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Saving trees one chopstick (level) at a time

By CHRIS DAVIS | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-06-21 09:39

Disposable chopsticks are about as everyday as everyday gets. Few of us think twice about breaking them open, pinching up our sushi or noodles and tossing them out with the trash.

Saving trees one chopstick (level) at a time

But one young enterprising entrepreneur in England was grabbed by some statistics he came across in several news sources (including China Daily).

Xinhua: China produces 80 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks a year. Bai Guangxin, chairman of Jilin Forestry Industry Group, estimates that amounts to 20 million 20-year-old trees.

Huffington Post: Based on 2004 to 2009 statistics, it's more like 57 billion disposable chopsticks a year, accounting for the destruction of 3.8 million trees.

China Daily: Aside from its own usage, China exports 15 billion pairs to Japan and South Korea every year.

National Geographic: The chopstick industry claims millions of poplar, birch and bamboo trees to the tune of 130 million pairs a day, exporting 18 billion pairs annually.

Any way you stack it, the numbers - and implicit deforestation - are staggering. There has to be a better way.

London resident Tudor Finneran, 20, has decided to try to get the message out - to younger people in particular - through a mobile phone game app. Chopstick Champion is what he's come up with.

"The basic idea is to educate users on the negative environmental factors of wooden/one use or disposable chopsticks, from the demand of wood to the manufacturing process," he said, "but through appealing and fun gameplay."

Players are presented with a historical character (Confucius, Genghis Khan, Ho Chi Minh, Katsumoto) whom they have to feed. They select three dishes from a menu that includes delicacies like exotic caterpillars, wraps, noodles, beans, rice and melon seeds. And the clock starts.

Using the two-finger zoom move on a pair of animated chopsticks to grab a piece of food from the plate, players move the eats piece by piece to the character's mouth. Drop it, which is easy, and he scowls.

The catch is that each character benefits most (more points) from dishes that are from their regional cuisine - so a little biographical research on the accompanying social media ups the rewards.

Progressing through the game's 49 levels of play, target point levels increase and time decreases.

The game's social media features pop-ups like: "Environmental Notice - Please think about the supply chains and production methods of all non-sustainable and non-renewable products."

The game also has a wagering feature that teaches players about ratios, "so if the user does not have access to quality schooling they can learn the basics", Finneran said.

Stage One of Chopstick Champion, which is already available in Apple and Android app stores, is being submitted to the Chinese authorities for approval to go on the iTunes app store in China next week.

Finneran, who describes himself on LinkedIn as "the hardest working person you'll ever meet", is already looking ahead to Phase Two, "which will really focus on the case study of deforestation due to non-reusable chopsticks".

It's his first app on the "market", he said, but he is working on others over the next few months "to educate a massive audience on these problems and eventually lead to some positive change".

"Having a passion for the environment and still not seeing the necessary changes that need to be made," he said, "I am doing my best to utilize apps/tech to promote a necessary change and lay the foundation for my future business."

That business? A full-time "eco-entrepreneur" who leads "the world in the right direction through informative gameplay or tech services".

Contact the writer at chrisdavis@chinadailyusa.com.

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