My Personal Journey in Environmental Responsibility

Photo by Kait Spielmaker

Part 2: Simple Alternatives

By Kait Spielmaker

Nearly half the plastic that has ever been made was produced after the year 2000 (National Geographic). That fact has really stuck with me. A healthy planet is crucial for the health of its inhabitants.

As I dive further into this project, I am amazed by the technology that people are crafting to combat plastic pollution. There are so many options out there, and we are living in a time where more and more individuals want to be part of a change. Bright people with bright ideas use their resources to fix this problem and come up with reusable and biodegradable products that improve the livelihood of our future selves. That is truly remarkable and it leaves me feeling hopeful and willing to contribute.

Simple Household Swaps

Where does one start? If you don’t know already, I am the poster child of a modern 20-something; in that weird limbo between trying to figure out where I’m headed and actually being there. I am a graduate student with two jobs, a lot of student loan debt, and almost no disposable income. So if this project is anything, it’s practical.

By now, most of us have reusable shopping bags and water bottles. In my opinion, those are the two simplest things you can do to make a difference, eliminating plastic bags and water bottles from your day-to-day life. Furthermore, I have been using compostable trash bags and reusable paper towels made from bamboo around my home for a couple years now and they work really well. The bamboo towels eliminate waste and the need to purchase new rolls of paper towels since they are machine-washable. You can find both of these items on Amazon with a quick Google search.

What to Look For When Purchasing Environmental Household Items

Something I have learned during this plastic purge: be aware of labels that claim to be biodegradable, as I have been subject to false claims. I bought “biodegradable” dog bags from Amazon and never bothered to do research because it’s “biodegradable” – or so I thought.

In reality, some plastic companies claim to be biodegradable because they use degradable plastic additives in their product to help it break down faster. These products are called oxo-biodegradable. When using this additive, known as EPI, micro-organisms will eat away at the additive but not the plastic itself, leaving tiny pieces of micro plastic behind. One study tested three different plastics in different environments and came to the conclusion that even if the plastic is labeled oxo-biodegradable, it doesn’t change the lifecycle of the plastic itself when compared to material with no additives at all.

When you decide to start spending money on a more sustainable product, definitely research it first. Something to look for is BPI Certified, which stands for Biodegradable Products Institute. This means your product is certified compostable and complies with global guidelines. I now buy dog bags from a company out of Royal Oak, Michigan; they are made from corn starch and break down in 90 days.


Kait is a Michigan native who recently relocated to Phoenix and is the administrative coordinator for Green Living Magazine. She is an avid hiker with a sense of adventure. She is currently working on her master’s degree in Sustainable Tourism at Arizona State University.

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