Brice Bunner

What Japanese Baseball is Teaching Us About Sustainability


Image ©: New York TimesThere are few things more satisfying than the “crack” of a solid connection between baseball and bat. Similarly, one of the worst things is the crunch that a bat makes when that connection is too overpowering.

I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I am familiar with the game enough to know that there are a lot of wooden bats in the world. So, what happens to those bats when the inevitable break occurs? After all, that’s a lot of waste as the seasons go by. And, perhaps more importantly, what does that story have to do with a sustainable electronics blog?

Taking responsibility for our consumption

Americans have a history of overlooking value (just think of Seward’s folly and you’ll have an idea of what I mean). We do this today with things like plastic bottles and electronic devices, so it pays to learn from a master of reuse

This Japanese chopstick manufacturer puts every part of broken bats to good use. After retrieving them from any one of the 12 local baseball teams, they rework the wood into a number of other products; ends for cups, handle for utensils, and the core for up to 7 pairs of chopsticks.

It’s about rethinking how we consume—or even how we make things. Leveraging the intrinsic value of the wood from a wooden bat to make chopsticks—a common use item—is what Japanese baseball can show us about closed-loop sourcing: using waste streams as source materials.

Tumbling pebbles to the avalanche

This thinking of reuse and intrinsic value can be some powerful mojo. Once you get started looking for value hidden among your waste streams, the future is wide open to potential. Just think: the more products that wood can cycle through the better. Maybe used chopsticks can be further recycled into pressed sawdust products or OSB boards—or art.

The need is great for American consumers to start thinking of what we can do to curb consumption, reuse things, turn waste into source streams, and sustainably deal with the products we can’t reuse. In my own life, I try to look at areas of extreme wastefulness and think of new, better uses for those things.

For instance, for the better part of four months, I saved the plastic bags that cereal and crackers come in. The result of just four months is a roll of sheet plastic over 3 inches thick and roughly 15 inches wide. This same plastic sheeting could cost upwards of $20 if purchased from a hardware store.

The useful products we keep throwing away

With a little work, I can use this plastic for all kinds of projects where I might be tempted to go out and buy a roll of Visqueen. There are ways to seal sheets together that I am looking at to create a low-cost vapor barrier for my crawlspace. Plastic—the very same as Visqueen, by the way—that I already paid for when I purchased Lucky Charms®. And, just like creating chopsticks from baseball bats, it’s magically sustainable! 

Follow this rabbit down the hole; here's another post for you:

Game_Boy still has the best formula for sustainability

Game Boy Is Calling From
The Past With The Secret For Sustainable Design




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