Eco friendly cookware is any pot, pan or baking dish that is considered good (or at least better than others) for the environment. There are many factors that can influence how eco friendly your cookware is, including: where it was made (items produced in the US, preferably in one facility and with US materials, are better than items that require shipping from another country); how the raw materials were obtained (for example, it takes more energy to mine and process aluminum than it does copper or stainless steel, and recycled material is even better yet); how well the material conducts and/or retains heat (copper is great at both, and cast iron is good at retaining — both are important for reducing the amount of energy required to cook something); the size and shape (vessels that are larger and make full contact with the cooking surface are more efficient than those that are smaller or have a smaller base); and, last but not least, the non-stick coating (teflon is toxic, which makes it dangerous for both you and any other living thing that comes in contact with it — avoid it). There are many companies that specialize in the production of eco friendly cookware, and they tend to follow these guidlines quite well.
If you are looking for eco friendly cookware at resonable prices, try looking in a thrift store. When I moved into my first apartment for college, I found several great glass and stainless steel pans. I also found a fantastic cast-iron skillet. The good stuff tends to be snapped up fast, and most of the things you find are nonstick pots that nobody wants, but keep checking and you will definitely find what you need. Thrift stores are a great way to re-use items that people no longer need when their living situation changes. When my friends moved out of their apartments after graduation, they often left behind lots of very good kitchen equipment that they set in the front lawn with a “free” sign because they are too lazy to actually take it to the thrift store.
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