We have a set of placemats very similar to these (ours came from Cost Plus World Market) that were given to us as a Christmas gift last year. They're the best, so we wanted to share...
Here's the main reason why we love them: No matter what you spill on them, you never have to put them in the wash, just wipe them down with a wet rag and they're good as new. We also love that our set is super sturdy. Sometimes we use them as TV-trays, when we decide to eat dinner on the couch.
These Tropical Palm Placemats from Crate and Barrel are made from 100% palm fiber. They're easily washed with a damp cloth and they come in a bunch of bright colors (with matching cloth napkins).
We're not sure if these are quite as sturdy as ours, but they look like they might be just as versatile.
Image: Crate and Barrel