New Ideas for the Chopstick


I love chopsticks. I’m not really sure why, since I’ve never been able to master eating with them. Maybe I like that they are elegant and made from the most beautiful natural resource around. Their clean angles and sturdy design make them destined for something much greater than sitting at the back of my kitchen junk drawer. If you’ve got a few lying around that you won’t be wrapping a noodle around, check out some handy tips for breathing new life into an ancient tradition.

Crafting – If you’re handy with the arts, or just like to build things, then the chopstick can be very useful to you. Chopsticks can be the medium of baskets, jewelry, frames, mobiles, or abstract centerpieces. There is no limit to the imaginative creations that can be made from them. (You can visit Real Green Goods, for a website that offers some great products using chopsticks. You might be inspired to create some of your own!)

Cooking – In addition to the popular method of using a chopstick as a skewer for baking or broiling meats and veggies, chopsticks can also be used in steaming. If you are without a steam tray or basket, simple stack several layers of chopsticks across the bottom of a large soup pan. Fill the bottom with a few inches of water, but not enough to meet the top of your chopstick stack. Layer large pieces of fresh veggies on top of the chopsticks and cook while covered. (Pay close attention to make sure that you don’t run out of water. Cooking with a dry pot could cause the chopsticks to burn.) Add water as needed until the veggies are cooked yet tender.

Another handy kitchen use deals with the unpleasant task of deveining shrimp. To easily remove the icky black lines in the back of the shrimp, insert the tapered end of the chopstick into the back of the shrimp’s “spine” and push forward along the length of the shrimp. The vein should scrape out easily.

Chopsticks can also make a great temperature gauge for that skillet or pot of hot cooking oil. With a small amount of meat (or whatever you’re frying) on the end of a chopstick, touch the bottom of the pan. If it sizzles, you’re ready to cook!

Gardening – If the thought of wasting wood bothers you, give back to the green good by implementing chopsticks into your horticulture routine! There are so many uses for chopsticks in the care of plants that it is impossible to list them all here. The art of Bonsai uses chopsticks in many daily routines, including checking water, repotting, and shaping. If Bonsai isn’t your thing, you can still use chopsticks to support your houseplants or to make plant labels that you can stick in the soil.

Cleaning – Chopsticks are great for getting into hard-to-reach areas. Wrap a small cloth around the end of one and secure with a rubber band to make your own bottle brush or dish scrubber for long-stem flower vases. The tapered ends make a good sturdy tool for digging out dirt and mold from seams of shower fixtures and along baseboards. They are also great for getting pieces of bread out of the toaster (just be sure to unplug the toaster first), cleaning the dryer vent, and fishing items out from under the TV console or large appliances. I’ve also used them for getting gunked-on batter from the crevices of the waffle iron!

The list of uses for chopsticks is endless, so there is hope that mine will find purpose in my lifetime. Not convinced that you’re ready to give up using chopsticks for eating? Check out this guide for making spring-loaded chopsticks from a clothespin! So simple, even a child can use them!

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Guest's picture

Although I'm glad you're giving folks ideas for reusing the chopsticks they have, I hope that this doesn't make anyone feel more at ease with using the disposable ones.

Disposable chopsticks are a huge source of deforestation around the world with some figures as high as 25 million trees being used each year. Furthermore, much of this wood has actually come from rainforests because the wood must be cheap, free of knots, and readily available. Now, disposable chopsticks are a source of deforestation in Canada as well, as illustrated here: .

It appears that much of the relevant information is difficult to find online in English, but it's not hard to understand how disposable utensils can be a tremendous waste.

If you still love to use chopsticks, pick up a set of plastic reusable ones, and take them with you when you plan to use them. Otherwise, I highly recommend you give up the novelty value for the environment and stick to the reusable fork the restaurant has on hand.

Myscha Theriault's picture

Some cool ideas, especially for the garden uses. I agree, springing for a reuseable set is a good idea for at home use. But if you have a few kicking around anyway. . .

Another interesting tidbit I noticed? The Real Green Goods project is familiar to me. I noticed the name sounded familiar. I have a friend who knows one of the people who was involved with setting it up. Recognized the site immediately. From what I heard, they worked super hard to make this a great online store and I think they have a brick and mortar one in New Hampshire as well. Great to see them getting some exposure.

Guest's picture

A friend of mine showed me a chopstick trick for sewing. When you need to sew something and then turn it right side out, like a collar. Chopsticks work great for pushing the corners nice and clean when you turn it right side out. It works better than any of the other traditional sewing options that frequently push through the fabric and make a hole. It works great if your making something with a detailed shaped edge like a window valance.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Thanks for the info.  I did find info in my research about the "one-off's" or disposable chopsticks, including info on Asian governments implementing use taxes on the them or banning them altogether.

While I certainly wouldn't encourage someone who doesn't already use the chopstick to pick up the habit simply for fun, I happen to be one of those folks who save everything for long periods of time and then wonder, "What am I going to do with this?"

The idea for recycling chopsticks came to me when I picked up a case of the "one-offs" at a garage sale for free.  After finding that I don't use them to eat, I wanted to give them a good use.  Turns out that the "one-offs" can be gently washed in soapy water and air-dried.  While I wouldn't use them again to eat (they tend to break down easier), I have found lots of alternatives to pitching them in the trash.

Until the demand for chopsticks goes away, they'll still be everywhere.  Hopefully we can come up with more solutions to putting this harvested wood to good use!


Thanks for the comments! 

Myscha Theriault's picture

Now that's cool.

Guest's picture

I guess I didn't really emphasize it, but I do think it's great that you're giving people ideas on how to use the chopsticks they already have. I just think it's important that people realize why using them one time because they think they're fun is a terrible idea and has consequences. Picking up new ones to use for alternatives isn't much better either if you don't have them on hand anyway. However, it's great whenever someone finds a way to keep something "disposable" from going to the landfill through new uses, so thank you for writing the article.

As far as the problem of finding info, I was getting frustrated because I was finding mentions of "Asian Environmentalists" who were working hard on campaigns against disposable chopsticks, while the sources in English were lacking. Most of the information I could find either didn't have citations or was over ten years old, which is a bit frustrating when trying to convince people that this is a real issue.

Linsey Knerl's picture

Interestingly enough, the best info I found by following a trail that started at Wiki...

Guest's picture

I use "chopsticks on hand" as an alternative to birthday or special occasion cards when I am giving a gift card to a chinese restaurant, a gift for chinese new year, or an asian inspired gift such as a book on feng shui. I type my greeting in small type, cut it out and glue it on the chopsticks. The chopsticks become the card as well as an alternative to a bow. It has been a win-win situation for me.

Guest's picture

You can wash them and re-use them. Wood is naturally anti-bacterial, and once they're washed, they aren't "dirty." Toss them when they wear out. The bamboo sticks are very sturdy and last for a long time. My family has done this for fifty years.

If you're really cheap, take them home from the restaurant after you have used them.

Guest's picture

I suppose this might fit in the 'craft' category, but they make great hairsticks! Stain and varnish them, or paint them, and you've got great hair accessories for next to no money.

Guest's picture

I don't know about everyone else, but nearly every set of chopsticks I have ever seen were made from bamboo. Bamboo is not technically wood, it is a type of grass. Bamboo is a sustainable product and has many great uses. So, my point is that IF most chopsticks are made from bamboo then we don't really need to worry about the deforestation issue.

Guest's picture
Kelsi Coffman

Actually, most are made of wood.

"Now, over 22 million trees are being cut down in China every year to feed the industry and at the current rate of deforestation it is feared that there may be as little as ten years supply remaining. The deforestation already caused has been blamed for some of the huge flooding problems that have been experienced in China in recent years."

Check it out:

Guest's picture

I use chopsticks to coax that yucky combination of hair and soapscum out from the drain. You can really dig up a lot of nastiness, AND you won't have to use drain-unblocker either. (As a green alternative, use baking soda and white vinegar instead!)

Linsey Knerl's picture

Cool use!  I was using a wire hanger...

Linsey Knerl