A Guide to Sustainable Napkins for the Eco-Friendly Home
Sustainable & Eco-Friendly Napkins
Reusable cloth napkins are often thought of as a hassle and reserved for special occasion dinner parties. What if we considered every day a special occasion and used it as a way to make a positive impact for the environment? I find my best sustainable choices are made when I view my daily life as an experience and less of something I am just trying to survive. By incorporating more thought into my daily habits, I realized how much paper waste I make from preparing and eating a simple meal. Thankfully, there are more choices than ever. Sustainable napkin options are easier to incorporate than you think and this easy guide will help you make the switch!
How to make the most of sustainable napkins:
When using reusable napkins, there are some simple tips to make the most of your investment. Many people find washing their napkins after every meal isn’t necessary, so you can use a designated napkin ring or basket to store in-use cloth napkins from the ones. When it is time to wash your sustainable napkins, wash with cold and line dry to decrease the amount of energy needed. You can also choose to make make your own napkins from old sheets, towels, clothing, or fabric scraps. This eliminates the need for a new purchase and saves other materials that were otherwise destined for the landfill.
How to shop for sustainable napkins:
The best fabrics to look for are linen and organic cotton. They require less water for growing and are free from toxic pesticides. Also, be sure to check where the napkins and materials are sourced and that the workers are paid fair wages. This is a job that is notoriously underpaid but thankfully, there are companies who prioritize worker safety and pay.
Where to find sustainable napkins:
If you want to test how sustainable napkins will work for your home, start by using old towels, rags, or scrap fabric for napkins. This will let you experiment with no added cost. If you are looking for specific colors or patterns to match your decor, keep reading for some great companies! & of course, you can also always check out your local thrift stores.
Check out these trusted companies that create sustainable napkins with beautiful designs:
1) Mayamam Weavers
Utilizing traditional weaving techniques of Mayan culture, Mayamam Weavers is a cooperative in Cajolá, Guatemala to provide fair trade wages to women so they don’t have to immigrate and separate from their families for work. Mayamam Weavers also focuses on providing literacy programs to empower women in the community who otherwise don’t have access to education. Their brightly colored cotton napkins are made using non-toxic dyes and will dress up any table. While the cotton used for their napkins isn’t organic, they are looking into making this change as organic cotton has recently become available in their region.Shop Mayamam Weavers
2) Passion Lilie
Each item on Passion Lilie lists how it was made and they showcase each process step by step. Their Ikat weaving and block printing are all done by hand and create unique patterns. They also choose to partner with local labor groups who pay fair wages, usually 2-3 times the minimum with fixed contracts and benefits such as health insurance and pension plans. They also stand for an open hiring policy based on people’s qualities and not their gender, religion, or caste. I love the prints of their napkins, which are hand-loomed in India. They use a lot of their leftover fabrics to make their napkins and each purchase helps them move toward being a zero-waste company.Shop Passion Lilie
3) Shades of Green
Using unbleached organic heirloom cotton and plant-based dyes, each step of their production process is sustainably minded. Each handmade piece helps preserve and support rural artisan communities. Their products are rated on a “shades of green” scale which they break down so the customer knows exactly how eco-friendly their purchase will be. The napkins are shade 5, which means they are the most sustainable and meet all evaluation criteria. Using plant-based dyes and ancient loom techniques, these napkins are made in India. All Shades of Green packaging is also recyclable and sustainable.Shop Shades of Green
4) Made Trade
A woman-owned and family-run company with a variety of ethical and sustainable brands. They value fair trade and handcrafted products by workers paid fair wages and most are GOTS certified. I love that you can shop multiple brands so there are lots of colors, prints, and fabrics to choose from.
Made Trade is known for their great customer experience where you can sort items by values like POC-owned, vegan, fair trade, etc. They also have table cloths, placemats so you can fully complete your sustainable dining setup.Shop Made Trade
MINNA is a queer-led business that partners with artisans in Mexico and Guatemala. All their products are ethically made with contemporary design.
The MINNA website provides a lot of detailed information about who they work with so you know exactly who and from where the items are sourced. I loved reading the stories behind the different weavers and where they live.
Their assortment of napkins is made of cotton and non-toxic dye that are perfect for daily use.Shop Minna
Coyuchi believes in the importance of organically grown materials, designing with intention, commitment to the people, and is inspired by nature.
This company is no stranger to sustainable living, they were the first company to bring organic cotton to market almost 30 years ago. Their organic cotton napkins are made from cotton grown and woven in India in a factory that recycles 98% of its wastewater.
Their earth-toned napkins are GOTS certified, as are all their items, and are perfect for daily use.Shop Coyuchi
7) Raven + Lily
Handmade with ancient weaving techniques, Raven + Lily’s Ethiopian cotton napkins are hand-dyed in small batches. This ensures each item is made to the highest quality standards and of course, sustainably. Raven + Lily incorporate fun and earthy tones that will pair well with any home color palette. I love that they provide artisan information about where the materials are made and sourced. The napkins specifically are sourced from a women-led studio in Ethiopia. You can feel confident shopping with them as they are a certified B-corporation and a member of the Fair Trade Federation.Shop Raven + Lily
Fable’s napkins are made from European flax and woven in Belgium at a fifth-generation family-owned mill. Their napkins have coordinating table cloths, which they also sell in sets. While the color selection is limited, the linen is durable, lint-free, and compliments their beautiful handcrafted dinnerware. Fable is B Corp certified company and all packaging is 100% recyclable and plastic-free. They are also working towards becoming a zero-waste company and provide full impact reports about their sustainable efforts on their website.Shop Fable
Organic home textiles with flair is why this woman-owned company got its start.
Created by sisters-in-law, Marisa and Sheila, Plover offers more than your typical neutral color palette for those with bold style, their cloth cocktail napkins will spice up any at-home happy hour.
All products are made from organic fabrics with environmentally, ethically, and economically sustainable production.Shop Plover
10) Creative Women
While working to uplift female textile artisans, Creative Women is a fair-trade company working with over 1,400 women in nine countries.
The cloth napkins are made from handspun Ethiopian cotton right where it’s grown and harvested.
With an array of natural-dyed colors and hand stitching details, these napkins would look beautiful for an elegant dinner party or add a little luxury to your daily meals.Shop Creative Women
Disposable Sustainable Napkin Tips
If you need disposable napkins, there are ways to make more eco-friendly choices with single-use napkins. Look for disposable napkins that are chlorine-free and made from at least 90% recycled paper. This will ensure that even though it is a single-use item, it has already been recycled and made from materials that have already been saved from the landfill once. Many companies claim their paper napkins are made with post-consumer materials but then only use 50% or less recycled materials. Keep in mind, biodegradable and backyard compostable paper products are ideal, but if the napkins are soiled with animal products or oils they are no longer able to be recycled or composted.
About the Author: Karmen Flores is a creative entrepreneur based in Michigan. Karmen shares all about plant-based and sustainable, intentional living on her blog Karmen Collective. From recommendations for all things plant-based to tips for living more sustainably, Karmen makes living with intention less intimidating and more accessible. You can connect with Karmen on Instagram @karmencollective and at www.karmencollective.com
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Content Creator: Karmen Flores