Before I got married, I thought that my househould would always be super environmentally-conscious, and that disposable kitchen utensils would never pass my threshhold. I would always use cloth tablecloths with no plastic on them, and in a little while, I told myself optimistically, we would switch exclusively to cloth napkins.
Then, of course, I was hit by reality.
Hannah at "Cooking Manager" recently wrote a post where she listed the disadvantages of disposable kitchenware, and I agree with a lot of her arguments. Plastic dishes bend and break, the better varieties are expensive, and they all result in heaps of garbage. Plastic knives and forks aren't very convenient to manage. I infinitely prefer glass, ceramic and stainless steel in my kitchen, in all senses - environmental, finacial, aesthetical.
However, sometimes disposables become a real situation-saver here, in particular when we're having guests and there's more washing up to do (not to mention, not always enough dishes). Yes, I heard that buying a dishwasher might actually be a greener and more frugal choice in the long run, in the sense that it saves water. But it still requires an initial investment, and our tiny kitchenette wasn't designed to accommodate a dishwasher.
So for now, I'm washing by hand. Always. And I've learned to use some plastic (very occassionally and sparingly) without excessive guilt.
Same goes for tablecloths - in the everyday, I have our table covered with thick, easy-to-wipe sturdy nylon. But for Shabbat, I take out the pretty cloth tablecloths - and cover them with transparent plastic. I know that with two tiny tots near the table, there's no way I would ever be able to remove all those stains and spills.
Sometimes, that infamous plastic stuff is the tiny bit of help that makes our load a little easier. And for me, I suppose that's what matters right now.