Top 10 uses for all those chopsticks.

th-1When 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.”

This evening’s fire was started with newspaper and plain wood eating implements. They worked quite well, and got me to thinking 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, DF used 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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  1. sounds like we are about to see a whole new world unfold right before our eyes?

  2. Great post, love practical ideas like these. Makes you rethink your trash habits, yet again.

  3. Don’t forget about making a giant poking device:

  4. LOL! When my hair was long, I used to pin it up with chopsticks like that. Pencils work, too. You really only need one.

  5. dang those recalcitrant spices

  6. I use mine similarly to DF for unblocking my sink. Thanks for bringing our attention to the plight of those trees. I will certainly refuse the offer of any ‘free’ chopsticks in the future. I have a few sets of plastic ones.

  7. We use a couple to prop up the star on top of our Christmas tree!

  8. ImJuniperNow

    Please add:

    They turn any object in your home into an annoying musical instrument, make excellent batons for conducting music or directing air traffic (real or imagined), can be used as pointers (the remote is over THERE), personal safety devices against muggers, uncloggers, and toothpicks for hippos.

  9. OMG, such a great idea to use chopsticks as hair holders. I have a whole drawer full of chopsticks, now I have something to do with them. I usually use pens, but chopsticks sound safer. Love your blog!

  10. fat and ugly

    brilliant post and helpful

  11. When I lived in Japan, one of my coworkers made a mobile with two chopsticks, some twine, and origami cranes she made. I’m all thumbs so my origami cranes ended up looking like something that was exposed to radiation and toxic waste. I have a lot of chopsticks–the reusable kind–and I really don’t get why restaurants don’t have them instead of the disposable kind. You wouldn’t serve a nice meal with plastic cutlery, but you can get the nicest spread of sushi with disposable chopsticks.

  12. I see wifey to the same thing with the chopsticks on her hair. I think it’s sexy.

  13. ManoaHi

    My wife is Japanese, and I lived in Japan for 20 years. Except for some soups, I use chopsticks for eating, and our family does take our own chopsticks when we eat out. I am also really good with chopsticks; I can pickup crispy spring rolls, frozen food (when taking them out to cook or heat up) and except for soups, I use chopsticks for cooking (particularly good with grilling).

    The best use of disposable chopsticks, include: serving and for guests (unless they bring their own). They can be used for other things like roasting marshmallows, grilling hot dogs, although we typically use bamboo kushi (like shish kabob skewers). If you have pointy chopsticks, you can use them to pickup things that dropped into crevasses (my favorite for picking the leaves that end up near the windshield wiper rotor). For other car care like cleaning and waxing the deep inside areas behind door hinges. Also, useful for catching stinging insects like scorpions and centipedes (just be sure you grab the correct end); we live in the tropics so we have quite the array of insects that crawl in or come in with the laundry.. We also go camping a lot, and they are lightweight, and you don’t need precious water (when you have to carry the water on your back or hips) to wash them, just burn them. I keep some of the used ones to help take the mud out of my boots. Chopsticks are also great when eating crab, you can get into those skinny parts. I have used them to unjam printers and copiers (you know that little piece of paper that gets stuck). In case you are wondering about the last part, yes, I can easily grab pieces of paper.

    Sometimes we even buy disposable chopsticks but aways of the bamboo type; and bamboo makes horrible kindling. This also means we are not killing old growth forests. (actually my wife and I removed our carpet and refloored our house with bamboo flooring).


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