Eliza Snow/iStock

DCL

Greenwashing can be problematic. The word green can mean many things. Take Crocs for example. People have called Crocs a green product because they are vegan, or free of animal by-products. Yet, the shoes are made out of petroleum products and are hard to recycle. Crocs has a decent recycle-for-charity program, but I wouldn't say that the shoes are green. They are socially responsible, not green.

I wrote a few articles about cooking wares recently. I wanted to discover which cookware was the healthiest, the most energy efficient and if any cookware should be avoided due to health reasons. Being energy efficient doesn't make a pan green. Glass cookware may help a meal cook faster, but if the company that makes the glass cookware dumps all their trash in the river, it is hardly green cookware. There are a lot of companies coming out of the woodwork making pans and claiming to be green. How can you find out which ones are actually green and which ones are actually greenwashing?

The two most important things to take into account when shopping for green cookware.

Materials

What is the pan made of? A pan that is made of recycled materials is a lot greener than a pan that uses virgin metals. Who mined those materials? How far did they travel before they were manufactured into a new pan? Most cookware is made out of metal and glass. These are some the easiest things to recycle. A company that reuses materials is a company that shows that it cares about the environment.

Manufacturing and Distribution

How is the pan made? How is it distributed? Do they employ biodiesel trucks or ship their product by rail? How is the cookware factory powered? Are windmills and solar panels employed? Does the company take steps to reduce their carbon footprint? Do they buy carbon offsets? A company that reduces its carbon footprint through responsible transportation and manufacturing is a company worth buying from.

Here are two lesser things to think about when shopping for green cookware.

Energy Efficiency

Using glass or copper cookware is a great way to reduce your own carbon footprint. It reduces the amount of time you have to power your stove. Your stove isn't a huge player in your home's overall energy consumption. Your heating and cooling systems are the largest power users. The amount of energy saved by using energy-efficient cookware is not as important as how the pan was made and what it was made from. Energy-efficient cookware is still a viable way to go green around the home. But it shouldn?t be your top priority. Health Most brand-new cookware is relatively healthy. Damaged cooking surfaces can cause a few health problems. Recycle aluminum, copper and steel pans that have scratched up cooking surfaces. The metal can leach into your food and get you sick. Also, Teflon-coated pans are a bit of a conundrum. At high enough temperatures, Teflon will release a gas that can kill birds and give people flu-like symptoms. The temperatures at which the symptoms are caused are so high, however, that the heat is more likely to cause a fire than to kill your pet bird. (NOTE: Don't put a birdcage over stove!) Still, many people are anti-Teflon and refuse to eat from it because of this. That?s fine. There are a lot of no-risk alternatives on the market. Cast-iron and waterless cookware can have health benefits when used. Healthy cookware doesn't make it green cookware. It just makes it healthy. Here are some examples of how someone could shop for green cookware: [b]Martha Stewart's [url='http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/08/greenpan_teflon.php']GreenPan