- Use cloth napkins (see note below).
- Ditch the paper plates - use durable, washable plates.
- Use real utensils - never plastic.
- Candles are a beautiful touch for your table, but make sure your candles are all natural - made ingredients like soy or beeswax.
- If you're going to have flowers on the table, make sure they are local and didn't travel hundreds of miles to get to your table. If you can't buy local, opt for a different centerpiece.
- Shop yard sales for fabulous vintage table clothes instead of buying new.
- Change out all the light bulbs in the room to CFL's.
- Use your chipped plates instead of going out to buy new ones. Our plates are 15 years old and very few are left unchipped. It doesn't take the enjoyment out of our meals one little bit.
- If you've got a formal dining room that isn't used frequently, close the curtains during the warm months to keep the sun out and open them in the winter months to let the sun in. It will help conserve energy.
- For a sustainable family, make sure you all sit around the dining table once a day for a meal.
Note about cloth napkins: A lot of my friends ask about the difficulty of using cloth napkins - washing them, ironing them, getting out the stains. Honestly, I don't care about ironing or getting out stains. I have all white napkins, wash them each time I do a white load and hang them out to dry. If they are stained, oh well, we're only using them to wipe our mouths and hands. Wrinkles - who cares?
I do keep a set of 12 stashed away for when we have guests. They do get treated for stains after we use them, but unless it's Thanksgiving or Easter, I don't even iron them.
I'm not trying to set a Martha Stewart table, I'm trying to set a sustainable one.