Guest writer Pauline Reid learned respect for the Earth and the environment at an early age when her mother taught her not to waste water by letting it run while brushing her teeth. Pauline’s recent foray into letter writing was inspired by an amazing group of women who share ideas and educate each other on ways to lessen our impact upon the Earth.

I like sushi. Not everyone does. But don’t worry, this isn’t about eating sushi, it’s about eliminating plastic, one fake blade of grass at a time. Here’s my story.

Three years ago, I was picking up some sushi at a local grocery story (let’s call it HT). Bad enough the container is plastic—at least I could pretend it would get recycled when I put it in my bin. But that fake plastic grass separating the wasabi and ginger from the sushi was bothering me. Surely there was an environmentally friendly alternative.

Sidebar: The use of plastic grass follows a Japanese tradition of using fresh leaves to preserve natural flavors and keep odors from spreading. Bamboo leaves are often use which add antimicrobial properties. Cutting the leaves into intricate patterns is an art form.

I decided to write to HT and ask them to consider finding an alternative. When I write to a company, I don’t mess around. I go to the top. I sent the letter to the President.

Within two weeks, I received a written response from the Vice President of Fresh Foods. After receiving my letter, HT contacted its sushi supplier and asked them to look for alternatives. The VP advised me that the plastic grass would be phased out, but it might take time for all stores to make the change. “But in time, you will see it removed and replaced with something more eco-friendly as we still need to separate the ginger and wasabi from the sushi.” Frankly, I was stunned. My letter did something.

Shopping for sushi a few months later … no more plastic grass. Simple solution. Just use the included soy sauce packet as the divider. HT is even saving money. It used what was already there. Nice. I sent a thank you letter to the VP and the President.

I have written several letters to presidents of large companies and nonprofits with varying degrees of success. (Can you believe a national nonprofit to save birds sends out plastic luggage tags to entice you to donate dollars? I bet 99.9% of those tags end up in the garbage/landfill/ocean. No response from them, but I haven’t gotten any luggage tags in a while.)

Do you want to write your own letter? Here are some suggestions:

  • Go to the top with a real letter, no email.
  • CC several other top execs so the President/CEO knows more than one person sees your letter. (Need help finding names? Ask your local librarian.)
  • Be polite.
  • Comment on something good that the organization is doing and thank them for it.
  • Offer alternative suggestions to whatever you want them to change.
  • Return the plastic item (grass, luggage tags) in the letter. “Not knowing how to dispose of these tags in an environmentally responsible way, I am returning them to you for proper disposal.”
  • Send a thank you letter if you get positive results.

If everyone sent five letters and got one positive result, we can change the story of plastic one fake blade of grass at a time.

—Pauline Reid