Everything You Need for Your Low Waste and Eco-Friendly Dining Table

by - Sunday, September 23, 2018

You have some things you would like to buy, but you are trying to take care of the environment. Good on you! Your table is a place for food and togetherness, so why not add to those good feelings by also making it a space of stewardship?

You can find green options for ANYTHING, and I will help you skip the research.

If you need something for your table, check out this list for green options for everything from:

Cereal Bowls
Plates and Place Settings
Salt and Pepper Grinders
Salad Bowl
Tablecloths/ Placemats

There are more things that go on your table, but this starts you off with the basics. If there is something in particular you are looking for, please comment and we will track it down!

There are a few steps to take to shift your shopping practices to something greener. It can be uncomfortable at first, but once you get the hang of it, you will never want to go back!

1. Use What You Already Have

Does what you have still work? Why are you ready to move on? We discard millions of still useful items every day. If you can get more life out of your plates or silverware, then the greenest thing you can do is to keep using them. So even if you want to shift your style, consider how to make what you already have work.

Simply buying less is a profound positive change for your life and your world.

Consider checking if your family or neighbors have hand me downs they are ready to part with too. It's greener, and you save tons of money!

If you are ready to be done with something, do NOT throw it away. First, check with your local Buy Nothing group to see if anyone can use it (don't have a Buy Nothing group yet? Check this website for information about the project and to get started). If that isn't an option, you can still donate the vast majority of what you own. Check the bottom of this page for tons of tips on where to donate things. Throwing things away has to be a last resort.

2. Buy Used

If you are going to buy something and you want to have a positive impact, you have two options- buy it to last or buy it used. If you can't afford (or it just doesn't seem worth it) to buy the ethically-made, long-lasting silverware, then buy one of the bags of silverware at Goodwill.

Secondhand shopping used to have a stigma, but it is one of the BEST things you can do for the environment. If you want to live a greener life, this is a necessary step. It cuts down on fossil fuel/shipping waste, sidesteps plastic packaging, doesn't reward unethical labor, AND keeps objects out of landfills. No matter what item we are talking about, the first step is to check your local thrift stores, online spaces, even Ebay to find a used option.

You will be amazed how many things are out there secondhand. You can find almost anything!

3. Buy Ethical and Local (and Made to Last)

You can buy a 40 dollar set of dishes instead of a 200 dollar set of dishes. But if you have to replace it 5 times in the same 40 year period you will use the 200 set, you have wasted your time and money. An immediate deal will often cost more in the long run, and though expensive does NOT necessarily mean better, better often does mean more expensive.

For me, I can no longer live with items that I know someone was mistreated to make. I cannot fund someone else's abuse. So I will only buy from companies that manufacture in countries with high labor standards or with fair trade certification.

If companies are concerned with how they treat their people, they tend to also care more about their impact on the environment. It's not a universal rule, but a general trend.

I also believe deeply in buying local (for us that means Made in America, but obviously you need to shop where you are). Shipping is a huge part of the fossil fuel use causing climate change. Shipping tends to be an invisible part of our impact; we don't think about the journeys every item we buy takes, but when our stuff travels way more than we do, it is actually a huge part of the CO2 we are responsible for.

So, what do I do? 

It takes a lot of research to figure out where one object is made, and the average American home has 300,000 objects in it. Even if you only research for half an hour for each thing, you have still spent 150,000 hours researching? That's 17 years of your life! Who has time to research that much?  Luckily, I have done that for you. I will give you the best of brand new options, but the first answer is to embrace buying less and buying secondhand.

 The greenest, most zero-waste plates in the world will still not be as green as just not buying anything.

These blogs have Amazon and Etsy affiliate links. I definitely encourage you to shop Etsy, but if you can avoid Amazon, do so. Instead, shop in your locally-owned stores or even places like Costco that are known for their excellent labor practices! 

That said, let's get going.

Cereal Bowls

Our Pick- Circa Ceramics 
Other Options- Calibowls, Fiesta, Corelle, inherwordsceramics, LindaReneePottery, Lesliefreemandesigns

Ceramics are glazed and some of the chemicals are more desirable than others. In most cases, it doesn't matter too much, but if you tend to heat your ceramic plates (microwave oatmeal, etc), then you do want to look into that part of it.

This one really depends on your taste. You can find super simple and clean from Fiesta or Corelle, or you can find something with a more handmade feeling on Etsy. Just buy something made locally and built to last you (so pick something that will fit your taste for a long time). Another pro is you can write them and specifically request they only use compostable packaging.

anchor hocking bar glasses
Anchor Hocking from Amazon

Everyday Beverage Glasses

Our Pick- Anchor Hocking 16 oz glasses
Other Options- Stainless Steel, mason jars, Anchor Hocking's wavvsquared offclassicgrid , and curved sets. Novica recycled blue glasses, Fiesta everyday glasses, and Libbey

There are lots of recycled and American-made glass sets, but we are committed to our Anchor Hocking glasses. They are dang cheap but incredibly tough, made for commercial use. I am confident these glasses will last us forever!

If breakable glass doesn't appeal, you could also try stainless steel tumblers, which are super durable and will basically last you forever. We also use secondhand 8 oz mason jars for our juice cups now, which stand up really well to two toddler boys.


Our Pick- Used or Circa Ceramics
Other Options- American Mug Pottery, Etsy, Fiesta

There are so many used mugs in the world, waiting at your local thrift shop, dying to be used. I don't care where you are and where you live, you can find used mugs.

If you do need a new mug, there are almost 500,000 on Etsy of every cute persuasion. I would recommend ones that were made (not just some sort of picture put on a mug) so you are supporting ethical manufacturing. I also think the


Our Pick- Clear Sky Home and Oh Little Rabbit
Other Options- Creekside Kid, moocowmomma, thehighfiber, CHOWwithme

Maybe you have never thought about cloth napkins before, but you should! These simple cloth napkins can be thrown in with the rest of your laundry and are actually a much more attractive addition to your table (without being fussy). We have now only used cloth napkins (except for big parties) for 4 years, and I would never go back. Just such an easy and fun way to do good.

I have napkins from these two etsy stores (we are up to about 16 now that we just filter through) so I can vouch for how great these napkins are, but there are so many options, so browse and pick a pop that fits your style.
from Emerson Creek Pottery

Plates and Place Settings

Our Pick-Heath Ceramics and Emerson Creek Pottery Go Green
Other OptionsBauer PotteryBennington PottersFiesta

There are so many beautiful plate sets out there that are made in the US- there is no reason not to buy local! I love Heath Ceramics for their style and Emerson Creek Pottery for just being so earthy and beautiful and eco-minded. They are both beautiful but not too fussy, like you want to sit at that table. That said, there are plenty of options out there (not to mention secondhand) including really mainstream ones!

Another piece of advice? When in doubt, pick white or neutral. I am a color girl, I love color, but life is long and tastes change. Unless you are consistently committed to one color, I would lean neutral.


Our Pick- Liberty Tabletop
Other Options- Used, Heath Ceramics, Bamboo

A lot of well-made flatware is on the expensive, and there is ALWAYS cheap silverware at secondhand stores. If you can't imagine or afford this stuff, just go secondhand. Liberty Tabletop is an American treasure, and they have styles from super traditional to modern. We have started buying replacement spoons from them (why do our spoons go missing? I WISH I KNEW), and they are awesome. If you need something more stylish, Heath Ceramics can't be beat.

If you are ready to step out of the norm, you could also do bamboo silverware which will completely compost when you are done with them. Truly zero waste!

Salt and Pepper Grinder

Our Pick- Fletchers' Mill
Other Options-William Bounds and Chef Specialties

Fletcher's Mill makes their grinders in the US. This may not seem like a necessity, but we got these and then buy our salt and pepper in bulk, so we can cut way down on packaging in our house. If you  like to really season food, this may be a great place to cut down waste.

Table Cloth

Our Pick-Mountain Laurel Mercantile
Other Options- Secondhand (including antique stores) or make your own

I absolutely love our Mountain Laurel Mercantile tablecloths, which you can find easily on Amazon. We received one as a Christmas two years ago; it looks pretty and stands up really well to the tough life of spills, crayons, and craziness. We bought another one, we loved the first so much. They have a bit of a rustic feel, but I think with a white on white cloth, you could probably appeal to any taste.

This can also be a good place to shop secondhand or super local at craft fairs or flea markets. Secondhand and homemade options are definitely out there! Go look!


Our Pick- Wait. Life has a way of delivering vases.
Other Options- Secondhand, Libbey

I feel like vases just kind of multiply in our life. We started by buying one, and now we have a small army of vases. If you need one, do look secondhand. I guarantee you there is a 99 cent vase at your Goodwill right now, just waiting for you.

Finally, Remember...

You will buy plates a very few times in your life, but you buy groceries every single week. The greenest thing you can do at your dining table is reduce your food waste, buy fewer plastic-packaged items, and MOST IMPORTANTLY eat less meat. You don't have to give it up completely, but American meat consumption is out of control (and a major cause of climate change) so consider slimming your portion sizes and eating more meatless meals! If you need inspiration, we have TONS of meatless recipes here.

eco-friendly and low waste options for everything on your dining table

Want even more Dining Room options and Ideas? Check out our wedding registry, which is damn thorough. For even more ideas about how to make your home, wherever you live, greener- check out the Green Homes page!

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