Sandwiched between the plastic spiders and candy wrappers of Halloween and the blinking lights and tissue-stuffed gift bags of the holidays, I love that Thanksgiving offers us an opportunity to get back to basics. I’m turning my focus to family, food, and tradition. And, decorating with nature.
Can you think of any more seamless way to weave eco-friendly, reusable, and readily available natural materials to your holiday table? Besides, it’s a great way to honor the spirit of the holiday — and still make your dinner table look beautiful.
I’ve spent a little time combing the web, and I tracked down 9 ways to create an attractive, seasonal, and eco-friendly Thanksgiving table. All without needing a PhD in crafting.
(Phew, because I don’t have one.)
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This post has been updated for 2021
1. Use compostable dinnerware
This is a great solution if you don’t own enough dishes for your Thanksgiving crowd, or maybe you’d just like the ease of using disposable dinnerware but want to avoid informal “picnic-ware” that’s often made of plastic.
Bambu single-use compostable dishes and utensils offer a holiday-worthy, eco-friendly solution made of fast-growing and renewable bamboo (also shown at top). I especially love the look of their fancy plates with their scalloped edges. Or, mix and match large round plates for dinner with small square ones for dessert. You can even use these for dessert and use your own regular dishes for your main dinner.
Then, rejoice at how few dishes will be facing you in the sink at the end of the day.
2. Pumpkins make perfect place cards.
I adore the idea at Driven by Decor for using tiny pumpkins as name tag holders at the Thanksgiving table. Get the kids involved in making easy salt dough tags using ingredients you already have in the house and either stamp your guests’ initials into the dough, or wait until the tags are baked and carefully write names on each with a Sharpie. You can even invite your guests to take “their” pumpkin home at the end of the evening.
Or hey, make it easy and just grab that Sharpie and write initials directly on the pumpkin. Which leads us to…
This simple Thanksgiving-themed place setting hails from House of Harper. They suggest you take a small pumpkins and write your guests’ names on each one in a metallic Sharpie. I like how these little white pumpkins look on a plate with a simple leaf tucked beneath.
3. Try a cranberry floral arrangement
Cranberries are such a mainstay to the Thanksgiving meal, so I love using them as part of the decor as well. For a super quick but striking centerpiece, fill up a clear vase with fresh red cranberries and nestle a few bright orange roses or other favorite flower.
Here, you can see how my sister did this on her simple, but beautifully set Thanksgiving table last year. Just don’t try this with the stuff that comes in a can. Ha.
4. Use cloth napkins…or make your own out of fabric scraps
Cloth napkins are always a good way to go. If you want to step it up a bit, you could easily do these DIY No Sew Linen Napkins I found at On Sutton Place. As a non-sewer, I like that I can just let the rough-cut edges show; hey, it adds to the look-. But if you know your way around a sewing machine, you can make the edges a little neater.
Another option is to grab some reusable bamboo paper towels that easily double as napkins and after the feast, you can wash and reuse in the kitchen.
5. Succulents make a cool centerpiece
I’m a bit obsessed with succulents (aren’t we all, these days?) so it’s no wonder I want to borrow this idea for a DIY succulent centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table that I found on SF Gate. The small plants in pretty pots add an organic silhouette and a pop of green to your harvest-themed table, while the nuts surrounding them can even work as a little finger food before dinner comes out. Just leave out a nutcracker!
6. Gather leaves for name tags
It doesn’t get much easier than this DIY leaf table setting name tag from Country Living: Send the kids outside to collect a dozen or so fallen leaves, let them dry, and then carefully write your guests’ names on each leaf with a Sharpie or marker. Live in an area where your trees don’t lose their leaves? Come on by: I have about 10,000 in my yard! Or, have the kids cut out leaves from construction paper — which you can recycle after the meal, of course.
7. Display a Thankfulness tree as a centerpiece or wall hanging
We’ve shared lots of way to bring gratitude into your Thanksgiving celebration so we don’t forget the “thanks” in Thanksgiving. One way is by creating this sweet little Thankful Tree by following the tutorial at The DIY Mommy. With just a branch and some colored paper, you can invite your guests to write down all they are thankful for, then ask them to hang it on your tree.
It makes a lovely, handmade centerpiece with little effort and without lots of wasteful supplies© Christina Refford for Cool Mom Picks
Here’s another option along the same lines that can become an annual traditional. One long piece of paper can become the canvas for a hand-drawn “thankful tree.” Just cut out leaf shapes from paper (you can even use the backs of scribbled-on sheets to save more paper) and let family and friends write their own thoughts of gratitude on each one.
The tree above is actually one we have used at my family’s celebration for the past two Thanksgivings, and it will be brought out again this year so we can smile and even cry over the memories.