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The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that people all over China, from pop stars to environmental groups, are jumping on the bandwagon to ban disposable chopsticks.
When this story was first passed on to me, I thought, "Seriously, how big of an impact could they really have?".
So what kind of impact do they have, how many people’s jobs depend on them, and just how big of an industry is it?
The answers will blow your mind–they sure did mine!
The above mentioned article from the WSJ says,
"Over the past three decades, the snap-apart sticks have become a staple of hectic city life…But to China’s growing ranks of environmentalists, the splintery sticks have become a contemptible symbol of the nation’s out-of-control consumption, as well as a threat to forests."
In fact, disposable chopstick factories churn out around 63 billion pairs each year and employ over 100,000 Chinese people! whoa!
Of course there are two sides to every story. The other side of the coin is where chopstick industry execs like Lian Guang, founder and president of the Wooden Chopsticks Trade Association in Heilongjiang Province, say:
"The chopstick industry is making a great contribution by creating jobs for poor people in the forestry regions…we are battling a widespread misperception that we are purposely chopping down trees to make chopsticks. Disposable chopsticks are typically made from fast-growing woods like birch, poplar and bamboo that are not endangered. Chopstick production is carefully managed by China’s State Forestry Administration, and often uses left over wood that is not suitable for other industries."
Every now and then here at The Fun Times Guide to Living Green, we ask some "deep shades of green questions" like this:
Even if forests are falling and waste is accumulating, is it worth sending over 100,000 already poverty-stricken workers to certain doom?
Ok, whew, coming back up for some lighter air. What can you do if you’d like to reduce your own dependence on disposable chopsticks with your yummy Chinese takeout?
Buy some reusable chopsticks instead, obviously.
The pair pictured above are by FAR my favorite. They are the SnapStix from Bambu.
Features of the SnapStix:
- Made from organic bamboo
- Easy to use, portable, and well made
- Reusable: Just wash with warm, soapy water
- Easy storage: Both the rest and the chopsticks snap back together [hence their name], allowing them to be neatly tucked back into their nicely designed sleeve
- Only cost $1.95 per pair at GreenFeet.com
If you’d like to go with an entire reusable bamboo utensil set, check out the To-Go Ware set from ReusableBags.com, which includes a bamboo knife, fork, spoon, and chopsticks, all wrapped up in a convenient carrying case.
Do you think Mr. Miyagi used reusable bamboo chopsticks to rid his dwelling of all those pesky flies?
I think every little step toward living green is an awesome one… but eco-snobbery sucks! My goal is to help newbies learn the most important steps toward living green — individually and collectively. Personally, I strive to have as little impact as possible on Planet Earth while I'm here.