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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

B.Y.O.S. (Bring Your Own Sticks)

Posted by Rick | April 9th, 2007 | Filed under Environmental Change, Personal Reflection, Positive Change, Sustainability

BYOS.gifAs I sat down at a local conveyor belt sushi joint last week and snapped my wooden chopsticks apart, I noticed the two halves broke like a bad wishbone. In one hand I had a whole stick, plus a good portion of the other one. A three-inch splinter was all that was left to complete the pinch. “Defect,â€? I thought, as I reached for another pair.

But then something snapped in my head: I looked around and noticed 50 people shoveling nigiri with the chopsticks and thought about how this place was always busy. That’s a lot of “disposableâ€? wood. After consuming my weight in fatty salmon, I went home and looked up the impact of chopsticks on the environment. The first site told me that these one-use implements eat up 25 million trees per year and that the Chinese government has even imposed a tax on their sale in an attempt to save their forests. My next stop, Treehugger, described how there’s a recent trend among conscientious Asians to bring their own chopsticks to restaurants. It also directed me to another blog devoted to bring-your-own culture that detailed how much of a waste disposable coffee cups are.

With that, I resolved to always bring my plastic green chopsticks to future sushi feeds. And if I didn’t have my own trusty tools, I’d just bare hand it ” a totally appropriate way to eat raw fish in Japan.

14 Responses to “B.Y.O.S. (Bring Your Own Sticks)”

  • April 10, 2007 at 6:40 am | Naz Hamid says

    An observation I’ve made as well and not just for sushi places but for Thai as well as any Asian restaurant.

    I carry these Snow Peak Carry-On chopsticks, which are made of titanium and wood and will unscrew halfway so that the wooden ends can be inserted into the ti shaft for smaller footprint and size.

  • April 10, 2007 at 7:15 am | Lawless says

    Good idea, sometimes things are so simple just not obvious. All it takes is someone pointing it out.

    As your bring-your-own link mentioned, you get a discount at the local coffee joint when you bring your own mug.

    BTW, just got the latest N’East mag and saw the write-up on the Quntessential jacket in the “Green Gear” section. Nice.

  • April 10, 2007 at 8:34 am | nathan says

    When I was taking an EMT class in the Yosemite area, we would go hang out in the local Sequoia grove down the road from the campsite… In classic forestry fashion, the interpretive signs placed by the park service at the base of these amazing trees would try and quantify the trees in manufactured terms -

    “…imagine how many board feet are in this tree. How many chop sticks? How many baseball bats?”

    No joke. Sure, you may have to dumb down the value of an amazing 2000 year-old Sequoia for the masses, but to mentally mill it down to chopsticks is appalling…

    My wife and I keep some choppies in the car all the time – and i’ve been known to raid the off-cuts box in the woodshop at work to make more sets of chopsticks for lunch… I wish more people had the mindset to take their own boxes for the leftovers at restaurants, too. Maybe we should have to pay for take out packaging?

    You know it’s an environmental problem when the Chinese government is trying to curb a practice… or maybe they’re just trying to cash in on the disposable forests?

    I like the Snow Peak chopstick idea – little mini pool cues!

  • April 10, 2007 at 11:34 am | rr says

    next up – THE TOOTHPICK INDUSTRY.

    i’m still using the same toothpick i got at a Route 94 Shoney’s restaurant 11 years ago. granted, it’s a little less effective. and can be a pain to carry around, but, in the end, i feel like my trouble is worth it.

    not to be ironic, but if you’re concerned about the chopsticks, shouldn’t you be concerned about the fish?

  • April 10, 2007 at 6:55 pm | Rick says

    I don’t know, using the same pick for 11 years sounds a little extreme (and unsanitary), but you bring up a good point about the fish. I’m obviously not against eating seafood, but at the same time it’s always smart to know where your food is coming from and what the reprocussions are on the environment. Thanks to Ethan from our office for these links to help sort out the good fish from the bad:

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/03/seafood_choice_1.php

    http://seafood.audubon.org/seafood_wallet.pdf (pocket fish guide)

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/04/thefishlist_blu.php

    And thanks for the comments!

  • April 10, 2007 at 8:13 pm | rr says

    i was joking about the toothpick. good links, though.

  • April 10, 2007 at 8:54 pm | lawless says

    rr makes a good point, no not about the toothpick – everyone knows that Denny’s is the place to go for long-lasting tooth proding devices, the bit about worrying more about what you are eating as opposed to what you are eating it with.

    As most of us who read this blog probably live, work or play in the water in way or another, the production of what we eat directly affects the water quality more than any other single thing we do.

    “data indicate that approximately one-third of the agricultural NPS (non-point source) pollution is caused by animal waste runoff from feedlots, holding areas and pastures.”

    link – http://www.engr.uga.edu/service/extension/publications/c827-cd.html

    Commercial fishing has it’s own issues too vast to get into here.

  • April 12, 2007 at 9:33 am | Rick says

    Lawless, you’re right. It’s a point that gets driven home to us Oregon surfers when advisories appear on a beautiful summer day in Cannon Beach, when an unsafe level of fecal matter is detected in the Ecola river, which dumps direcly into one of our breaks. Shitty water isn’t just a problem near big cities! But I’m sure that’s just a micro example that indicates a much larger global problem.

  • May 4, 2007 at 5:35 pm | panda bear says

    chopsticks are made of bamboo jackass, not wood. bamboo is a grass, grows quick and is bio-degradable.

  • May 6, 2007 at 3:53 pm | Rick says

    “Panda” … A quick google search on this subject will give you ample legitimate sources of information on harmful deforestation due to the chopstick industry. Here is one, on USA Today:

    “http://www.usatoday.com/news/offbeat/2006-05-12-chopsticks_x.htm?csp=34&ord=1″

    I believe that bamboo is considered a slightly better substitute, but even the harvesting of those has negative impact on the environment. The point is, why waste any of our resources when we don’t have to? Bring your own, dude.

  • July 23, 2007 at 9:24 pm | Jeff says

    Hi there, Rick!

    I’m sure there are container-loads of wooden chopsticks out there, but other than for take-out restaurants, I didn’t know the Chinese use disposable wooden chopsticks. Most Chinese restaurants I have been to use plastic chopsticks.

    At the Panda Express or Yoshinoya’s at the foodcourt, I say go for it, whip out the Snowpeak tactical chopsticks. But I wouldn’t do it at the family-owned type places. In my experience, refusing hospitality is a no-no in Asian cultures.

    Not that I disagree with you…the Snowpeak sticks have been on my shopping list for years but my Ti spork has filled that niche. But I think as much as we like to be ecologically conscious, we must must be mindful to be respectful of other cultures.

    At least the chopsticks ain’t ivory anymore ;) Crap…gotta get up early and line up for my Chinese visa.

  • July 23, 2007 at 9:26 pm | Jeff says

    Chopsticks are made from bamboo jackass? Is that like an Asian jackalope? :)

  • August 23, 2007 at 5:27 pm | rr says

    this just in:

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/08/chopsticks_the.php

  • April 7, 2008 at 4:18 pm | rr says

    wow. update to this post.

    check THIS out:

    http://gizmodo.com/376862/man-makes-canoe-with-seven-thousand-chopsticks

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