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July 9 2024 Jordan Walker

Featured Member: ChopValue YYC

A ChopValue YYC table made from recycled chopsticks

As sustainability continues to be a major point of discussion, ChopValue YYC is using it to leverage creativity and make a difference, one chopstick at a time.

With values rooted in quality and transparency, ChopValue YYC is a local franchise that recycles used bamboo chopsticks and transforms them into unique furnishings and décor items, such as coasters, tables and crib boards.

Originally founded by Felix Böck, a wood engineer with a PhD in bamboo composites, ChopValue was developed in Canada as a means to transform chopsticks into décor pieces that are both beautiful and sustainable. With their franchises and micro factories now expanded internationally, Joanne Dafoe and Mike Bodnar jumped at the chance to bring this unique business to Calgary.

A hyperlocal approach

As a born-and-raised Calgarian, Joanne Dafoe, President and Co-Owner of ChopValue YYC, knew early on that running a green business was important to her. Previously a landscape designer, Joanne never pictured herself in the manufacturing industry. However, her background in design enabled her to put her creativity to use when it comes to custom projects and seeing an idea through beginning to completion.

Originally approached by a friend who shared the innovative products from ChopValue and made an introduction with the founder Felix, Joanne explains that the rest was history.

“For me, it was a no brainer,” she says. “I just loved the idea of it and I felt like I could tell this story for the next 20 years and, four years in, I still love telling the story.”

With sustainability a major aspect of their operations, Joanne explains how they began to engage with local businesses that aid in providing them waste to recycle, now blooming into fruitful, long-term partnerships.

“We gather chopsticks locally from restaurants here in Calgary and surrounding areas and everything that we make is made right here. It’s hyperlocal and we run on a circular business economy model.”

Chopsticks being dumped from a bag to be recycled

An emphasis on quality

As the creativity and mission of ChopValue YYC started gaining momentum in the city, Joanne emphasises that one of the goals now for ChopValue YYC is to be known in Calgary as the premier supplier of sustainable furnishings.

When it comes to being a premier supplier, Joanne notes just how important quality is as well as making sure their operations are sustainable.

“We are always looking at different ways to be more operationally efficient and lessening our carbon footprint as much as we can.”

With their local “micro factory” hosting red seal certified cabinet makers and woodworkers, they not only focus on producing high-quality products, but have also recently opened their doors to the community to see their unique process.

“We like doing shop tours so community members can come in and we can show them the process from when the chopsticks come in the door,” she says. “We have a nice flow in the micro factory and we’re treating it just like wood.”

Setting the bar high

Globally, ChopValue has recently reached the milestone of over 150 million chopsticks recycled. In Calgary alone, ChopValue YYC has accumulated over 2000 kilograms of recycled chopsticks per month, amounting to nearly 650,000 individual chopsticks.

In terms of the local community, one of their local collection partners, Chinook Mall, has now reached their one millionth chopstick recycled with ChopValue YYC this past June. To commemorate the success, they’ve collaborated with ChopValue to create a furnishing dedicated to this momentous accomplishment.

“Chinook Mall has asked us to create a bench for their food court so that we can put up a plaque and celebrate this milestone. I think that’s the epitome of what we’re doing—we get our partners excited that they’re also making a difference and it’s tangible.”

Thinking outside the box

Looking ahead, Joanne foresees more collaboration between ChopValue YYC and the broader Calgary community, noting how the Chamber has aided in helping expand their network and offering inspiration.

“It’s really inspiring to go to events and be welcomed and part of the community. We love being members and we’ll continue to be because it’s always evolving and is so diverse and welcoming.”

With incredible milestones already achieved, Joanne is eager to continue finding new ways to innovate, encouraging the team at ChopValue YYC and others to continue expanding the boundaries of what they believe is possible.

“That’s what’s so rewarding about this business—making or helping people think outside the box. If you can do this with chopsticks, what can somebody else do with another with another raw material?”

To learn more about ChopValue YYC, visit their website