Photo (cc) by Lohb
When cleaning out a jammed-full junk drawer recently, my new roommate found several dozen pairs of chopsticks. His immediate thought wasn’t stir-fry, but rather “kindling.”
That evening’s fire was started with newspaper and wooden eating implements. They worked quite well. But I started thinking about how fast they’d piled up, and about their disposable nature.
If you think plastic forks and spoons are awful, take a look at these chopstick stats, courtesy of The New York Times:
- Some 3.8 million trees get turned into chopsticks each year.
- Every year 10,800 square miles of Asian forest disappears.
- Some chopstick manufacturers use potentially harmful chemicals, including industrial-grade sulfur, paraffin, hydrogen peroxide, and insect repellent. Yummy.
Even if the possibility of ingesting insect repellent doesn’t faze you, the photos of a “disposable forest” art project in that Times article will likely depress you. Ditto the pictures from the “Waribashi Project,” an art installation made from more than 170,000 used chopsticks.
Part of the solution
If your local Asian restaurant automatically throws chopsticks in with the order, ask that they be left out. Get yourself a washable set. They’re not terribly expensive, and it might be easier to enjoy your Swimming Rama or Szechuan noodles without the ghosts of all those trees crying out for vengeance.
And the ones you already have? Here are my top 10 uses:
1. Kindling, as noted above.
2. Unclog funnels. When refilling a pepper shaker, I use a chopstick to poke the slow-moving spice through the funnel. I sure do hate a recalcitrant spice.
3. Pick-up sticks, if you too have several dozen pairs. (Anyone else remember that game? I used to love it.)
4. Knitting needles. This easy tutorial on Craftster.org explains the process. Hey, teachers/afterschool program staff: Why not do a unit on knitting and let kids make their own needles?
5. Stirring paint (in the smaller cans).
6. Doorstops (wedged singly, or several stacked up under the door).
7. Stakes for orchids and other small plants.
8. Crafts! See this article on the HGTV blog if you want to make placemats, diffusers, a cool wall hanging, a sunburst mirror frame or, I swear to God, a lampshade.
9. Kitchen tools. Pluck olives from a jar, turn over bacon, beat eggs or make really long-handled popsicles.
10. Build a crossbow. Really. StormTheCastle.com shows you how. It’s one way of keeping your kids occupied during the next snow day. Just make sure they don’t shoot their eyes out.
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