Monday, May 16, 2011

Disposable dishes

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. 


Lady Anne said...

I agree with you - I honestly prefer the "real thing" but sometimes plastic is better. Our local hospital uses a lovely white plastic plate with a grey rim; it resembles fine, platinum trimmed china. When my sister was ill, we managed to find these dishes in a wholesale store, and now we use them for all big family events. They look very nice and when we are finished eating, cleanup is a snap, so we can sit and enjoy each other's company.

Alycia said...

I know exactly what you mean! My husband (a soldier) has been gone for most of the past year, and out of desperation I have found myself resorting to disposable plates once a week or so. With three tiny children, I have had to sit down and make a list of every single thing I can reasonably cut out of my workload while still allowing for important things like time to prepare decent food most days. I feel guilty about it (and the disposable diapers I finally put my middle child in), but that's just the way it has to be right now. It won't always be like this - life is all about seasons.

~Beck~ said...

I do not know your situation entirely, but personally, a dishwasher would always be my first choice, besides, it saves you money.

Thursday's Child said...

How feasible would a portable dishwasher be? My aunt and uncle, YEARS ago, had a full-sized one. Since then I've seen smaller but maybe the larger ones are still available. They're on wheels, don't install under the counter and usually have a wooden top, so you can use it as an extra workspace. Perhaps if it didn't have to always be in the same place it would help?

In Lebanon it made no sense to have a dishwasher since we spent half the day on generator. My hands were in horrid shape in the winter from all the washing. Here I just load it throughout the day and turn it on before heading to bed. I wake up to clean dishes that are usually still warm.

But, you have to go with what you know you can handle or find room for.

Anonymous said...

Don't feel guilty. We can all be very idealistic before we have children, but after they come along, real life hits us on the head and we do what we have to to keep our sanity. I have a vinyl table cloth. Before children I always looked down on those. Now... it protects our table and is easy to clean and I don't have to launder it, which saves water.