Setting The (Green) Family Table

As I walked into my home after leaving my daughter at college for her first year I had a flash of nostalgia and even regret when my eye fell on the dining room table. It is the one I grew up with, and it has carried the emotional life of my family in its essence. My regret is that I didnít set it for family meals more often, instead so often eating dinner on the couch together, or worse, on the fly. Wouldnít we have discussed current events more? Processed our days together more? Probably, and I wish we had. So headsup, younger parents, studies even show that kids who eat with their families get much better grades. But there is more to setting a table than just togetherness, there are also ways that protect your familyís health and wellness by making eco-friendly choices to avoid lead and other poisons. Find out how, here:

Before I talk about lead candlesticks, one more point to recommend family dinners: The Columbia University study mentioned above found that teens having family dinners five or more times a week were 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol, 59 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 66 percent less likely to try marijuana.

Here are a few ideas for having a healthy and natural dinner hour by way of taking care of and setting the table:

Centerpieces provide a perfect opportunity to connect your family to nature. Some examples incude forced bulbs, dried plants, pinecones, seedpods, organic flowers, and stones. One of my favorite centerpieces to make in the fall is a bowl filled with water and floating pumpkins:
Make Floating Pumpkin Candles

Table Polishes and Finishes
Given that most furniture polishes and finishes contain neurotoxic ingredients derived from petroleum, unless you choose your products carefully you may be contaminating the air at the dinner table with ingredients that can make a person feel jumpy, depressed, and even lose concentration.
Solution: Use only water-based urethanes and stains if refinishing the table using products such as those provided by AFM Safecoat
Make your own furniture polish and dusting cloths.

Setting the table with candles is a special way to set a restful and quiet mood for a meal. Pure beeswax candles are the best choice for a table because they are not only the least polluting but they also are natural air cleaners. Read more about beeswax candles, here:
and read more about the hazards of other types of candles, here:

Reduce Lead Risk with Safe Tableware
Reduce your lead risk by choosing your tableware very carefully. Here are some guidelines:
Handmade ceramic-ware can contain lead; be especially wary of colorful dishes.
Avoid serving food in ceramics with raised areas with decorative paint.
Avoid any ceramics that have been chipped, even if it is the finest china.
Avoid crystal decanters, they are made with “lead” crystal.
Donít store food (or use in a microwave) in any container that is glazed ceramic.
Visit the Environmental Defense Fund for china patterns that contain lead.

Cloth napkins
Start a cloth napkin collection! Not to sound self-congratulatory, but I truly did stop buying paper napkins about 15 years ago and the change has brought so much pleasure to me and my family. We are all so attached to our array of napkins: the ritual of bringing out more fancy ones for festive holidays, finding everyday napkins to match our dťcor, and remembering those who gave us napkins as gifts. I canít imagine how much money we have saved over so long a time, and because I toss them into miscellaneous laundry loads, I canít believe the washing of them has cost us much either; they take so little room in the washer.

By Annie B. Bond


alina a.
alina a9 years ago

Please note: Not all ceramics are unsafe. I am a ceramist and make handmade dinnerware. All with lead-free, toxic-free high fire glazes that are mixed in the studio. And even the low fire commercial glazes I also use are all lead-free, food safe.

The problem comes from buying commercial food dishes that are made in China, Mexico and other countries which do use a very high percentage of lead and other toxic chemicals in their glazes.

Try to buy your dinnerware from local ceramic artists. There are plenty of art fairs throughout the country. Not only are you supporting them specially in these hard times for us artists, but you will get a safe work of art with better quality and durability.

Anne Petters
Anne Petters10 years ago

We have hosted international students for many years. Lately we switched to cloth napkins. A colorful metal organizer with magnetic back sticks to our fridge and has everyones names printed on front of each section. Although all napkins have the same pattern, we never get confused about ownership. Each student puts away their own napkin into their designated spot. Its fun, easy and saves money.

Georgeann Grubham
Georgeann Grubham10 years ago

Bravo to Jacqueline say yes to life and treat yourself when alone like you are a guest I even use the best china,also tuck my napkin under my chin, hate spills on my tops I use unbleached muslin or linen and use iron on pattern and embroidery napkins,so colorful.You can get paper towels and napkins at dollar stores cheap.Ruined table cloths can be used for napkins and the good parts of old sheets.Nothing quite like a beautiful napkin in a bread basket amongst the rolls.

Rosa Jordan
Emerald Jordan10 years ago

Oh, I am so thankful for this. paper towels can really run up into the money. I found some beautiful towels with the word LOVE written on them. I am going to try them as napkins. Thanks, Annie B.

Patricia F.
Patricia F10 years ago

I've started using dishcloths as napkins. For some reason the cloth napkins I've bought never held up as well as my dishcloths so I decided that for everyday napkins I would buy cotton dishcloths - they end up being cheaper, easier to take care of, and cover your lap better. After they get a few stains they get switched to the kitchen drawer to use as dishtowels (and when they get way too gross there they get switched to the rag bag for cleaning). I also keep several at the office so I don't need to use paper towels.

Ma Witch
Ma Witch10 years ago

At home, with my parents, we always had coton table cloths. When I marrried, I took over this habit because I took it for granted. Now that I have three teens, the cloths have to be washed almost every day. But I visit regularly the second hand shops to find new ones. So, I have a table cloth for almost every occasion, and for almost no money. Now that christmas time is coming nearer, I keep the large white coton tablecloth apart, and will decorate it with branches of climbing plants from our garden, and beewax candles. Already looking forward to those cosy evenings!
Have a nice day!

Jacqueline Jakle
Jacqueline Jakle10 years ago

I have a sensitivity to paper products, so have eaten with cloth napkins for over 30 years. I don't mind washing them! I love setting a pretty table with at least one fresh rose from my garden, and truly try to create a sense of sensual delight at the table, even if I am dining alone. I play music in the background, and light a candle. I feel I am worth it, even if I can only take 10 minutes to have my meal. Of course, it's enjoyable to share a meal with someone and have pleasant conversation.

Annie Bond
Past Member 10 years ago

Thank you, Jackson! I am touched that you took the time to write.

Jackson L.
Jackson L10 years ago

Aw, that was a very touching open to your eco-family table, Annie B. Bond. It made me relate to my dinners and meals at the old table that I've taken for granted. I loved the crucial advice.

Animal Lover
Animal Lover10 years ago

Since My grand ma and mom are trailors,We have a lot of clean cloth scraps as napkins!!