57 Billion Disposable Chopsticks

Who would have thought an item as small as a set of disposable chopsticks could have such a hefty environmental impact?
According to an article on The New York Times, the equivalent of 3.8 million trees are used in the manufacture of about 57 billion disposable pairs of chopsticks in China each year (so I guess the title of this post should have read 114 Billion.. but anyhow).
Back-of-virtual-envelope calculations…
Based on a single chopstick being 7 inches long (rather short for a chopstick though), laid end-to-end this would equate to seven hundred ninety-eight billion inches, which is sixty-six billion five hundred million feet, which is approximately twelve million five hundred ninety-four thousand miles.
12,594,000 miles (20, 268, 078 kilometers)  of chopsticks would circle the planet at the equator around 500 times. It’s also around 52 times the distance to the moon.
And this is happening every year – just in relation to China’s production.
Aside from the trees, there’s the energy to consider, chemicals used to make these chopsticks, etc. etc. etc. Even if every single chopstick was composted, it’s a considerable impact.
But this post isn’t about picking on China, it’s mainly to draw attention to the fact there are so many “disposable” items in our lives. While we may throw away a napkin, a toilet roll tube, a sheet of paper towel and think “it’s just one”; there are millions of us doing and thinking exactly the same thing; each and every day.
Reading stories like the one about the chopstick situation, and considering it’s just a tiny aspect of our consumption, helps to drive home that the claims we are using up resources faster than the planet can produce them isn’t just tree-hugger propaganda, it’s undoubtedly true.
On the positive side of things, our collective destructive power can be offset to a degree by all of us undertaking simple green actions; because while switching off a light we don’t need on, or resisting the urge to buy something we don’t need may not seem like a planet saving action, it certainly makes a difference when millions do the same. These simple green actions may help buy us the time we need to really get our acts together.