I’ve always considered myself a fairly eco-conscious person. I line dried, hand washed, repurposed, and tried to minimize the use of disposables. With one exception: plastic tablecloths for the Shabbat table.
I sort of felt I gamed the system when I spread out that transparent rustling sheet of plastic over my table. I didn’t need to worry about spills. Cleanup was a breeze. And I could still see my pretty cloth tablecloth through the plastic.
No, I didn’t feel too good about myself when it was time to shove that giant wad of plastic into the trash can. But I told myself, “You do enough laundry. You have tiny kids. You’re just surviving.” It was that word, “surviving”, which I used to justify a lot of lack of effort in many areas.
I could, of course, put on reusable waxed tablecloths, but there are limitations to cleaning on the Shabbat. For example, you can’t clean with a cloth and then wring it.
Then, one day, we switched to buying a long plastic roll rather than individual pre-cut pieces to save money. The problem is, you need to cut your plastic cover before the Shabbat, and if you forget to do that, too bad.
One such time, I nearly threw a fit when I realized that I’ll need to use cloth tablecloths and wash them. We lived in an area where we’d regularly get stuck without electricity or running water for days. But I still couldn’t help noticing how much nicer it was to eat without touching plastic with our hands and elbows.
I still wasn’t ready to give up on plastic table covers because of the aforementioned patchy utilities. There were many times when I delayed washing the dishes and was stuck with a full sink for three days. But when we moved, I no longer had to obsess about getting every load of laundry or stack of dishes done as soon as possible.
Then I started ghostwriting for one eco blog, which really got me more aware of how harmful plastic actually is and how important it is to minimize its use. I decided to lay my Shabbat cloth with no cover.
All in all, I needed three cloths for the three Shabbat meals. They took about half a load in the washer. And there was not a single stain, despite multiple spills of oil, wine, and tomato sauce.
For over a year now, I haven’t looked back. I just took my three favorite tablecloths off the line. They are perfectly clean and smell delicious – and they are ready to go on the table tomorrow night.