Going Green, Simple and Cheap: Dining Rooms

Many people are completely intimidated by the concept of going green. It really feels like if you don’t start using a rain barrel, install solar panels on your roof, eat, drink and breathe 1000% organic, and compost every living thing under the sun, you’re a failure. But I’m here to tell you that simply isn’t true! There are tons of ways to be green simply and cheaply – and I know because as a young mom, I’m forever on a tight budget. So read on to find out my simple ways to go green, room by room.
Now up to bat are dining rooms. Most people I know don’t really have formal dining rooms anymore, and I think that’s kind of a travesty. Studies show that family meals have enormous positive impact on kids’ self-esteem and happiness, and who doesn’t love a great dinner party every once in a while? So in my efforts to bring back the formal dining room, I’m trying to make sure I make green choices while creating such a luscious space.
The essence of the formal dining room, for me, has these three elements: personality, drama, and flexibility — all things easily achieved with green motivation.

What defines an awesome dining room to me is loads of personality. I like to feel as if the room introduces me to the people who eat their meals there, whoever they may be. The simplest way to add that personal touch to a space is to paint, and to do so greenly is now easier than ever with low- and no-VOC paints. Offered at big box retailers as well as green home improvement stores, the color palettes have really increased over the last couple of years, some brands even offering color-matching abilities. That way no stinky chemicals try to asphyxiate you while you paint, and no cancerous chemicals haunt your family memories for years to come.
If my plans for my dining room are any indicator, I have a wee bit of the flair for the dramatic. However, drama doesn’t always have to mean over-the-top; it can just be out-of-the-ordinary details and accessories that make a space feel more than just a place to grab some chow. A simple way to achieve that lofty sense of the dramatic? Real linens. I know it’s so easy to just buy paper napkins and throw them away, but the impact on our environment is monutmental, from production of the napkins to however many millions of them end up in landfills a year. You don’t even have to invest in expensive, high-end linens either — places like IKEA and Target sell sets with everything you need to outfit a table for six, often in eco-friendly fabrics like bamboo and unbleached cotton. And if that feels too overwhelming, just try starting with some cloth napkins — for a couple bucks you can get a yard of fabric at any craft store and sew a few squares yourself. After each meal, you can just throw them in the wash with other similar fabrics and voila, you’ve just kept your world a little less polluted.
The least-efficient space is one you rarely use. The amount of electricity, energy, and even things like furniture put into a practically untouched space are not only huge sucks on your wallet, but also on your carbon footprint. So if you’re like me, and love the idea of a formal dining room but know the likelihood of your family sitting down to a formal meal every night is slightly shady, do yourself and the environment a favor and make the space flexible. I’ve read about buying two littler tables that can combine to make one formal dining table (if you desire), which not only splits up what’s usually a cumbersome (and expensive!) furnishing, but it makes the potential for the space’s use to increase, whether it be for homework, crafting, or even doing a puzzle. Making the space flexible not only makes it more family-friendly, but it means you’ll be getting the most bang for your eco-buck in as well.
So what defines a formal dining space for your family? And what are your ways to keep your dining rooms eco-friendly? As always, let us know in the comments and stick around for the next installment of being simply and cheaply green in the kitchen!
Photo: bhamsandwich

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