With various “bring your own chopsticks” movements making little headway against the 45 billion pairs of disposable wooden utensils used each year in China alone, a clever Chinese environmental group has brought a dramatic visible representation of the environmental impact to the streets of downtown Shanghai.
Though they can be made out of porcelain, plastic, lacquered bamboo, stainless steel, and even ivory or jade, chopsticks of the disposable wooden variety have long been the most-used utensil in China’s restaurants and other eateries. Some 25 million trees are required to feed the country’s annual chopstick demand, according to the China Environmental Protection Foundation, which notes that at this rate, “forest will disappear from China in 20 years.”
To raise awareness about the problem, the foundation went around Shanghai and gathered 30,000 pairs of used disposable chopsticks from the city’s restaurants. After washing and preparing them, they used the little wooden sticks to build a 15 foot-high tree in a busy district of the city — and then chopped it down. Volunteers were stationed by the fallen “tree” to hand out reusable chopsticks to curious passers-by, while a sign laid out the consumption statistics and warned: “Our trees are enough to feed us for only another 20 years.”