Giant, and the big grocery chains. I can’t help but wonder how to leverage a success at TJs into impact at the big grocery chains. Thanks. Diane

1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? Occassionally. Would probably shop there more if less stuff were overpackaged! 2) If so, where? What area of the country? Please be as specific as you feel comfortable being. I was there more when I lived in Las Vegas, but I currently shop at Paramus, NJ and Pikesville, MD (near my parents’ home) 3) Do you think Trader Joe’s produce packaging is actually worse than other stores in your area? Why or why not? Yes because many of the produce items aren’t available loose. There is a small produce dept. in all the… Read more »
1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? Yes, but less frequently now that I’m eco conscious 2) If so, where? What area of the country? Please be as specific as you feel comfortable being. -NYC 3) Do you think Trader Joe’s produce packaging is actually worse than other stores in your area? Why or why not? Yes,Most supermarkets have many more unpackaged options 4) Does your Trader Joe’s offer any produce that is not wrapped in plastic? If so, what kinds of things? Yes, like: apples, oranges, melons, tomatoes etc 5) What items are the worst offenders? What items would… Read more »
1) Rarely, specifically because of the over-packaging. I would start going there again if they stopped wrapping everything. 2) Beaverton/Portland OR 3) I run into it at New Seasons too, where organic apples in a plastic bag are half the price of the cheapest loose ones. And organic products in general seem to have an over-packaging problem. But I’m able to avoid wrapped things for the most part everywhere but TJ’s. 5) Produce should be unwrapped. And they should have a bulk section…everyone should have a bulk section! 6) I would Sign a petition Write a letter Speak to a… Read more »

Beth, this posting really struck a chord with me. There’s a Trader Joe’s close to me and there are things I regularly buy there (mostly in glass) but I never buy their produce for just this reason. I think a campaign is sorely needed. I’d be willing to:
• Sign a petition
• Write a letter
• Speak to a store manager
• Forward the petition to all of your contacts via email or social media
• Write a letter to the editor

PS LOVED the Rhod Gilbert piece. Absolutely top notch satire!

Brenna @ Almost All The Truth

What a thoughtful way you are considering this campaign! I don’t shop at TJs for anything, except very occasionally when I need cheap wine or something and happen to be near one. I am also still bitter about their original stance on GMOs back on the late 90s, their continued use of GMOs, and non-existent transparency on just about anything.

But, I would help the campaign out in any way I could! I could do just about anything that doesn’t require much mobility. :)

P.S. I live in San Jose, CA. On my post and in real life friends have commented about the excessive produce packaging at TJs.

I would also be willing to take notes on what is/ is not packaged in plastic next time I shop there. Or try to, as much as possible, with young crazies with me. I usually shop at the TJ on Coleman by SJ airport or at the Blossom Hill one across the street from WF.

The comedic clip at the end is simply brilliant, as are you Beth – thoughtful and thorough post – inquisitive as always and ever so inclusive. I will gladly help, i see this example not only for trader joe’s but other shopping environments also. I don’t shop currently at a TJ’s. Our community does not have one. I resisted them in my former for some time because I felt they were very bait and switch – cheap wine, high priced eggs, unusual items, but sometimes you could not find peanut butter there. This drove me nuts. I found after getting… Read more »
I am a big TJ fan. Yes, the produce packaging is annoying (it’s b/c they don’t weigh anything), but I don’t think the other packaging is any different than any other store. In part b/c of the excessive packaging (but more b/c I want to support organic, local farmers), I shop almost entirely for product at the farmer’s market and through my CSA. I still shop at TJs about once every 2 months for packaged and deli foods I cannot find elsewhere (or which are much more affordable here than at Whole Foods). I won’t shop there more often if… Read more »

I heard goof things about Trader Joe’s, so I walked through one in the Richmond, VA area once. As far as I could tell, the bananas were the only thing in the entire store that wasn’t packaged in plastic. So I never went back.

I’d sign a petition.

1) Only for a few items that I want (I don’t buy produce there because of all the plastic & because when possible I shop farmer’s markets for locally grown produce). 2) St. Louis (mostly Brentwood, or Des Peres stores) 3) Yes! It’s difficult to buy just one of anything. I think they are going for bulk to offset their lower prices. 4) I imagine they do, but I don’t look any more. 5) Most of the vegetables are in plastic. I don’t want any of it packaged. 6) I would: Sign a petition Write a letter Forward the petition… Read more »
1) I used to shop there most of the time, but had to stop due to the plastic and lack of organics. 2) Oakland, CA 3) Yes. Nearly all the produce is loose at other stores. Lots of bulk bins at other stores too. 4) When I stopped shopping there it seemed the movement was towards more plastic instead of less. 5) I would love to see all produce unpackaged, and bulk bins for dry goods. 6) If we started a campaign, what which of the following things would you be willing to do? Everything on the list. One thing… Read more »
Hmmm… well, aside from the occasional comment or post on the web, I have never heard of Trader Joe’s. I assume it’s some sort of natural grocery chain? Needless to say, we don’t have them here in Denver. But, I’m mostly writing to respond to sari’s comment. I really, REALLY don’t understand the paranoia about food being “handled” by other people. I mean really folks, just about everything we come in contact with has been touched by many, many people before us. And why is this such a big deal? Isn’t that why we wash our produce? I mean for… Read more »
I’d like to present the other side of the issue, as a former produce market owner I may have some insight into the plastic wrapping we see in stores like TJ. First let me say, I am on the badwagon for less plastic, but sometimes it is what we the consumer dose not see that may explain why all the packaging. My small market was on the coast of Northern California. I had my choice of a lot of organic and non packaged produce. This is was always my first choice, until I saw how much people handle food. From… Read more »

We shop at TJ’s in Tempe, AZ. There is a lot of packaged produce. It looks like more than Safeway, but I think that’s only because the produce section is smaller. So a larger percent but the same amount.

I know we can buy loose bananas, apples, avocados. Not sure what else. We don’t buy much produce there aside from berries (which are packaged everywhere) because it’s the only place that has organic berries.

Overall, I’m unimpressed with TJ’s produce department; I could add plastic to the list.

I don’t shop very often at Trader Joe’s because of all of the packaging. Not only is it terribly wasteful, but packaged foods are generally pretty gross nutritionally as well. I absolutely refuse to buy produce packaged in plastic, so that rules out almost all of their produce. My local Trader Joe’s is in Portland, Oregon where we have many options for cheap produce that aren’t packaged in plastic. It’s definitely worse than other stores in the area, and in any area I’ve lived – in the Midwest and New York City, wealthy and poor neighborhoods. It was more common… Read more »

This has bothered me for a long time too. It’s so wasteful! I mostly shop at Whole Foods but I occasionally go to Trader Joe’s in Millburn, New Jersey. I’d be willing to sign a petition or send in a letter or even participate in other social media campaigns. Thanks for spearheading! I do hope they change this.

I shop at TJ’s in Ohio for certain staples (cheese, nuts, bulk chocolate for baking, wine, etc.). I hardly ever buy the produce because of the overpackaging, and also because their produce normally costs a lot more than my regular, cheap grocery store. There are a few things there I don’t buy anymore because of the hidden, excessive plastic, like a box of tea where each bag was individually wrapped in clear plastic. WHY??? There are also an awful lot of convenience items like single serving packs of trail mix or nuts that make me sad. I can’t say I… Read more »

I love some of the frozen food at Trader Joes, but it’s some of the most obscene packaging out there. Paper box with a plastic-wrapped tray inside, and most times you are supposed to heat WITH the plastic wrap. Even conventional brands have made an effort to reduce packaging (probably to save costs and look more green) but Trader Joes has gotten worse. A good start would be to eliminate the produce plastic. They sell bananas individually, why not other things? I’d do all of the above.

We don’t have Trader Joe’s around here, but I have posted this on my FB page and encouraged all my friends that do shop at TJ’s to weigh in on the subject. And thanks for the video — so perfectly funny and true!

Yes! I’d be in! We have one opening in our area this year, the 2nd in FL. I’m so thrilled but not happy about the plastic. We used to live in Vegas 12 years ago and shopped at TJ’s there and fell in love, now we go whenever there is one when traveling, CA, NY, etc. So, with that, I can’t answer for the store here yet, hopefully with a new store they start out right, but you never know. Maybe I can write before they open. So here are my answers: 1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? Yes!… Read more »
1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? Yes I do but only for organic pasta because its the best price around me. 2) If so, where? What area of the country? Hillsboro Oregon location. 3) Do you think Trader Joe’s produce packaging is actually worse than other stores in your area? Why or why not? Yes because over 50% of their produce is packaged in plastic. 4) Does your Trader Joe’s offer any produce that is not wrapped in plastic? If so, what kinds of things? Same as the things in your pictures. 5) What items are the worst offenders?… Read more »
Beth Terry (the other one)
Hi Beth – I agree and I’m so happy to see you are bringing this to everyone’s attention. TJ’s does so much right that it’s amazing they would wrap things in plastic like this. I think it’s a matter of consciousness. I’ve mentioned the plastic bags to them several times in the stores where I shop, and I usually bring my own cloth bags for loose produce, avoiding the ones that are pre-packaged if i can help it. Unfortunately customers are part of the cause of this packaging. Some people seem to think that loose produce is an invitation to… Read more »
Coincidentally, #1 and #2 I just came from Trader Joe’s in downtown Berkeley, where I just made a tough decision: I needed to get a couple of limes. First I found loose limes, but there was a sign on them saying they had been waxed. I don’t need my food to be coated in wax. Then I saw organic limes, but they were packaged in some kind of net bag that looked like plastic to me. Which is worse? “Edible” food wax residue or plastic packaging? I bought the organic limes. If I had had more time I would have… Read more »

Beth – i will go to my area TJ’s tomorrow and do a re con of worst offenders and then answer your questions. But absolutely I am 100% behind any direction you choose to follow.

I am so spoiled belonging to a food cooperative near my house and having a garden. Even now that winter is barely over I have onions, chives, garlic chives, sorrel, parnips and turnips – and possibly a few lost potatoes – in my yard ready to pick! I tried to shop for Burning Man last summer without Beth, and boy, was I lost! My aunt brought me to Trader Joe’s and there was very little I would buy because it wall almost A/ll in plastic. We went to the farmer’s market of course for produce, and I ended up at… Read more »
Thanks for addressing this. I refuse to shop at the TJ’s here in Encinitas. I have spoken to the manager many times, begging them to address their plastic addiction, everything individually wrapped, not just produce, so I go to Sprouts instead. There they tend to listen more, but also too much plastic there as well. Why is broccoli always loose, but cauliflower wrapped? But people here are really starting to change, at least at the check out. PLASTIC-FREE ZONES!! At home, school, church, BIZ, etc. Beth, when are coming to SD to talk about your book? Celia
1) Yes 2) Seattle- several stores, but mostly Capital Hill 3) Yes- I think it’s worse. 4) It offers similar unpackaged items to the produce pictured above (NYC?) but far too many packaged items, ALSO: the packaged snacks are ridiculous. Way too overpackaged. I love many of their snack items (for example the roasted seaweed snacks), but won’t buy them because of the excess amount of plastic packaging relative to contents. 5) What items are the worst offenders? What items would you love to see sold unpackaged? the lemons, limes, cucumbers, broccoli… most produce doesn’t need any sort of packaging… Read more »
1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? Sometimes, probably not anymore as we joined a CSA 2) If so, where? What area of the country? Please be as specific as you feel comfortable being. Roswell, GA 3) Do you think Trader Joe’s produce packaging is actually worse than other stores in your area? Why or why not? Yes–I don’t remember unwrapped produce 4) Does your Trader Joe’s offer any produce that is not wrapped in plastic? If so, what kinds of things? The melons that are being promoted. 5) What items are the worst offenders? What items would you love… Read more »
I think the problem is bigger than Trader Joes. Whole Foods has the same problem as well. But it is mostly the organic foods that are in packaging. And it is actual companies that sell the foods that put the produce in packaging, not so much Whole Foods or Trader Joes. Yes, grocery stores do package some foods, but it is the produce companies that may need to be targeted as well. There are some companies that do not package there foods, and those are the companies I buy from if I am not at the farmers market of course!… Read more »
I shop occasionally at Trader Joe’s in the DC area. However, I tend to buy my produce at other stores. The packaging at the Trader Joe’s in my area is worse than all the other grocery stores, one of which uses no plastic packaging since they specialize in carrying primarily local produce. My local Trader Joe’s offers a couple of loose items, like bananas, but the produce section generally looks like the photos of the New York area stores you have in this post. If you started a campaign, I would be happy to: Sign a petition Write a letter… Read more »
I don´t go. Never will as I´m in Europe. But YES! Go for it! Going to the “top” is the best way. I will sign, I will forward but most my contacts won´t be in the US. I will also watch. & if – when!! you get somewhere be able to use you as an example. I can´t remember the last time I went in to a supermarket, I avoid them like the plague nowadays.. Those pictures are horrifying. I´m closing my eyes to it, but gees look how bad it is….. I know it´s like that here, I just… Read more »
1) NO!! But I used to. 2) Boston 3) Yes and no. No: Whole Foods also sells a lot of organic things in plastic bags. I can either buy an organic avocado for $2.50 each OR a bag of 4 for $4.99. Explain me that!!! Organic onions are also in plastic mesh bags, organic potatoes in plastic bags, etc. Yes: Trader Joe’s sells a lot of stuff in plastic that makes ABSOLUTELY no sense. Like the cucumbers. And bell peppers. Who needs that? Especially for one item? 4) Unsure 5) Bananas, cucumbers, etc. 6) I would write a letter, sign… Read more »
1) Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? Sometimes- would be more if there was less plastic produce and processed food 2) If so, where? What area of the country? Please be as specific as you feel comfortable being. Omaha, NE TJ arrived about 2 years ago and its still a buzzword around town 3) Do you think Trader Joe’s produce packaging is actually worse than other stores in your area? Why or why not? I think they have started influencing more plastic packaging in some of our local stores! Particulary veggies 4) Does your Trader Joe’s offer any produce that… Read more »

The produce in plastic bothers me so much! As does the overpackaging of their snack foods.

Hey Becky, can you say more about the snack food? I always avoid that aisle in every grocery store. Is TJ’s snack packaging worse than in other stores, and if so, please let me know why and how. Should I include that too?