Disposable chopsticks from China are more toxic and harmful than you may think. The Epoch Times just published an important report about how unsustainable they are from health & safety, forest resource and human rights perspectives. China alone uses 200 million trees’ worth year, and they write, “If having your chopsticks manufactured by slave labor isn’t bad enough, the conditions are also extremely unclean,” a fact acknowledged on government-run China Central Television. I hope their reporting work leads to real changes over there, but until the Chinese solve this problem, what’s the plan?
First, we can eat in instead of taking out so we can avoid not only disposable chopsticks but all those containers & bags, too.
If we do take out, we can have chopsticks at home. If you know any teachers of English as Second Language like me, just ask the if they have any extra. Just last week I taught a workshop to a group of 18 teachers from China and they presented me with a lovely gift cutlery set – one setting of fork, spoon and chopsticks – all made of metal with elaborate decoration. Since such sets are common gifts, they can be found at Uwajimaya and other Asian markets, too.
But what about when you’re on the go?
Picking up sushi from a deli case? This is when it’s hardest to avoid disposable chopsticks, right? One of the cutest green habits I’ve heard about in recent memory is the inability to throw away any “disposable” cutlery. This summer, when I met up with my colleague Mary and her family in Budapest, I learned that Mary’s husband has this adorable failing and stockpiles plastic forks and such in their garage. They recently used a huge amount of his stash for their son’s college graduation party, but he also carries a few pieces around in his bag all the time and indeed pulled some out while we were playing tourist together. If you can DIY a little carry case for cutlery, go for it. It’ll be much better than my haphazard method of stowing unused forks and napkins in odd pockets of my backpack.
But if you really want to travel in style, invest in a nice metal set with slim carrying case that will bring you joy every time you eat. One option is a stainless steel set from Reuseit.com – responsibly made in Korea. Comments say the fork and spoon are kid-sized, but chopsticks are normal. That would work for me, as watching my pre-schooler eat with large utensils at restaurants isn’t always pretty. Amazon has this highly rated double set of metal travel chopsticks from D’Eco for $9.99 and two pairs of lightweight Titanium 5-star reviewed chopsticks with carrying cases from yohino for $34.95.
If you have favorite chopstick tips to share or want to send me a picture of your travel spork, go for it!
And until then, いただきます / bon appétit!