Turning chopsticks into trees

Feature Story - 2010-12-20
Can you bring dead wood back to life? No, but you can turn them into trees again. That's what 200 volunteers did with 80,000 pairs of disposable chopsticks – they made them into four, beautiful, life-like trees.

Four trees made from 80,000 used disposable chopsticks at The Place shopping mall, Beijing. Over 200 college student volunteers collected the chopsticks and made them into five-meter tall trees under the direction of the artist Xu Yinhai.

Can you bring dead wood back to life? No, but you can turn them into trees again. That's what Greenpeace and Ogilvy teamed up to do with 80,000 pairs of disposable chopsticks - we made them into four, beautiful, life-like trees!

Designed by artist Xu Yinhai (徐银海), each tree stands at five meters tall. Two hundred volunteers from 20 Beijing universities joined in the effort. Over three weeks, they collected used disposable chopsticks from restaurants, cleaned them, and assembled them - no easy task!

"Our project re-uses objects that would ordinarily have gone into the trash," said Xu at the opening ceremony. "We are giving back these chopsticks their former shape - they are reborn as trees again. We hope that this chopsticks forest will help everyone realize that swathes of living forest are being destroyed every year to satisfy a careless and unnecessary dining habit."

China produces 57 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks every year, requiring over 1.18 million square meters of forest, according to the Forest Ministry's statistics from 2004 to 2009. But the country's natural forest resources are extremely limited, ranking 139th in the world - so why are we cutting down 3.8 million trees a year to make something that we use once and then throw away?

We hope that our exhibit will inspire people think more about the origin of their everday objects and be more conscientious about their use of resources. These chopsticks were once trees; we hope that you'll join us in helping us to make sure that more trees remain so. You can:

- Carry around your own pair of chopsticks; sign the pledge to not use disposable chopsticks (Chinese only) - Reduce usage of paper products and disposable items such as paper cups - Choose paper and wood products made of post-consumer recylced paper or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified timber - Avoid products made from illegally sourced timber - Recycle paper products, or reuse them for wrapping paper, art projects & more. - More tips on how to have a green holiday season

Next time you pick up a pair of disposable chopsticks, don't think of them as just a convenience but as the mighty, living tree that they should be!

Our 'forest of chopsticks' was exhibited at The Place shopping mall, Beijing, from December 18 to 20. It will also be exhibited at other locations in Beijing - stay tuned for more information.